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Radioactivity levels in local seafood dropped during 2005 due to new clean-up technology at Sellafield 19 July 2006

The Department of Local Government and the Environment has published the latest results of the ongoing radiation monitoring by the Government Laboratory. The annual report for 2005, details the results of tests on locally produced foods such as seafood, milk and meat products. The results are reassuring as no hazardous level of radioactivity has been found in any of the foods examined.

Radioactive contamination from Sellafield is still detectable in local seafood, although tests show that contamination of lobsters by Technetium-99 is now less than one third of the peak level found in 1998, largely due to the actions of the British Nuclear Group (BNG) in cutting Sellafield’s discharges into the Irish Sea. The Department expects levels to drop further as BNG is now using better effluent treatment technology. Manx consumers who eat appreciable quantities of local seafood are unlikely to receive more than 2% of the acceptable radiation exposure limit for the general public.

The monitoring work carried out by the Government Laboratory also extends to the general environment. During 2005, the background radiation levels were measured in harbour basins and on beaches and were found to be consistently low. Although Technetium-99 is also found at low concentrations in seaweed collected from the shoreline, it constitutes no hazard to people using the Island’s beaches for recreation.

Environment Minister, John Rimington, commenting on publication of the latest report said,

“The traces of radioactivity found in the Irish Sea are not judged to be hazardous to health. However, even such small traces are not acceptable to people in the Isle of Man. I will continue to campaign for a halt to all nuclear fuel reprocessing at Sellafield, in line with Isle of Man Government’s long established policy. Sellafield’s THORP reprocessing plant is presently closed, and I hope it remains closed, but there are other reprocessing operations still on-going at Sellafield. All of these activities contribute to radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea. I do realise that pollution levels are now greatly reduced from previous decades but our target is to see them brought as close to zero discharges as possible. I believe the UK Government has already given its commitment at international level, at the OSPAR Commission, to achieving close to zero discharges by 2020, but that is a long way off!

The UK Government has also pledged to achieve ‘progressive and substantial reductions’ in radioactive discharges between now and 2020, and that is certainly what we expect to see. We shall be looking closely for the evidence to demonstrate that this is being achieved. At the same time, the Isle of Man Government will continue to monitor the steps being taken to clean-up the legacy of redundant facilities at Sellafield and I shall not relax my efforts to ensure our position on these matters is clearly understood and taken into account when decisions are being taken.”

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