Formal complaint lodged with EU over AWE discharges

A network of British local authorities have lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission against the British government, based on their assertion that the health and well being of the general public becomes severely compromised by breaches of European law by the British Ministry of Defence over the disposal of radioactive waste from a nuclear weapons plant at Aldermaston, one of the central sites of Britain’s nuclear weapon’s industry since the 1950’s. This breach constitutes a blatant refusal to conform to laws that exist primarily to ensure the effective protection of the health of the general public against the dangers arising from radiation.

The issue at stake is the extent to which radiation protection laws based on the Euratom Treaty apply to “military” sources of radiation. The European Commission has indicated that it will take the British government to the European Court on identical arguments concerning the Trident nuclear weapons submarine refit facilities at Devonport.

Jamie Woolley, the NFLA Legal Advisor who drafted the complaint, said, "The MoD position is plainly not logical or just or sensible. People living next to a nuclear weapons site are entitled to the same legal protection from radiation as people living next to a nuclear power station." The NFLA’s arguments are based closely on the European Court’s approach which is that these laws apply to protect the public from the dangers of radiation, “whatever their source.”

The European Commission announced in April this year that it would open an infringement procedure against the British government in respect of the dockyard at Devonport used for refitting Trident nuclear submarines. The grounds for complaint are exactly the same as those raised by the NFLAs regarding Aldermaston. The Euratom Treaty stipulates that the detriment arising from nuclear activity must not outweigh the benefits that can be drawn from it. Authorisation was given for the Devonport site to dispose of radioactive waste by a national regulatory body, (the Environment Agency) before the activity giving rise to the radioactive discharges had been shown to be beneficial. Further to this, the European Commission had yet to assess the impact of the waste on other EU member states.

The European Commission's decision on Devonport is explained in its Press
release (DN: IP/03/472 Date: 02/04/2003 IP/03/472) at

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities are a group of some 80 local authorities from across Britain, which campaign for the protection of the public and the environment from nuclear hazards.

Contact: Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Manchester City Council, Town Hall, Manchester, M6 3NY, Britain (+44 161 234 3244; fax 234 3379;



Article originally published by Peace News at

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