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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
UN rejects Sellafield closure call
Sellafield
Greenpeace say radiation has been found in supermarket food
A United Nations tribunal has rejected calls from the Irish government to shut down the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbria.

The Irish Government wanted a temporary halt to operations at Sellafield's mixed oxide (Mox) plant and assurances that the UK ensure that there were no Mox shipments leaving UK ports.

But the tribunal, set up under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), comprehensively rejected pleas from the Irish.

It had already suspended the bulk of the hearing because of concerns that substantial elements of the case might fall under European Union law.

The European Commission is now considering proceedings against Ireland for going to the UN instead of the EU.

Irish case rejected

Ireland wants the plant, operated by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), to be shut down because it claims nuclear waste is polluting the Irish Sea and that the complex could be the target of a terror attack.

UK Energy Minister Stephen Timms said the Irish request "went far beyond protection of any rights Ireland may have in respect of this case and the tribunal has rightly rejected them".

Ireland had claimed that the UK's decision to manufacture Mox fuel at Sellafield "was taken without proper regard to certain provisions of Unclos".

The Sellafield Mox plant manufactures mixed oxide (uranium and plutonium) fuel for use in foreign nuclear power stations.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said allegations of pollution had consistently turned out to be false and insisted the controversial plant was safe.

Radioactive waste

He said: "All of these issues are governed by international rules that we are obliged to abide by and an international authority that determines whether we are obeying our international obligations properly.

"The allegations made in relation to Sellafield have turned out to be wrong."

Earlier this year, tests conducted by environmental group Greenpeace on Scottish salmon found traces of radioactive waste from Sellafield.

The research, conducted by the University of Southampton, found low levels of the radioactive isotope technetium-99, a by-product of reprocessing nuclear fuel, in some salmon collected from six British supermarkets.

A spokeswoman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said Technetium-99 produced at Sellafield is stored in tanks and regularly dumped in the Irish Sea.




SEE ALSO:
Sellafield told to cut emissions
23 Jun 03  |  Cumbria
Row over nuclear discharges
23 Jun 03  |  Cumbria
Irish seek to close Sellafield
10 Jun 03  |  Cumbria


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