Nordic states ask Britain to cut nuclear pollution
NORWAY: August 23, 2001

OSLO - Environment ministers from five Nordic countries sent a letter to Britain this week urging the government to curb nuclear pollution from a reprocessing plant, Norway's Environment Minister said this week.

It was just the latest move in a long-running international dispute over emissions from Britain's Sellafield complex, which boasts one of the world's largest nuclear fuel recycling plants, after Norway detected rising levels of radioactivity in marine life on its coast.

"We have from the Nordic side - and the environment ministers especially - been worried about the emissions from Sellafield for a long time," Environment Minister Siri Bjerke told Reuters.

"I hope this (letter) will be taken into account and lead to a reduction in the emissions from Sellafield," she added.

Norway would prefer to see the complex shut down for good, but a more realistic aim was an emissions cut, she said.

In addition to Bjerke, the letter bore the signature of environment ministers from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, and was sent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair this week.


Rising levels of radioactivity from Sellafield, owned by state-run British Nuclear Fuels, was last year detected in marine life on Norway's southern coast, and latest research shows pollution has followed North Sea currents as far as the Barents Sea and Svalbard, east of Norway.

The Norwegian authorities said the levels found did not pose a threat to human health, but some experts fear that it could cause harm to marine life in the long term.

Britain maintains that its discharges from Sellafield, which prepares spent nuclear fuel from power stations for recycling into fresh fuel, are within international limits.

Sellafield was a hot topic at a recent meeting between Nordic environment ministers and the Russian government in Kirkenes, Norway to discuss the Barents Sea region, Bjerke said.

"We want to focus on the Barents Sea as a clean ocean area which should be allowed to remain clean in the future," she said, adding that the Arctic region was extremely vulnerable to pollution of any kind.

It is not the first time Norway has pressed Britain over Sellafield emissions, but Bjerke said the letter comes at a time when the British government is faced with a decision about the complex's future.

"We want to encourage the British government to choose an alternative that would prevent any further emissions into the North Sea which could then spread further across large areas," the minister said.

Seafood is Norway's top export after oil and gas.

Story by Erik Brynhildsbakken