Unexpected support for Sellafield plant

Danish scientists claim "no real risk" to Scandinavia from British nuclear factory

A group of Danish scientists has issued a surprise defence of nuclear reprocessing at the UK's beleaguered Sellafield plant, calling into question calls by environment minister Svend Auken for operations to be stopped. In a letter to the UK's Independent newspaper today, the seven said they believed there was "no real risk" to Danes from "present releases of technetium 99 and other radioactive nuclides from Sellafield".

The radioactive isotope technetium 99 has been released in significant quantities by Sellafield since 1994. The substance was detected at low levels off the coast of Norway in 1997 (ENDS Daily 19 December 1997) and then elsewhere in the region (ENDS Daily 8 January 1998). Scandinavian governments have since expressed continued concern over Sellafield's technetium emissions, which have been an important motivation in calls by them for an end to reprocessing at the plant (ENDS Daily 23 February).

In their statement, however, the seven Danish scientists say that risks to Danes from Sellafield technetium are minimal. A Danish fish-lover could consume 0.14 microsieverts of radiation per year from this source, they say, compared with exposure to 0.3 microsieverts per hour from radon gas in a typical Danish house.

"There is no scientific basis for the claim that the present releases of radioactivity from Sellafield causes an unacceptable contamination in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions," they conclude. The letter's signatories include associate professors at the Technical University of Denmark, former heads of health, physics and radioecology at the Danish National Laboratory.

Follow Up:
Independent, tel: +44 20 72 93 20 00. The letter is not posted on the web site.

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