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Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority

The British nuclear facility Sellafield and its possible consequences for Norway

In an article in the UK's The Guardian, the  newspaper mentions Norway's concerns for the safety of the British nuclear facility at Sellafield. On a general basis, Norway is concerned about potential accidents and emissions from facilities in all areas that could have consequences for Norwegian territories. In the context of the article in the Guardian, it is a local release that cannot have consequences for Norway.

Last updated: 06. desember 2023 15:31

Norway is concerned with safety at nuclear facilities in general and works internationally and bilaterally in this regard. DSA's role as a competent authority for radiation protection and nuclear safety is to contribute to, and have knowledge about, potential sources of radioactive contamination outside Norway, as well as working to reduce risks both nationally and internationally.

"Historically, there have been challenges associated with Sellafield, and DSA has worked extensively on developing scenarios for estimating possible consequences for Norway should accidents or incidents occur there. The dominant wind direction is towards Norway, which has also been the reason why we have had close contact with the British authorities over several years. We are well informed about the work being conducted at Sellafield and the progress in the clean-up at the facility. We had a close and good dialogue when emissions of technetium-99 from Sellafield were discovered along the Norwegian coast in the early 2000s. At the time, the British took measures to stop the emissions and put in place adequate measures to reduce contaminant discharges" says Per Strand, director of the Directorate for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (DSA).

DSA is generally concerned with assessing worst-case scenarios for emissions from all nuclear power plants in our neighboring countries. Several such studies have been carried out over the years, including for the Kola and Leningrad nuclear power plants, as well as for the Sellafield facility. The purpose of such studies is not to assess nuclear safety at various facilities, but to gain more knowledge about the potential consequences of any deposition of radioactivity over Norway in general.

The Guardian refers to a minor leak at the Sellafield facility. This leak is from silos for storing solid waste. The newspaper also refers to Norwegian studies that air emissions from Sellafield can reach Norway within 12 hours and have consequences for Norwegian food production. The newspaper mixes two different releases. The silos in question are experiencing a leak of water to the ground due to the Sellafield facility having begun to clear the radioactive metal waste that has been in the silos for years. This waste must now be stored in a more responsible manner. The releases were expected and are being closely monitored by both the UK Nuclear Safety Authority and the Environment Agency.

These releases will not have consequences for Norway, only locally.

Last week, DSA was in London and met with the British nuclear safety authority, the Office for Nuclear Regulation. Norway was invited to visit Sellafield to observe the work that is now underway to reduce the risks associated with the storage of used fuel, and measures being taken to improve safety. On 6 December, the DSA was further briefed on this matter by the British authorities.

"Norway's relationship with the UK is close and close when it comes to nuclear safety. We have mutual notification and exchange of information and share experiences regularly, and we are well informed by the British authorities. In addition, we are now in the process of finalizing a protocol to our mutual notification agreement to further strengthen notification and information exchange. Precisely because a lot of measures have been implemented at Sellafield, we are less worried now than in the 90s. For Norway, the close cooperation with the British is important, and it also gives us valuable insight and knowledge when it comes to our own decommissioning of nuclear facilities. We have a lot to learn from their experiences, even if they are on a larger scale, and we feel that the British take the challenges at Sellafield seriously and give high priority to safety at the plant" says Strand.