Funding to monitor the risk posed by nuclear facility at Sellafield.

The state has significantly increased its funding to monitor the risk posed by the British nuclear facility at Sellafield.The increase comes amid growing concern over the safety of aging nuclear power facilities after the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima plant.

The government has agreed to set aside €1.3 million for 2011 to cover the scientific and legal research carried out on behalf of the state into the risk posed by the Cumbria facility.

Some €900,000 was allocated to the Department of Environment for the task last year but a spokesman for the department said that this had been significantly increased for the current year.

The funding allocation had fallen over recent years from a peak of €1.8 million that was allocated for research into Sellafield in 2008. However, only €529,000 of that was actually spent, as the government was reining in public spending.

The state has allocated €900,000 in each of the past two years and spent €837,000 of that sum in 2009 and €885,000 last year.

The government has separately funded the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to the tune of more than €10 million over the past three years. The RPII has published several reports into radioactivity in the Irish Sea, which it said arose from both natural and artificial sources.

The most significant artificial source of radioactivity in the Irish Sea is liquid discharges, which result from the reprocessing operations at Sellafield, according to the RPII. Discharges from Sellafield and from other nuclear installations are authorised within prescribed limits by Britain’s Environment Agency.

At a diplomatic level, successive Irish governments have expressed Ireland’s concerns about Sellafield and presented its views to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Meanwhile, the Green Party’s Seanad environment spokesman, Mark Dearey, called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to seek ‘‘an immediate commitment’’ from British Energy Secretary Chris Huhne to rescind his government’s decision to extend the working life of two aging reactors at Wylfa and Oldbury.

‘‘Following Fukushima, there can be no risks taken with public health. This ancient reactor should be decommissioned immediately," Dearey said.


Source: John Burke, Public Affairs Correspondent

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