New limits are to be introduced for radioactive discharges from the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant pending a full review, the British government announced on Friday. The ceiling for the most controversial substance, technetium-99, will be reduced from 200 to 90 terabequerels a year, in line with recommendations made by the national environment agency (ENDS Daily 7 January). Limits on discharges of tritium, carbon-14, ruthenium-106 and iodine-129 will also be cut, some of them "significantly," although a "small increase" will be allowed in gaseous discharges of the latter two to allow a stored backlog of liquefied waste to be dealt with. Announcing the changes, British deputy prime minister John Prescott said that the environment agency for England and Wales would now embark on a "full-scale review of all such discharges...to enable significant further progress to be made in the achievement of [the UK's] Ospar commitments." However, the announcement may fail to satisfy Nordic countries, which are particularly unhappy about emissions of technetium-99. Earlier this month, the Nordic Council of Ministers repeated its call for the UK to halt all discharges of radioactive substances into the North Sea. Greenpeace described the new discharge limits as "a slap in the face to all the Nordic governments and Ireland" which meant that the government had "endorsed nuclear pollution".
UK environment ministry, tel: + 44 171 890 3000; Greenpeace UK, tel: +44 171 865 8255.
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