Thursday, November 29, 2001

The Environment Agency proposes to introduce a single certificate of authorisation for regulating Sellafield's discharges to air, land and sea.

The aim is to secure an improvement in environmental quality but Copeland Council wants to ensure that local social and economic factors are also taken into account in future management decisions concerning Sellafield.

It has been asked to make a formal response as part of the consultation process for new proposals for the future regulation of BNFL activities at Sellafield and is saying that overall the council welcomes the principles set out in the Environment Agency proposals, provided that the new regime does not inhibit the priority of dealing with legacy waste on site.

The council wants a mechanism for it to be included alongside the company and its regulator in decision-making on broad issues of public safety and community interest, in addition to the statutory planning system.

Discharges from Sellafield are regulated by the Environment Agency via a complex regime of consents and authorisations. Radiation dose received by workers is regulated by the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate (NII) within the Health and Safety Executive. A review of the six existing authorisations for BNFL operations at Sellafield began in April last year. Proposed alterations regarding discharges of technetium-99 were 'fast tracked' and are currently before Ministers.

Coun John Henney (Lab) at Tuesday's meeting of the Executive said the council welcomed any reduction in discharges to the sea and air but more information was needed to aid discussion on the subject.

Coun Robin Simpson (Lab), Leader, said: "This is a major step forward, it has been needed for a long time, we must support it.''

The Environment Agency said its proposals would bring benefits: reducing the radioactive discharges and thus the site's potential radiological and environmental impact; provide a more transparent approach to site regulation; impose stricter regulation; require waste minimisation at source and would not affect BNFL's ability to meet the target closure date of 2012 for Magnox reprocessing, or its processing of backlog wastes into safer forms or its decommissioning programmes for redundant plants.

n Copeland is to keep a tally on how much of the council's resources is spent on the consideration of nuclear issues. "We are picking this up on behalf of the whole nation and should keep a close check,'' said Coun Robin Simpson, leader. "It should be costed out and a bill presented to the Environment Agency at the end of the year,'' said George Usher, deputy leader.