LLRC Journal Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 2

Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 2

Legal challenge to AWE "Justification"

The NAG team, pictured at the Standing Conference in July NAG team at Reading(23KB)
Not content with organising the Standing Conference this year (see report on this site), NAG is challenging the legality of radioactive emissions from the Atomic Weapons Establishments at Aldermaston and Burghfield.

The basis of their case is that the activities which create the waste were not justified in law. European law on radiation protection embodies the principle of "Justification". This requires a cost benefit analysis of operations which cause radiation exposure - the radiation detriment has to be outweighed by social and economic benefits. (This is one reason why ICRP's attempts to drop the concept of Collective Dose are so sinister).

Last year, when the Environment Agency conducted a public consultation on the disposal of wastes from the AWEs, they gave lip service to Justification but dodged it on the grounds that as the nuclear weapons programme was Government policy, the Governemnt had already balanced benefits and detriments. LLRC described this as "surely intended as a joke."

Other elements of the case are as follows:
1.that nuclear weapons are contrary to international law and therefore the EA cannot authorise discharges from their production;
2. that the requirement to notify MAFF (now the FSA) was left until the last moment & the authorisation was given without time for MAFF to repond.
3. that the EA should not have given an authorisation before the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Meacher, had made a decision on whether or not to call in the application. He still reserved that right as of September this year.

The case was due to be heard in the High Court on 13-15 September, but on 12th September it was suddenly pulled out of the lists. The reason given was that the judge was over-running on another case, but it was also rumoured to be because the judge declared an interest once he'd had a look at the papers.

The MoD have joined the respondents as an interested party and their submission to the court was that the case should be referred to the European Court of Justice to decide whether or not chapter III, on justification of radioactive discharges, includes military discharges. NAG does not object to a referral, and neither does the Environment Agency, but nothing has been done yet to send it on its way. It would take 18 months to get a judgement from the ECJ and then 6 months to get a High Court hearing here.

Meanwhile the case remains in the high court list awaiting a date to be heard. There may be a delay until February 2001 before all the parties' lawyers are available for a 3 day hearing.

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This page was last updated May 2001