Radioactive discharges from Sellafield: Commission answers parliamentary question

May 20, 2002

Strasbourg, 17 May 2002

Verbatim proceedings of Parliament, 16 May 2002, Part 1.

Question no 64 by Nuala Ahern (H-0309/02)
Subject: Radioactive discharges from Sellafield
At the North Sea conference of European ministers in Norway, held 20-2 March, United Kingdom environment minister, Michael Meacher told fellow ministers that although radioactive discharges from Sellafield into the Irish Sea had been reduced by 99% over the past 25 years, UK ministers are now looking at ways of further cutting the discharges. He said specifically that he thought‚ they are right to be concerned about this problem,' and added that the Norwegian concern is that fish might be radioactively contaminated, even though our scientific advice is that the risk to human health is minimalist.'
Does the Commission agree ministers are right to have concerns; and what is the Commission's current view of the radioactive discharge levels from Sellafield?

Answer
The Commission is aware of the concerns of Norway and others regarding the implications of radioactive contamination of fish resulting from radioactive discharges from Sellafield. These issues have been the subject of discussion in The 5th North Sea Ministerial Conference held in Bergen on 20-2 March and in meetings of the OSPAR Commission.

The Commission plays an active part in these discussions and, in order to have a more complete picture of the impact of all discharges to the North European marine environment, the Commission launched the so-called Marina II study in 2000.

The final report of this study will be delivered to the Commission shortly. The study will provide additional detailed information on radioactive discharges, concentrations in the marine environment, and an assessment of their significance for human health and for the environment.

The Commission understands that, while the study will indicate extensive variation in the concentration of radionuclides in marine biota, including fish, from place to place (being generally much higher in the Irish Sea than in Norway), this study is unlikely to indicate that the absolute concentrations are of radiological significance to either human health or that of the fish themselves.

The Commission has also arranged that the results of this report will be presented at a special session of the International Conference on Radioactivity in the Environment to be held in Monaco from 1 to 5 September 2002. The results will also be presented to the next meeting of the Radioactive Substances Committee of OSPAR in 2003.

Therefore, while the Commission is currently of the opinion that the discharges from Sellafield are not significant in radiological terms, the Commission will take account of the findings of this detailed and comprehensive study and views received at the Monaco conference and in the OSPAR committees in reviewing this opinion.

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