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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 16:35 GMT
UN court rejects Sellafield challenge
Sellafield's mox plant, Sellafield
The plant will mix plutonium with uranium oxide
A United Nations maritime tribunal has rejected a bid by Ireland to block plans to expand operations at Britain's Sellafield nuclear plant.

The Irish Government had tried to challenge the decision to allow the controversial plant to start producing mixed plutonium and uranium oxide (Mox) fuel.

It argued that the 470m development, on the Cumbrian coast opposite Ireland, broke international laws on sea pollution and posed safety and security concerns.

It could sour relations between the two governments

Joe Costello
Irish senator
Dublin wanted Britain to be ordered to suspend Mox operations until an international arbitration tribunal was established to resolve the dispute.

But judges at the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg rejected the legal challenge on Monday.

The tribunal ruled that "the urgency of the situation did not require the prescription of the provisional measures as requested by Ireland".

Senator Joe Costello, a Dublin delegate at the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body conference in Bournemouth, said he was disappointed by a decision which could allow relations to be harmed.

Relations danger

He said many people in Ireland regarded the development in Sellafield as "an unfriendly act by the British government against the Republic of Ireland".

"That is the perspective in which this has to be addressed - it could sour relations between the two governments."

The tribunal ordered Britain and Ireland to start consultations immediately to exchange information on the possible consequences to the Irish Sea of the mox plant opening.

Fianna Fail advertisement in the Times
The Irish Government has protested via UK newspapers
They were told to "devise, as appropriate, measures to prevent pollution of the marine environment which might result from the operation of the Mox plant".

The Irish Government welcomed the environmental safeguards in the tribunal's order.

The minister with responsibility for nuclear safety, Joe Jacob, said he welcomed the ruling that the UK had an obligation "to prevent pollution of the marine environment which might result from the operation of the Mox plant".

He added: "We call on the UK to delay commissioning until the parties have reached agreement on measures to prevent pollution from the Mox plant, in accordance with the tribunal's order."

Cancer rates

Mr Jacob vowed to continue Ireland's case "to ensure that the UK permanently ceases to pollute the Irish Sea, subjects the Mox plant to a proper environmental assessment, and co-operates more fully with Ireland".

The Norwegian Government is also understood to be considering legal action over the issue.

Campaigners argue that sea pollution from Sellafield is the cause of above average cancer rates in some parts of the east of Ireland.

In the UK, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are waiting for the outcome of their own challenge to the Sellafield development.

They asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a High Court ruling that the UK Government made "no error of law" when it gave the go-ahead for the Sellafield plant.

The BBC's Rob Broomby
"Ireland had hoped to win a temporary injunction"

Nuclear power
Should Sellafield be shut down?
See also:

28 Nov 01 | England
Judges delay Sellafield ruling
23 Nov 01 | England
Protesters target Sellafield
15 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Sellafield saved - for now
03 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Nuclear plant gets go-ahead
08 Nov 01 | UK
Q&A: Sellafield's Mox plant
11 Jul 00 | UK
Mox: The voyage home
28 Feb 00 | UK
Nuclear chief quits
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