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Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans will be put in place to reduce and eliminate the discharges of technetium-99 from the Sellafield re-processing plant. [116122]

In 1999 we started a process to reduce discharges of technetium-99 (Tc-99) from Sellafield. In that year the discharge limit was reduced from 200 TBq/year to 90 TBq/year and, at our request, the Environment Agency commenced a review of the discharges of Tc-99, to be completed ahead of the review of all other radioactive discharges from Sellafield. As required by the Agency, BNFL are currently working to intoduce an abatement technique known as "MAC Diversion", which we hope will be operational shortly. The introduction of that technique should allow the discharge limit to be reduced to 10 TBq/year (5 per cent. of the 1999 limit) by 2006. Further scientific evaluation is currently being carried out to determine whether an alternative abatement technique, based on tetraphenylphosphonium bromide, commonly referred to as TPP, could be used to allow the discharge limit to be reduced before 2006.