British Nuclear Fuels will have to spend more than £100m on developing technology to clean up radioactive discharges to the sea from its Sellafield site.
To comply with an agreement signed at last month’s meeting of governments under the Ospar convention on sea pollution, BNFL will have to produce a proposal within the next 18 months for removing the technetium-99 isotope from its sea discharges.
The Ospar convention obliges member countries to achieve further substantial cuts in man-made radioactive discharges by 2000.
It also calls on them to meet a ‘close to zero’ standard by 2020. Such a requirement would mean that all operations at Sellafield would have to be halted.
‘We couldn’t even operate the clean-up plants at close-to-zero levels,’ said a BNFL spokesman.