Ireland violated EU law in British nuclear plant dispute

The Luxembourg-based court said it had "exclusive jurisdiction" as the EU's highest court to rule on the dispute.

The court said an Irish decision to resolve the dispute via the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea was not correct, adding that that convention was now also part of EU law. Ireland had used the U.N. convention to claim Britain was putting at risk the sea environment around the Sellafield plant.

The EU judges agreed with the European Commission, which had taken Ireland to the EU court arguing the Sellafield dispute fell within the bounds of EU law and the decision was likely to lead to Ireland filing a case with the EU court.

Ireland's environment minister, Dick Roche, said the ruling presented his country "with a novel range of opportunities" to file a new EU case against Britain to force the closing of Sellafield and ensure it does not pose a risk to Irish citizens.

The Sellafield plant lies just across the Irish Sea in northern England, and Ireland argues that emissions from the plant pose health and safety hazards.

Roche, in a statement, said the five years since the court case began had seen the British government improve cooperation on the nuclear issue, but noted that "significantly different perspectives between the U.K. and Irish governments on the continued operation of the Sellafield nuclear plant remain."

Ireland had argued that if it was forced to take the case to the EU court, it would be limited in the possible remedies it could get from Britain in a legal dispute that has festered since 2001, according to the AP.

Dublin took the case to a U.N. tribunal in 2001, arguing that the British government violated the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, because of the pollution risk it poses to marine life.

The U.N. tribunal ruled the risks were not sufficient to justify the plant's closure, but still ordered Ireland and Britain to cooperate to prevent pollution of the marine environment that might result from the plant's operations.

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