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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Sellafield proposals 'grossly inadequate'
Sellafield plant, Cumbria
Each part of Sellafield will be regulated
Environmental campaigners have criticised government plans for new regulations to govern radioactive waste disposals at Sellafield nuclear plant.

The Environment Agency has published proposals following a four-month consultation period, which included asking the public for its view.

Among the recommendations are cutting discharge limits, controls on individual plants at the site, a pan-Sellafield authorisation certificate, and environmental improvements.

But Greenpeace claims the proposals will allow BNFL to increase discharges from Sellafield.

'Important milestone'

Spokesman Peter Roche told BBC News Online: "The proposals are grossly inadequate.

"Despite all the talk of significant reductions in discharge limits, the actual radioactivity going into the Irish Sea and our atmosphere is likely to double over the next few years."

The government has said the UK will implement the Ospar (Oslo-Paris) Radioactive Discharges Strategy, to "ensure the reduction of radioactive substances into the marine environment."

But Greenpeace says allowing the thermal oxide reprocessing plant to continue discharging radioactivity into the sea, means the UK cannot meet a commitment to "close to zero concentrations" by 2020.

Sellafield
The Sellafield report has gone to Margaret Beckett

The Environment Agency admits that Sellafield is "a major source of radioactive discharges into the environment" and has called its new proposals an "important milestone" in reducing discharges.

An agency statement said: "We propose significant reductions in most discharge limits.

"This will reduce potential radiation doses to the most exposed members of the public - those living in Cumbrian coastal communities bordering the Irish Sea - as well as average doses to members of the public."

Legal limits

The agency says more than three-quarters of the limits on aerial discharges, and half the liquid discharge limits, from the Sellafield site will be reduced.

It says it will reduce radiation doses to the most exposed members of the public, at the proposed limits, by between 25% and 35%, with doses well within legal limits and constraints.

Controls will be introduced on discharges from individual plants as well as from the site as a whole.

Dischareges

A new, single integrated certificate of authorisation for regulating waste disposals to air, sea and land from Sellafield, is proposed.

A BNFL spokesman said: "We have made continuous and progressive reductions in discharges over many years, regardless of what the actual limits in place at the time have been.

"We are committed to further reductions where they will have a positive environmental benefit."

But BNFL said the overall benefits of what the agency is proposing would be difficult to quantify and doubted whether the environment would benefit.

Waste legacy

The Environment Agency also wants to see a significant programme of environmental improvements.

Environment Agency chief executive Barbara Young said: "These proposals set the foundations for a cleaner future.

"They enable BNFL to continue to clean up the legacy of waste from Sellafield's industrial past, within a tighter and more focussed regulatory control framework. "

The proposals have been sent to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, the environment minister, Michael Meacher, and the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Milburn.


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See also:

24 Jul 02 | England
19 Jun 02 | Health
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