Tighter Sellafield discharge limits proposed

Planned licence would breach ministerial commitment at Ospar summit, says Irish minister

The Sellafield nuclear plant in England could be required to significantly reduce radioactive emissions under draft permit permissions sent to the government by the Environment Agency of England and Wales on Friday. In a parallel proposal, the agency backed a controversial plan by Sellafield operator British Nuclear Fuels to reprocess spent fuel from foreign customers to manufacture mixed oxide or "Mox" fuel to be used in light water reactors. Stricter limits proposed by the agency include a cut in maximum allowed discharges of technetium-99 from 200 terabecquerels (TBq) per year to 90TBq. Emissions of technetium since 1994 have been strongly opposed by the Irish and Nordic governments. The Irish Times newspaper reported today that Irish public enterprise minister Joe Jacob had written to the UK government describing the new discharge limits as "unacceptable". Mr Jacob is reported to have reminded UK environment minister Michael Meacher of his undertaking at the Ospar marine summit in Portugal this year to cut discharges from Sellafield to "close to zero" (ENDS Daily 23 July). Permitted discharge levels of two other radionuclides would also be cut under the draft decision, but gaseous discharges of two further radioactive elements would be permitted to increase to enable work to reduce Sellafield's stockpile of liquid radioactive waste.

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