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Sellafield radioactive emissions increase

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 7, 1990) According to official figures just released, radioactive discharges into the sea from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria, UK increased for the first time in 10 years between 1988 and 1989: Emissions of cesium-137 more than doubled during that period, while discharges of alpha radiation rose by 30%.

(343.3433) WISE Amsterdam - The increases contradict claims by Sellafield's operator, British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), that it is reducing discharges to "near zero". BNFL claims it has spent nearly UK 2 billion pounds on cutting discharges over the last 10 years and that the rises are no more than an expected "blip".

Meanwhile, a new independent survey suggests that huge amounts of radioactivity discharged from the plant in the past are going to come ashore all along Britain's west coast in years to come. In a study for Harlech TV, Dr. Bob Wheaton, an Edinburgh-based radiation consultant, estimates that a million million becquerels of americium from Sellafield is already contaminating the Welsh shoreline. This represents less than 0.1% of all the alpha radiation discharged from Sellafield between 1960 and 1981.

The rise has been confirmed in the 1989 aquatic environment monitoring report published by the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. According to that report, the increases are due to the fact that more spent nuclear fuel was reprocessed than in previous years. It says that the large increase in cesium-137 was due to "cleaning of old plants". The report also reveals that radioactive emissions from BNFL's nuclear power station at Chapelcross increased between 1988 and 1989. Beta radioactivity jumped by 26% while discharges of tritium rose 15%.

Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) says the discharges are linked to increases in the radiation doses received by local people who eat sea food. The group claims the doses are twice the acceptable limit for the public and has demanded that BNFL reduce discharges to absolute zero. CORE spokesperson Simon Boxer points out that according to a recent EEC report, Sellafield's discharges were responsible for 87% of European radiation exposure from liquid sources.

Source: Scotland on Sunday, 18 Nov. 1990 (via SCRAM's Scottish Energy News Service, 19 Nov. 1990).

Contact: CORE, 98 Church Street, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, UK, tel: 02229-833851