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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 02:49 GMT
Sellafield waste row escalates
Environment Minister Michael Meacher and his Norwegian counterpart Boerge Brende
Michael Meacher (left) enjoyed a mixed reception
The government of Norway is taking legal advice on how to stop British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) discharging radioactive waste into the sea from the Sellafield plant in north-west England.

The warning came at a conference on pollution of the North Sea in the Norwegian city of Bergen.

UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher had to weather a 200-strong demonstration by campaigners opposed to radiation releases from Sellafield.

Protesters say plant must close
The issue dominated the two-day conference on protection of the North Sea environment.

Ocean currents carry small traces of radioactivity from the plant's waste pipe on the Irish Sea coast across to Scandinavia, and it has been detected in shellfish and seaweed in Norway.

The UK Government is due to decide soon whether the discharges can continue.

But the Norwegian environment minister has revealed he is now seeking legal advice on whether he can force Britain to stop the releases now under international law.

I am aware that there are genuine and very real concerns in this country

Michael Meacher
Environment Minister
And Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik openly encouraged his Norwegians to join peaceful protests planned in Bergen against emissions into the ocean from the plant.

Mr Meacher was lobbied at the conference by peaceful demonstrators calling for the complete closure of Sellafield.

He was also confronted by a protest about overfishing in the North Sea.

Cautious optimism

The ministers from nine countries bordering the North Sea are warning large areas will need to be closed off to fishing within two years if the alarming decline in stocks is to be reversed.

Mr Meacher promised to listen to complaints about Sellafield, saying: "I am aware that there are genuine and very real concerns in this country."

After a brief meeting with Mr Meacher, Norwegian Environment Minister Boerge Brende said he doubted that the North Sea meeting would lead to a Sellafield solution.

"I am a cautious optimist," said Mr Brende, adding that he thought the British Government would find a solution within months.

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"It has been detected in shellfish and seaweed"
UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher MP
"There is a perception of harm"
Norwegian Environment Minister Boerge Brende
"If it is harmful on land in the UK, then it is harmful poured into the Norwegian ocean"
See also:

19 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Norway demands UK nuclear rethink
29 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Irish politicians unite in Sellafield row
08 Nov 01 | UK
Q&A: Sellafield's Mox plant
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