RADIOACTIVE contamination of the Irish Sea has increased hugely in recent years, newly released official data has revealed.Figures from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) show that the level of contamination in seaweed taken from Balbriggan rose 17.5 times between 1993 and 1997.
The contamination was measured in levels of Technetium-99 which were found to have increased 3.75 times between 1996 and 1997 alone.
Greenpeace described the increases which it said stemmed from discharges from British Nuclear Fuel's Sellafield plant as giving ``cause for alarm.''
And the environmental group claimed that the RPII had been ``forced'' into releasing the data which it accused the Government's nuclear advisory body of withholding.
``It is disquieting that the RPII has been withholding information that clearly concerns the public and is required by Ireland's policy makers,'' said Greenpeace spokesman Damon Moglen.
A spokesman for the RPII which compiled the figures rejected this charge and cautioned against alarm.
``There has never been any suggestion that we were not keeping the Irish public fully informed of any risk,'' he said.
He claimed that the dose to which an average person is exposed to from all sources of radiation is measured at about 3,000 microsieverts.
The dose of someone eating as much as half a pound of fish a day would, arising from the Sellafield discharges, be 1.5 microsieverts and the Technetium-99 contribution to that was 0.3pc, he said.
Green MEP Patricia McKenna claimed last night that new research by Greenpeace has shown that parts of the Irish Sea bed is more polluted that a nuclear weapons test site in Russia.
The research has found that radioactivity spreads from Sellafield to Ireland, along the coast of Scotland, the coasts of Western and Northern Europe, even contaminating the Arctic, she said.
``This is simply an outrage. The Irish Government must lead the way in the fight against the risks our health is being exposed to by the nuclear industry,'' she said.
The UK government, owner of BNFL, is currently considering a new authorisation for discharges from Sellafield which would permit a further 30 billion litres of waste to be pumped into the sea.
Ms McKenna said the situation in the Irish Sea is already a catastrophe and that giving the go ahead for further contamination would be ``nothing short of madness.''