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Wednesday, July 22, 1998 Published at 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK

World: Europe

Ministers discuss Europe clean up

Speculation on Sellafield's future continues

Ministers from 15 European nations have met near Lisbon to discuss how to clean up the seas around northern Europe.

BBC News' Tim Hirsch: Sellafield targets impossible to achieve
The UK Deputy Prime Minster, John Prescott, is attending the two-day gathering - the first meeting at ministerial level of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic (OSPAR).

Correspondents said delegates were expected to criticise Britain, saying it uses the North Sea and the Irish Sea as a convenient dumping ground.

Discussions were also expected to cover the issue of radioactive discharges, particularly from British reprocessing plants, which some European countries blame for rising radiation levels off their coasts.

The meeting could influence the future of British Nuclear Fuels' Sellafield re-processing plant on the north-west coast of England.

The Irish Government has complained for years about the level of nuclear discharges allowed from Sellafield.

BBC Correspondent Tim Hersch reports
British agreement will be needed if a complete ban on radioactive waste is achieved - and this would be almost impossible for Sellafield to achieve.

Proposals on radiation, concerning Britain and France, range from a total ban on discharges of nuclear waste - the so-called zero option - to emissions being capped at natural levels.

Britain and France, have previously insisted on an opt-out clause to allow for some dumping of nuclear waste.

Scandinavian countries have been pushing for a complete ban.

The meeting is due to announce its decisions on Thursday.

Oil rigs

[ image: Brent Spar brought the issue of dumping oil rigs at sea to the pubic's attention]
Brent Spar brought the issue of dumping oil rigs at sea to the pubic's attention
The meeting was also due to discuss the dismantling of North Sea oil rigs and platforms once their useful life is over.

The issue hit the headlines in 1995 when public opinion forced oil company Shell to back down on a decision to dump its Brent Spar loading buoy in deep waters.

Britain is proposing that the structures of oil rigs must be removed but the supporting pylons, which are driven into the sea bed, should be allowed to remain behind in the sea.

Oil companies have said that a sweeping ban on the dumping of oil rigs could raise their clean-up costs by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The 15 countries are all signatories to the 1992 Convention for Protection of the Marine Environment of the north-east Atlantic, which came into force in 1998.

Future meetings will be held every five years.

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Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic.

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