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Ireland to take EC to court in bid to close Sellafield

By Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent
IRELAND plans to take the European Commission to court in the latest move to have Sellafield closed.

Environment Minister Dick Roche accused the commission of failing to monitor the British nuclear industry properly.

He also intends to take the British Government to the European Court in Luxembourg over security failures at their Thorp reprocessing plant.

Last month, the European Court of Justice told Ireland it should not have gone directly to a UN tribunal to complain about Britain breaching the Law of the Sea in relation to the MOX storage facility.

Instead the Government should have asked the commission to take action about nuclear active emissions into the Irish Sea.

Mr Roche said that if the opinion from the court’s advocate general is confirmed later this year, he believes it opens the way for Ireland to take the commission to court.

"If the court rules according to the opinion we would be quite willing to take the commission itself to court for failing to prosecute Britain," the minister said.

Mr Roche accused them of diverting resources away from monitoring the British nuclear industry to oversee nuclear plants in the new member states.

"The 25 countries should be treated equally and it is nonsense given that Sellafield has been a problem for half a century to divert resources away from it to Eastern Europe," he said.

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), the company responsible for Britain’s nuclear industry, lost 84,000 litres of plutonium and uranium in nitric acid at the Thorp reprocessing plant. It was discovered later in a containment pond.

"This was an incredible security failure at Thorp and we have ongoing questions about management failures there," said Mr Roche.

Ireland and the commission were both misled by BNFL who initially insisted it was simply an auditing problem.

The Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, who met Mr Roche yesterday, confirmed there is a court action pending against Britain over the implementation of EURATOM treaty rules.

There is also an ongoing enquiry into the Thorp leak.

The minister said he believed the commission were moving much too slowly on these matters especially compared to how quickly they moved against Ireland on what was essentially a technicality.