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  • The spotlight is back on La Junta on radioactive waste issues

    The ESG is very concerned that the CEPSA Oil Refinery is primarily regulated by La Junta, whose competence and commitment to environmental and public health protection has recently been challenged by Greenpeace and environmental campaigners in Huelva.

    From reports in the Spanish media and other information sent to the ESG it appears that some of the many tons of radioactive ashes from the Acerinox plant in the Bay was taken to Huelva for “safe” disposal but has instead been found seeping into and poisoning her marshlands. The radionuclide cesium-137 has been found at elevated levels in different sites close to the Rio Tinto and Odiel. The CSN (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear), has confirmed that the radioactive waste has not been contained sufficiently to prevent this seepage yet predictably disagrees with Greenpeace on the levels present in these sites and the threats this poses to public health. It is quite clear, however, from the ample scientific literature on this issue, that there is no safety threshold of exposure to radiation which is known to trigger cancer among other diseases and the official confirmation of this contamination has justifiably shaken the Huelva community. Mesa de la Ria, a long established environmental NGO in Huelva, seeking to achieve some controls over the degradation to the natural environment and threats to public health is taking the matter to court.

    Greenpeace, who used an independent French laboratory for sample analysis is outraged that the CSN have been found out and are only now coming clean on a situation which they claim to have known about for four years. Greenpeace state that this has shown the irresponsible actions on the part of the company charged with the disposal, EGMASA, as well as the Consejeria de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Andalucia for allowing this dangerous situation to develop. It insists that the radioactive contaminants must be removed without delay and taken to the “nuclear cemetery” at El Cabril.

    This development raises a number of concerns to the ESG namely:

    a) The lack of information provided at the time by the Spanish authorities and Acerinox when it produced a highly radioactive cloud detected in Italy and northern Europe

    b) The urgent need for La Junta to provide details to all Bay authorities including Gibraltar of the disposal of the entire 1200 tons of radioactive ashes stashed at Acerinox and only moved under threat of legal action

    c) That we can be forgiven for drawing parallels, but if La Junta de Andalucia was so lax or incompetent or both when dealing with this dangerous nuclear waste issue, can they be trusted to deal effectively and efficiently to curb the environmental pollution from the Refinery, and associated industry and thus safeguard the health of the inhabitants in both Gibraltar and Spain who live in this area?

    Supporting documents which include official statements from the CSN and Greenpeace as well as statements from the Huelva activist movement Mesa de la Ria are available for download on the ESG website www.esg-gib.net