Nordic Environment Ministers Protest Radioactive Emissions

IVALO, Finland, August 20, 2001 (ENS) - Environment ministers from the five Nordic countries today wrote a joint formal protest to British Prime Minister Tony Blair over continuing radioactive emissions from the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield. The ministers expressed grave concern at prospective increases in permitted emissions levels from Sellafield.

The protest, formulated and agreed during a meeting of the Nordic Council in Ivalo, Finland, follows reports in the Norwegian media yesterday that increases in levels of radioactive technetium-99 have now been detected off the far northern coast of Norway, in the Arctic reaches of the Barents Sea and off Svalbard (Spitsbergen).


Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Photo courtesy government of Norway)
Norway has raised the issue of Sellafield with the British government several times, most recently on August 12, when Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wrote to Prime Minister Blair urging the UK to reduce radioactive emissions.

In March, Norway's environment minister repeated 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.

The Nordic ministers last filed a joint protest in 1998, in a letter to UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher.

The issue is expected to be taken up again tomorrow at a meeting of Barents Region ministers in northern Norway.

At the ministerial meeting of the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic, held in Sintra, Portugal in July 1998, 15 governments and the European Commission signed an agreement to end the discharge of radioactive substances into the sea and air.

Nuclear reprocessing involves the extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Reprocessing is the major source of radioactive discharges to both sea and air in the OSPAR region.

The Sintra agreement says that concentrations in the environment should reach "close to zero" by 2020.


Sunset over the Barents Sea north of Scandinavia (Photo courtesy University of Rhode Island Natural Resources and Environmental Management)
Because many radioactive substances, such as plutonium or technetium-99, last far longer than 20 years, most reprocessing discharges must be stopped now if they are to result in lower environmental concentrations by 2020.

At their meeting in Ivalo, the Nordic environment ministers also considered environmental co-operation with Russia, including the financing perspective and the promotion of environmental projects amongst the northern European countries.

The ministers discussed climate policy and, linked to this, Nordic support for energy projects in the developing countries as part of the implementation of the Kyoto climate protocol.

The participating environment ministers are Satu Hassi from Finland, Kjell Larsson from Sweden, Svend Auken from Denmark, Siri Bjerke from Norway, Siv Fridleifsdottir from Iceland, Rókur Tummasarson from the Faroes, Alfred Jakobsen from Greenland and Sune Eriksson from Aland.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}