HC Deb 10 July 2003 vol 408 cc901-2W
Mr. Godsiff

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures the Government are taking to reduce emissions of radioactive waste from the Sellafield plant; what levels of technetium-99 are considered safe for human consumption; and what the scientific basis is for this assessment. [122192]

Mr. Morley

the nature and quantities of radioactive waste that may be discharged from any site are controlled by the Environment Agency under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. In November 1999, Ministers asked the Environment Agency to carry out a full-scale review of all radioactive discharges from the Sellafield site, and to report on technetium-99 in advance of the main review. The Agency's proposed decisions were published in August 2002 and are currently under consideration by the Secretaries of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and for Health. The Agency proposed no increases in discharge limits above the current limits and reductions to eight out of 10 of the aerial and half the liquid discharge limits.

There are no statutory limits for technetium-99 in food. The Food Standards Agency estimates the radiation dose that a consumer would receive from consuming affected food and compares that estimate to the dose received from natural sources and the statutory dose limit of lmSv/year from all man-made sources of radioactivity other than medical exposure. Assessments carried out by both the Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency for the EA's review of Tc-99 indicated that, at the current discharge limit, the annual radiation dose from Tc-99 to the group of people most exposed to liquid discharges from the Sellafield site (i.e. local seafood consumers) is of the order of 0.02–0.03 mSv/year. Concerns would be raised if the technetium-99 present in food added significantly to the background dose or caused doses to approach the dose limit.