Norwegian anger at rising Sellafield pollution

Bjerke calls for closure of British nuclear plant after six-fold increase in technetium levels detected

Norway's environment minister has reiterated calls for Britain to close its nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield after a report that levels of Sellafield-derived radioactivity along the Norwegian coast have increased six-fold since 1996.

In an interview with Bergens Tidende newspaper yesterday, Siri Bjerke said: "The Sellafield plant should be closed. Reprocessing is a poor way of dealing with radioactive waste. Such materials are better kept in long-term, secure storage facilities." Ms Bjerke added that the government would be expressing its "grave concern" to the British authorities, in part through a meeting scheduled for later this year between Norway's prime minister and his British counterpart.

Concentrations of technetium 99 in Norwegian seaweed have risen from 100 to 600 becquerels per kilogram dry weight over the five-year period, according to figures from the Institute for Energy Technology reported on Saturday. The isotope has been discharged by the UK plant since 1994, but was first detected off Scandinavia only three years ago (ENDS Daily 19 December 1997).

The finding sparked deep concern in Nordic countries, and Norway has previously called for an 80% cut in technetium emissions as a "minimum solution" pending Sellafield's closure. The Norwegians are especially worried that public fears about radioactivity could affect its fisheries.

Follow Up:
Norwegian environment ministry, tel: +47 22 24 90 90; Institute for Energy Technology, tel: +47 63 80 60 00; Bergens Tidende, tel: +47 55 21 45 00, and technetium article.

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