Radiological Protection Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Debate resumed on the following amendment:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
"Dáil Éireann declines to give the Bill a Second Reading on grounds that the independence of the proposed Radiological Protection Institute is undermined by the overbearing power over its affairs given to the Minister for Energy.
—(Deputy R. Bruton).

On the last occasion this matter arose I had moved our reasoned amendment.

This Bill is a very poor response to the problems of radiological protection in this country. We waited three or four years for the presentation of the Bill which has been a very disappointing product.

Taking responsibility for radiological protection and placing it in the hands of the Minister for Energy is wholly inappropriate. As I remarked on the last occasion, if tomorrow morning the British Energy Secretary announced that he was taking control of radiological protection rightly, we would be the first to the ramparts to attack him for seeking to bring under his political control an area which should rightly be independent of any Minister for Energy. Indeed, in Britain, responsibility for radiological protection is entrusted to a board which report directly to Parliament and are not in any way answerable to a Minister of any Department, but certainly not answerable to the Minister for Energy. The Minister for Energy here, and in all other countries, rightly perceive their role as providing cheap, efficient energy for their people. Indeed in the past this Government did toy with the idea of introducing nuclear capacity in Ireland. While thankfully that is now an issue of the past, it is wholly inappropriate that a Department that could, some day in the future, reconsider the idea of nuclear capacity should take unto themselves the right to provide the so-called protection of the public from the hazards associated with that industry.

The record of the Department of Energy, in their approach to radiological protection, has been so poor as to independently justify our lack of confidence in their retaining responsibility for radiological protection. For example, they failed to act on the 1982 EC Directive on Planning for Emergencies. It appears we will not see a radiological protection plan brought to full fruition until next year.

The difficulties we encounteredvis-à-vis the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, to some extent, have been blamed on the Nuclear Energy Board. When the Minister spoke last week he rightly pointed out that the difficulties arose through lack of resources provided to that board by the Department of Energy and lack of planning for an accident of that type. These were not defects in the legislative structure but rather in departmental control in ensuring that that body was up to expectations and keeping pace with the issues that needed to be faced.

Our radiological protection problem, of great magnitude internally, arises from the radon gas issue. The Department of Energy have responded in a pathetic fashion to this. For example, it is four or five years since UCD produced the results of a survey showing that there were 35,000 houses with levels of radiation that were 80 to 100 times higher than what would be permitted from any nuclear plant to a member of the public. We have also seen evidence that there are 80 to 100 people dying annually from the presence of very high levels of radon gas. The Department of Energy have not responded to this problem. It was only at the eleventh hour recently — when RTE were doing a programme on this issue — that the Minister announced the Government would adopt a certain reference level, indicating the level at which they felt concerned about radon presence in houses. They have not yet produced a programme that would tackle the problem, which would ensure that radon gas problems encountered in Irish housing are tackled and reduced to the level which they contend to be appropriate.

All the lessons of what happened with regard to radiation in recent years must underline, to any sensible Member of this House, that the issues are environmental and public health ones. They are not issues that should be dealt with by the Department of Energy whose role and interest lie elsewhere. This is one of the fundamental weaknesses of this Bill, that its provisions have not entrusted responsibility for radiological protection to the people who, on a daily basis, face the environmental and public health issues involved.

Furthermore, this Bill is very defective in that it has given such overriding power to the Minister to influence this body. It is vital that any environmental protection agency should be independent of ministerial intervention and control and this Bill, in its provisions, has manifestly failed to provide such. Its provisions are in stark contrast to what the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Harney said, when she introduced discussion documents in respect of the Environmental Protection Bill she proposes to sponsor. At that time she indicated that the appointment of executives would be entirely independent. She said they will be appointed through procedures which will be seen to guarantee the independence and competence of that board. She suggested possible models for this, or the system of appointing the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Planning Appeals Board. That is in sharp contrast to what the Minister for Energy said. He proposes to appoint the chief executives of the proposed Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Harney, also made it quite clear that, in her Bill, she will make provisions for a system of general policy directives by the Minister and/or other procedures which would not compromise the independence of the environmental protection agency in dealing with specific issues. This is in sharp contrast with what the Minister is proposing here. He is proposing in section 20 to give himself unprecedented powers to enable him to intervene in the day-to-day affairs of the institute and to stop and start any of their activities or pragrammes.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment has also indicated that the agency to be set up under her aegis will have direct responsibility for licensing and enforcement. However, no such responsibility is being granted to this body whose powers will be decided upon by the Minister. The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment is at pains to point out that the agency she is sponsoring will have the right to publish regular reports and to advise the public on the state of the environment and to issue advice and information in its area of responsibility. The Minister has decided not to give this institute that right under this Bill. The function of the proposed Radiological Protection Institute will be solely to advise the Minister and the Government. The Minister should recall our experience with former Ministers for Energy. For example, in 1988 the Minister of the day sought to use a specific power, installed in this Bill, to muzzle the executive of the Nuclear Energy Board whose comments did not fit in with the political mood of the Minister who insisted that statements of that nature should be issued through his Department.

One of the fears I have is that this institute will be answerable to the Minister. I wish to refer to the policy document on the environment issued by the Deputy's party some time ago which states in the section on environmental information that objective information on our environment should come from a truly independent source and not be subject to the possible suggestion that it could be sanitised by the Department before being made available for public consumption. The record speaks for itself in that a former Minister for Energy in 1988 did the opposite to what is contained in the Minister's party's policy document. He has acquiesced and this section has been restored.

It is worth asking to what extent does this Bill represent an advance on its predecessor, the Nuclear Energy Act, 1971? All of the functions itemised in sections 7 and 8 of the Bill are already being performed by the Nuclear Energy Board under the 1971 statute. As I said, one of the past failures of the Nuclear Energy Board, in so far as they have any legislative foundation, is that they are under the wrong Department, namely, the Department of Energy and the Minister for Energy who does not have the necessary knowledge, commitment or interest in environmental and public health issues. Another weakness is that they do not have a mandate to directly advise and inform the public. Other difficulties, such as the lack of resources and planning, arose from those inappropriate foundations. No attempt is made in the Bill to try to resolve these difficulties.

The Minister has changed very little and I note, unfortunately, that he is leaving the House during the debate on Second Stage of this Bill. It is normal courtesy that a Minister listens to the contributions of the spokespersons of the major parties.

There is a collective responsibility in Government. The Minister has to go to a Cabinet meeting. I am here to represent him and the Government and whatever is said will be transmitted to the Minister for further consideration.

There may be Cabinet meetings but it is disappointing that the Minister cannot sit and listen to the Second Stage debate. I have to say that it undermines our confidence and one wonders if the Minister will listen to the arguments being advanced.

As I said, this Bill does not represent a great advance on its predecessor. In some respects the existing legislation contains elements, not contained in this Bill, which ensure a degree of independence. For example, under this Bill the first chief executive is to be appointed by the Minister. Under the existing legislation the chief executive and other executives are appointed by the board. This Bill introduces new and onerous controls on finance which do not apply to the Nuclear Energy Board. The Minister also exercises the obligation to lay orders before the House. Orders made under the existing legislation have to be laid before the House with the possibility of those orders being annulled but this provision is being removed.

In justifying giving himself these powers the Minister drew a parallel with the legislation on FÁS, the Manpower agency. However, this discloses a poor attitude to the issue of environmental protection more than a justification for what he is doing. The reason he can justify such a control in relation to FÁS is that they are seen as an executive agency of the Department of Labour. The fundamental point I would make is that I do not see the Radiological Protection Institute as being an executive agency of the Department of Energy. It is a false concept. What we want is a strong and independent agency who can be critical of the Department of Energy and other Departments if they fail to address environmental problems. It is highly improper that the Minister should give himself the powers under section 20 of the Bill to stop activity and research at his own whim. This is entirely inappropriate. Any directions issued to the board will not even have to be laid before the House for our consideration or annulment if we see fit.

The only significant advance made in this Bill is the excision of references to nuclear reactors and advice on the acquisition of reactors and fuels. This is only right and proper. However,de facto this has been the case since the Nuclear Energy Board was first established. Shortly after that board was established the idea of a nuclear reactor for Ireland was thrown away. The removal of this section will not lead to Ireland being established as a nuclear free zone or mean the Department of Energy in the future will not consider the option of nuclear power — far from it. The Bill just states that this institute will not give advice on the acquisition of nuclear reactors and it will be quite open to a Minister in the future to change his mind on the nuclear option.

If we want to have a high profile in Europe in putting forward our attitude to radiological protection and our belief that there should be an independent monitoring agency, we have to show at home that we are willing to give this institute the independence and teeth that it needs and ensure that it is not a lap-dog of the Minister for Energy. This is what has blocked adequate progress in the nuclear energy field in terms of safety throughout Europe and the world.

As the House is aware, it is the view of the Fine Gael Party and, I am glad to say, the view of the Labour Party and the other parties that the terms of reference of the Environmental Protection Agency should include radiological protection. That was the view of all the Opposition parties in this House when we discussed this matter some months ago.

We need a coherent approach to all elements of the environment. There is no point in lopping off the radiation area and giving it to the poacher in the Department of Energy. It is senseless duplication to have different agencies for different sections of the environment. The environment should be seen as something that has to be protected by a strong independent agency and I am hopeful that the Minister of State will bring forward a suitable Bill. This model is a very poor precursor for it.

I would remind the Minister of State that in the USA the responsibility for radiological protection is part of their environmental protection agency. In the UK a separate board is answerable to parliament. That principle has been well established. We need the same sort of independence. This Bill belies the thinking that was in the Progressive Democrats' policy documents over a long period. There is little of the thinking of the Minister — who is no longer in the House — or of his party in this Bill.

It is vital that the scientific message be delivered to the people without being bent in any way, without being subject to the suggestion that it is a servant of the political mood of the moment. That political mood might now be to undertake a strong campaign against Britain. In the future it could be to encourage the establishment of a nuclear industry in Ireland. Whatever the political mood of the Government of the day, what the public deserve to have from an institute of this sort is that the scientific message be delivered to them in a fair way. We need an informed public and a lot of what passes for informed comment in Ireland about radiation lacks vigour. We need to define our priorities in the area of radiological protection as to what are the real threats to Ireland, and pursue those vigorously. We must address the issue of safety in a much more coherent way than we have done heretofore. A very good demonstration of our sincerity in that area would be to establish an institute in our own country with real teeth that could criticise failures of our own Departments of Environment and Energy in the area of our nuclear problems, namely, radon gas or the disposal of waste products from radioactive substances.

I am surprised that the Minister said that sections 31 to 33 are all that are necessary to underpin an emergency plan. It is totally unsatisfactory for a start that we should be asked to accept that those are all that are needed to underpin a plan which neither we in this House nor any member of the public have never seen. We do not know the details of the emergency plan so it is very hard for us to agree with the Minister's contention that those powers relating to the movement of animals and foods are all that is necessary. It would seem on aprima facie basis that powers to commandeer transport or resources or move people or whatever would also have to be part of emergency planning. It is very hard to debate these issues when we have not seen the detail of the Government's intention relating to emergency planning. We are in the dark, to a large extent, in regard to what is going on there.

I am disappointed at the lack of progress at EC level in relation to getting a proper safety procedure and safety oversight of the nuclear industry. As the House knows, the idea of a strong independent inspectorate has continually been blocked. The Minister said that the EC had made a small advance when they agreed that there would be some oversight of the national overseeing bodies. It is a very small advance and as yet it is not even agreed but it is not the sort of inspection agency the public deserve or should have.

I am again very disappointed that the decommissioning of nuclear reactors has not been opened up to scrutiny, as it should be, by an independent European inspectorate. Similarly, the extension of the magnox reactors and, indeed, of any other reactors beyond their design life has not been opened up to scrutiny. We have only British say so that this is a safe activity. There is a strong case for opening up the powers under Articles 37 and 38 of the Euratom Treaty to examine the extension of life of reactors and the decommissioning of reactors in such a way that there was independent oversight of what was being done. The European Community Energy Ministers again have failed to accept the precautionary principle in relation to nuclear safety. The UK specifically insists that it requires proof of damage before it will do anything about Sellafield. In other words, we have to be able to cite individual cases and deaths before they will take this issue seriously. That is a principle that has long been abandoned in other areas of environmental protection but it is still clung to by the Energy Ministers at their Councils in Europe.

Similarly, the directive 46 of 1976, which proscribes the emission of any carcinogenic, that is, cancer causing, material into the seas has not been extended to the nuclear area and the emission of low level radioactive waste which has long been linked with cancer is daily going on into the Irish Sea. A directive which has EC backing and EC recognition in all other areas of industry and environmental activities that have an impact on the environment has been blocked off to the nuclear area; they have insisted upon an exemption from that directive and that is very disappointing.

The directive that is under debate and will be agreed by the environmental council and the environment Ministers provides that countries must look after, store and manage their own waste. Again, the Energy Ministers have refused and blocked the extension of that directive to the nuclear area. The Germans propose to dispose and the Japanese already are disposing, of their waste products in the UK, shipping them from their countries into the UK for reprocessing. That would not be permitted in relation to any other toxic waste. It is a unique exemption for the nuclear industry and again we have, at EC level, a club of energy Ministers that have failed to extend to their activities the sort of environmental controls that are daily being extended to other activities. They have not even faced up to a principle that was enshrined in the Single European Act, namely, that the polluter should pay. We have to incur enormous expense to provide protection for ourselves from pollution and the threat of pollution by the nuclear industry but there is absolutely no suggestion that we should get any compensation for those costs. That principle, enshrined in the Single European Act, has come to naught so far as the nuclear industry is concerned.

I would have to say also that the Minister's efforts during the Green Presidency were not a credit to him. He knew well in advance of the German contracts which were signed recently, that they were coming up. He admitted that himself but his protest was only heard when it hit the public media, when the rest of us knew that those contracts were signed. He did not make the protest in a coherent way from the beginning of his presidency when he knew this was coming up. He never sought a revision of the discredited safety standards in the wake of the Gardner report and he has the right, under section 32 of the Euratom Treaty, to require that the Commission review safety standards that apply throughout Europe in the nuclear industry.

I believe the Gardner report, which established clearly the link between workers in Sellafield and childhood leukaemia totally discredit the so-called safety standards applied in British nuclear installations. All of those workers were, according to the British, well within the safety bounds for exposure to radiation. Yet this study produced the evidence that childhood leukaemia in the children of those workers was a very much expanded risk, and we have seen more evidence since that underlining the much higher incidence of cancer all around the Cumbrian region where Sellafield is located. If this is not sufficient evidence to undermine confidence in the existing safety standards, I do not know what is, and I cannot understand why the Minister for Energy did not demand from the very beginning of his Presidency that those standards would be revised and to make that a theme of his Presidency.

The Minister also dropped the notion of a court case, which most Members on this side of the House recognised as the only serious way in which we could get the British to confront the issues. It was the Minister's view that there was no cast iron assurance that we would win the case. In this life we will never have cast iron assurances of winning, but we have to decide whether we are serious about making efforts to protect the public from an industry which has not been subject to the controls it should be. The victory we could have had from taking a case would be in bringing to public attention throughout Europe the genuine concerns of the Irish people about the operation of the nuclear industry. It would have been part of a broader campaign on this issue. I would not have looked for cast iron assurances that we could have won our case. However I would have looked for assurances that we could put forward a credible case. Greenpeace have circulated all Deputies with voluminous information on the different directives under which we could challenge the British Government and to my mind their case certainly offeredprima facie grounds. I would like to have seen the detailed reasons why the Minister would not proceed with the case.

I was also disappointed that during his Green Presidency the Minister did not campaign vigorously for change in the treaties that govern the nuclear industry. As I outlined earlier, they are hopelessly defective treaties which were drawn up by a club of Energy Ministers to continue the nuclear industry and were not drawn up with an eye to protecting the public from the hazards of the industry. The Minister should have taken as a theme of his Presidency his effort to review those treaties. Instead, in the dying days of his chairmanship, he issued a statement saying that Ministers should not be afraid to look at the treaties if they were found defective. That was a pathetic gesture, and his eleventh hour request to have a debate on safety in the nuclear energy industry was roundly rebuffed by his colleagues.

What this tells me is that having responsibility for nuclear safety entrusted to Ministers for Energy is a pathetic way to advance our safety concerns. Ireland should cop itself on and take responsibility for this area from the Department of Energy. Second, if we are to make any progress in Europe in facing up to the principles of environmental protection — which I discussed earlier — the only way forward is at Head of State level. I believe the onus is now on the Taoiseach, who still holds the Presidency, and he will have an opportunity at the forthcoming Summit to insist on agreement from his colleagues to a serious revision of the treaties relating to nuclear safety. I am glad the Taoiseach has committed himself during his Presidency to obtaining from his colleagues a statement on the environment. The key ingredient from an Irish point of view would be to see that his other colleagues in the European Community are willing to revise those treaties and provide the proper protection the people deserve.

I would like to deal with some specific points in the Bill. Some elements of the Bill are very welcome. The conventions on assistance, protection and notification are indeed welcome, although I suppose it is pretty disappointing to see that the military movements are not covered by any of these conventions. There is no doubt that the movement of nuclear charged submarines around our coast constitutes a real hazard, in the same way as Magnox reactors do. An accident on board would be very serious and the conventions do not cover that. We do not have the same international notification procedures to protect us in this area. Our own policy of requiring these countries to notify us whether their ships and submarines are nuclear charged is a rather poor straw to depend on, because it is the stated policy of virtually all of the nuclear military powers that they do not declare whether their ships and submarines are armed or not. If they do not declare in any circumstances that they are carrying nuclear weapons, our hope that they will notify us is a pathetic thing to depend upon.

The powers of enforcement and the penalties are to be welcomed, although I have some misgiving about the very weak powers under section 34 dealing with mishaps in the handling of radioactive substances. The penalties for failing to log a mishap seem very small, for example a fine of £1,000 seems small for failing to notify the institute of accidents, burglary or theft of radioactive substances. I would be interested to hear the Minister's comment on that section.

I have to ask the Minister to elaborate on the provisions of section 9 (2) (a) — I do not quite understand this and it is not explained in the Explanatory Memorandum — where the Minister may extend to the institute any of the following functions:

the making of arrangements for the supply of such radioactive substances or devices as may be specified in the order for use in the State ...

I do not know to what that refers but I presume it does not refer to nuclear reactors. It would be useful if the Minister would clarify that.

I think the Minister should extend the powers of this Bill to non-ionising radiation. There is considerable concern about the use of microwaves and lasers and in the instance of Radio Tara we have seen considerable public concern about the operation of that radio station. It is only right that there should be an independent agency overseeing this.

The lack of progress in making arrangements for radiological waste disposal is very disappointing. The report of the Nuclear Energy Board on our procedures for disposal of waste was somewhat disquieting. They pointed out that the vast bulk of this waste goes into the sewerage system. They said, of course, that is perfectly safe for the levels of radiation involved but they also stated that sealed generators were used by medical laboratories, which did not have the capacity to store them, to comply with the conditions in their licences. That code seemed to be saying that some agencies were not complying with their obligations because they did not have the facilities to store these sealed generators. The report also pointed out that most of the sealed generators are returned overseas and, again, it would be Ireland's hope that the principle that you do not return waste product overseas would be established at European level. It is important for Ireland to be able to honour the same principle that we would demand from others, that is, namely that we were capable of dealing with our own radiological waste in a way that did not involve sending it overseas.

The issue of food irradiation is one that is becoming of growing concern. The Bill is somewhat vague as to whether the Radiological Protection Institute will involve themselves in aspects of food irradiation beyond the actual operation of the equipment. Considerable concern has been expressed that the permitted dose rates in Ireland for food are too high, and that is not related to the operation of the equipment but whether the food, while visably appearing to be in good condition, would have become subject to botulism and toxicity that would not be obvious to the consumer. The suggestion is that Irish and EC dose rates are too high. Equally, there is concern that there is no proper labelling provisions in the area of food irradiation, particularly with bulk fresh foods and in restaurants. I do not know whether it is the intention in the Bill — it is not very clear on this point — that the institute's duties would extend to providing public confidence in the area of food irradiation. There is a danger of some hysteria about food irradiation which, I am sure, has its place but we should be very satisfied that there is some independent institute such as this standing over what is being done in the industry and that the public are provided with the sort of information they deserve.

On Committee Stage most of the other items will be open for debate. I would return to the fundamental point. It is not appropriate for Ireland, who is seeking to become the leader in Europe of a campaign for nuclear safety, to produce a Bill which we would throw out if it was produced by the UK authorities. We would be the first to say that such a Bill is totally defective and that it is wrong that the Secretary for Energy should have control over radiological protection. I do not see why we should continue to accept an anomaly here whereby the Department of Energy have responsibility in this area. It was wrong in 1971 when it was considered that the Department of Energy should be the overseer of the industry they were sponsoring and it is still wrong even though Ireland does not have ambitions to enter into the nuclear field. We should have the courage to say we are going to take a hard stand in Europe and we are going to do in Ireland what we would expect others to do in Europe. That is the major defect in this Bill.

The Minister should take a leaf out of the book of his colleague, Deputy Harney, who I am glad to say has joined us. He should note that her approach to dealing with environment protection issues is totally out of tenor with his approach to dealing with radiological protection. He insists on ministerial control at every level of the activities of the institute, from the spending of a mere penny. He can command them, by simply writing a letter, to desist from any activity. As I said earlier, this is in stark contrast to what the Minister of State present has proposed for the Environment Protection Agency. I hope the Minister will see the wisdom of approaching this matter in the way we would hope other Europeans would approach their nuclear industries.

The Labour Party will be opposing this Bill on Second Stage, and I want to set out the reasons for this, but also, and perhaps paradoxically, we welcome the Bill as an overdue expression of Government concern about the realities of the nuclear dangers that surround us. This measure was originally promised by the last Government who then stalled on it for more than two and a half years. It should have seen the light of day long before now as attitudes towards nuclear energy have been more informed throughout the country. We have never been given a satisfactory explanation as to why the Bill has been so long in coming. One can only suspect that there are still people hidden away in our establishment who harbour fond thoughts of the day when Ireland will switch over from coal, turf and oil to nuclear generated electricity.

It is of course ironic that the Bill should be introduced by a Minister who was a member of the Government which originally proposed to build a nuclear power station at Carnsore Point. The Leader of his party, Deputy O'Malley, was at one time the most enthusiastic proponent of nuclear power in this country, but Deputy O'Malley, as he likes to remind us, is not a prisoner of the past and his conversion to the side of the environmentalists has been as rapid as it has been complete.

Two major factors changed the mind of the world about nuclear power. The first was Three Mile Island, the incident which originally put a stop to Fianna Fáil's gallop towards nuclear energy at Carnsore Point. The second, of course, was Chernobyl which demonstrated to the world, perhaps for the first time, that nuclear fall-out respects no national boundaries and recognises the sovereignty of no nation. Here in Ireland there is a third factor which has greatly influenced our attitude to the whole issue of nuclear power and that factor is Sellafield, together with the nuclear generating stations dotted up and down the west coast of Britain. The most recent revelations of cancer links between Sellafield and the surrounding population adds ever more urgency to this issue.

The Irish Labour Party have never had any confidence in the management of BNFL who run Sellafield. For over 30 years the most serious questions have been raised in successive authoritative reports about the health and safety of workers in the Sellafield plant, the effects of discharges on the incidence of cancer in the surrounding areas and the impact on the ecology of the Irish Sea and on our east coast. These questions have always been answered by evasions, half truths and downright lies, despite the fact that no less a body than the British House of Commons has lent its voice to the widespread concern relating to this plant. It published a report which stated that as a result of Sellafield activities, there is one-quarter to one-half tonne of plutonium in the Irish Sea, making it the most radioactive sea in the world.

We have called again and again for the Irish Government to avail of the opportunity of their Presidency of the Economic Community to put the question of a conference on the Irish Sea high on the environmental agenda of the Community. The Labour Party support the establishment of such a conference. We would give this conference a mandate to draw up rules governing the use of the Irish Sea and would invite all those authorities who use the sea for whatever purposes to participate in such a conference on a co-ordinated basis. Only by adopting a radical approach will we make the British see sense on this issue.

I note that the Minister for Energy has got short shrift to his efforts to make the European Community do his work for him. This is hardly surprising given the apparent lack of seriousness of this Government and their immediate predecessor in relation to this whole issue. This is not something new. When I was a member of the European Parliament in 1982 I put a question to the Council concerning nuclear pollution of the seas around Ireland — Question No. 102 (H-360/82), Debates of the European Parliament, 15 September 1982. The question read:

Does the Council agree that the continuing disquieting reports of the dumping of nuclear waste in the Atlantic, off the Irish coast, and the pollution of the Irish Sea by nuclear waste from the reactors at Windscale and Cumbria are issues of considerable concern at Community level, in view of their threat to human health and life and the marine environment in the regions concerned, and will it call on the Commission forthwith to prepare and implement measures to deal with this problem?

The Council's answer was as follows:

The Council is not aware of the reports to which the honourable Member refers. ....

It was unbelievable, even eight years ago, that the Government here were not raising their voices, or even whispering about the gross abuse of the environment in respect of the Irish Sea. The Council admitted that it was not aware of the reports to which my question referred. I followed it up by sponsoring a resolution which was co-sponsored by a colleague in the West German Parliament, Mrs. Weber. During the debate on that resolution on 16 September 1982 I said:

Ireland has become the increasing victim of the polluting habits of other countries and of multinationals. The seas around this Community, and particularly around Ireland, are being turned into the world's biggest and most dangerous nuclear dumping sites. Four countries in particular — Britain, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland — are dumping their nuclear waste 370 miles off the south-west coast of Ireland. It has been estimated that in the past 22 years an amount in excess of 150,000 tonnes of nuclear waste has been dumped in this area, an area that is in the path of the Gulf Stream, which flows towards Ireland. So I call for a unanimous decision on this motion.

I was attacked by a British Member of the European Parliament, a member of the Conservative Party, Mr. Moreland, who in reply to the points I raised said:

... the only waste today is, in fact, this resolution. It is a load of old rubbish, as are the last two speaker's speeches ...

That was my speech and that of Mrs. Weber. Mr. Moreland continued:

They referred to 150,000 tonnes of waste being dumped in the sea. I would point out to them that 90 per cent of that is actually the steel and concrete in which the waste is encased. Workers are not subject to high levels of radiation when loading the waste; they are, in fact, subject to very, very low levels. The methods by which the British Government and the Governments of Belgium, Holland and Switzerland dump their waste are fully in accord with international regulations. I would suggest that the best thing this Parliament could do is to say to Mrs. Weber and Mr. Pattison: rubbish! This is a load of old rubbish, and let's throw it out.

That was and still is the attitude of certain members of the British Government party. Even though that was eight years ago nothing much has changed in the intervening years regarding the attitude of the British Government to this problem. I am one of those who believe that the results of dumping radioactive substances on the sea bed will be a difficult heritage for future generations to contend with. To turn the sea into a nuclear graveyard is an irresponsible way to treat the environment. After all no way has yet been found to decontaminate the sea once it has been polluted by radioactive substances. This is an international problem.

Deputy Spring, as Minister for Energy, opened the channels of communication to the British in relation to Sellafield. That was the first time the British ever deigned to listen to Irish concerns in the matter. He succeeded in establishing an early warning system in relation to any accidental emissions but he was not satisfied with that. That was the reason he got the Government of the day to support an Opposition motion in this House calling for the closure of Sellafield. This was the first time in many years, one of only a very rare number of occasions, that a motion on so major an issue was adopted unanimously in this House.

Deputy Spring was then succeeded in office by a Minister who believed that bluster was a good substitute for action. For over two years we listened to Deputy Burke telling us regularly that he would take legal action against the British authorities over Sellafield. It never happened. Incidentally, that same Minister was the one who promised, at least once in virtually every Dáil session, that he would publish this Bill and who regularly criticised and belittled the Nuclear Energy Board. I do not hold any brief for the Nuclear Energy Board. They have done their best with the limited staff and resources they have. I do not think they will be missed or mourned.

The Nuclear Energy Board was set up originally to promote the concept of nuclear power and many of its experts still fervently believe in the efficiency of nuclear power. Even at the height of the Chernobyl crisis these same experts saw fit to under-play the damage that was being done. There were two reasons for this, first, quite legitimately, they did not want to induce panic in the population at large, and, secondly, but just as important in the minds of the Nuclear Energy Board, they did not want to undermine confidence in what they saw, and still see, as a basically safe and efficient method of generating power.

I do not mean to imply that the Nuclear Energy Board falsified information on those days — they certainly did not — but they went to great lengths to reassure us that a lot of radiation was actually a little radiation and that there was such a thing as a safe level of radiation.

One of the lessons learned from that experience was that we need a new agency instead of the Nuclear Energy Board. That new agency must have a totally different orientation and totally different terms of reference, hence the need for the proposals contained in the Bill. This Bill is being presented to us by the wrong Minister. That is the essential reason we will be opposing it. This Bill should be presented by the Minister for the Environment and not by the Minister for Energy. The reason is precisely the same as the reasoning behind the disbandment of the Nuclear Energy Board in the first place.

The Department of Energy have a number of specific objectives. These are spelled out in the Department's programme statement in the most recent comprehensive public expenditure programmes. Indeed, it is worth reading them into the record at this stage.

The main objectives of the Department of Energy are: to ensure security and energy supplies at the lowest possible cost, taking account of social and environmental considerations; to encourage exploration for and economic development of indigenous energy and mineral resources on a basis which would yield maximum feasible benefits to the State; to reduce dependence on imported energy or any single form of energy through improved efficiencies, adequate interchangeability where feasible and use of indigenous sources; to promote (a) Ireland's energy interests on international fora to the maximum extent possible and (b) compliance with related obligations; and to ensure (1) that the Department operate efficiently and effectively, that they have an adequate legislative framework and that they discharge their statutory responsibility.

As can be seen, these are all worthy aims and objectives and I would not wish to see them expressed differently, but it will be noticed that the environment merits only one word and health and welfare do not feature at all. I agree fully with Deputy Bruton on this point and I see it as rather more than a coincidence that the Minister for Energy's place was taken first by the Minister of State at the Department of Health — I would say that even the Department of Health have more to do with this Bill than the Department of Energy — but above all it should be the Department of the Environment. I am pleased to see that the Minister of State at that Department responsible for the environment is here for this debate. I suppose that can be seen as a token gesture at any rate, that there is some recognition that this Bill and its provisions are more appropriate to the Department of the Environment in the first place, to the Department of Health secondly and, in a bad third place, to the Department of Energy.

As has been said, radiological protection is not concerned with the cheapness of energy or the strategic considerations that arise when security of energy supplies is considered. Radiological protection is about the environment and about the health and welfare of people in a sometimes hostile environment. For that reason the radiological protection institute must ultimately be answerable to the Minister for the Environment and not the Minister for Energy. I would go further than that. This House has been anxiously waiting for many months for the presentation of a Bill to establish the environment protection agency. We would wish to see this institute being established as an integral and central part of the agency. The institute being established under this Bill are not independent enough. It is not clear from the Bill, but I have the strongest suspicion that employees of the institute will be civil servants subject to the Officials Secrets Act. This is not the sort of independent status we would wish to see in an institute charged with protecting the people of this country from the dangers of nuclear energy. The institute would have to monitor, control, inspect, advise, educate and occasionally speak out, and, if necessary, criticise the Government and the Minister of the day. They must be free to do all these things unfettered by political control or interference. Having the institute under the control of the Department of Energy is simply not the way to achieve all these objectives. There would have been a time when we in the Labour Party perhaps would have been content to see this institute established in the manner proposed here, but the time has passed when anyone can be content with anything but the highest possible standards.

There are many other defects in this Bill. For example, it was quite clear during the Chernobyl emergency that one of the constraints suffered by the Nuclear Energy Board was their inability to commandeer the resources they needed at that time. A large number of trained personnel were needed to collect and analyse samples. Those personnel were available in the health inspectorate and the factory inspectorate but not, obviously, to the Nuclear Energy Board. In the drafting of this Bill it is a great pity the experience of the Chernobyl period was not fully analysed and the lessons learned then applied. We believe that in an emergency the institute should have the power to commandeer whatever resources they need in terms of personnel and material without having to beg, borrow and steal from their political masters.

In overall terms we believe this Bill represents a missed opportunity. In the event that the Bill passes Second Stage we will endeavour to strengthen it through amendments, but I urge the Government strongly to think again and agree with what I believe will be a substantial body of opinion in this House, that this should be an environmental agency in every respect and not an arm of the Department of Energy.

I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Greenpeace and all similar organisations and individuals who have over the years highlighted matters, when legislators, not alone in this Parliament but throughout Europe and throughout the world, were well behind the times. The dangers these people highlighted many years ago have proved to be well founded. In no way did they deserve some of the criticism and abuse they got from various institutes and governments throughout the world, particlarly in Europe. Legislators need to listen more attentively to what such organisations say. We will be forever in their debt for what they have done to keep the public conscience alive on these issues and above all to keep the consciences of legislators throughout the world alive to the dangers of nuclear energy.

I welcome the fact that we are in this Bill ratifying the three international Conventions on assistance, notification and protection in regard to nuclear accidents and outfall from nuclear accidents, but I wonder if that is the basic purpose of the Bill or is it just to get these ratified during the course of the so called Green Presidency? However, I am glad we are ratifying those, but the Bill in which they are being ratified causes much concern, as other Opposition speakers have pointed out. I am concerned that, while in the Bill we are establishing a new radiological protection institute, it may simply turn out to be just the old Nuclear Energy Board under a new name.

I am also disappointed that the Government did not take the opportunity of this Bill to establish Ireland as a nuclear free zone and to make clear our absolute opposition to nuclear weapons. A number of incidents during the past decade, most notably the Chernobyl accident, have opened the eyes of the world to the danger of nuclear power and demonstrated just how vulnerable we all are to the potentially devastating effects of nuclear accidents. The absence of nuclear weapons or any nuclear installations in this country offers no guarantee of protection. Radiation recognises no national frontiers. As we saw at the time of the Chernobyl accident, the health and safety of whole populations can be at the mercy of the direction of the wind at any time. Although we are a non-nuclear nation having no nuclear power stations, there are power stations over which we have no control just 60 miles away from this city. The nuclear powers do not have a good record of recognising the rights and interests of neighbouring non-nuclear powers.

The Soviet authorities were quite rightly criticised for the delay of two or three days in making available full information about the accident at Chernobyl. Had they released on the first day the information which was released a couple of days later, much of the risk could have been reduced since other States would have been in a better position to take remedial action when the cloud came over their countries and to advise their citizens on precautions in regard to animals and other matters. It is a sobering and frightening thought that four years after the accident the effect is still being found in the food chain in many parts of Europe, including Ireland.

It is not just the Soviet Union which has been slow to release information about nuclear accidents. Secrecy is one of the hallmarks of the nuclear industry. The Minister, speaking in relation to Sellafield at an EC Commission conference, said that we are all aware that the nuclear industry's history of secrecy has contributed very largely to its present difficulty. He said that the relationship between the military and civil uses of nuclear energy and the excessive and, in his view, misplaced emphasis given to national sovereignty and competences in the area of nuclear safety had added to public suspicion.

We know only too well the obsessive secrecy and downright dishonesty of British Nuclear Fuels in their operation of the Sellafield plant. There was a major fire in that plant in 1958, full details of which have not to this day been released or provided to this country. It almost certainly had an impact on the health of children born in this State along the northeast coast. A whole series of subsequent minor incidents have occurred, accidental discharges, etc., and there is a policy of deliberate dumping of nuclear waste into the Irish Sea.

The same Irish Sea has probably a higher volume of traffic of nuclear submarines than any other sea in the world. Yet when the US nuclear submarineNathaniel Green ran aground off the Wicklow coast in March 1986 with potentially disastrous results, the US authorities did not even bother to notify the Irish Government. Hopefully the ratification of these conventions, especially the one relating to early warning of nuclear accidents, will improve this situation and lead to a greater respect for the rights of non-nuclear powers, such as Ireland.

A major issue still unresolved is that of inspection and monitoring. There is clearly a need for some sort of independent or transnational monitoring of nuclear installations. This is an issue The Workers' Party have raised on a number of occasions, especially in relation to the operation of Sellafield and the impact it can have on the Irish environment. Within the European context Deputy De Rossa has raised in the European Parliament the need to establish a transnational inspectorate with powers to inspect nuclear installations in member states to ensure that all such installations comply with European safety standards. Nuclear powers are fiercely protective and secretive about their installations and there is little enthusiasm among them for such an inspectorate. It is something that we as a country should continue to push very hard.

One of the main reservations we have about this Bill is that the new Radiological Protection Institute may turn out simply to be the Nuclear Energy Board with another name. Apart from the fact that the new institute will have no functions in relation to nuclear power stations, which are clearly not on the agenda in this country for the foreseeable future, its terms of reference will be somewhat similar to those of the old Nuclear Energy Board. To put it at its kindest, the Nuclear Energy Board did not exactly distinguish itself and certainly did not enjoy the confidence of the public. Part of the reason was, no doubt, that it was starved of funds and resources, but even allowing for that, its record was very poor indeed. It was found particularly wanting at the time of the Chernobyl accident. It was slow to start monitoring the impact on Ireland and to provide the public with information. Britain was monitoring the impact before the radiation cloud had actually come over the country. Here it was two days after it had passed before serious monitoring of milk was begun. The board assured the Irish public that there was no danger through radiation contamination of Irish foodstuffs. It later emerged that consignments of Irish foodstuffs sent abroad had been rejected, not just by countries like Brazil but even on one occasion by one of our EC partners, Holland. In May 1988, two years after the accident, the Nuclear Energy Board's Dr. John Cunningham in a TV interview denied that any Irish food had ever been rejected within the EC. It came to light shortly afterwards that the Dutch had, indeed, rejected two consignments of milk powder which were returned to Ireland in autumn 1986. The Nuclear Energy Board have not a very good record. Their determination was to keep everything quiet, under cover, not to arouse any worries among the public and to assure everybody that everything was fine.

Like the Nuclear Energy Board, the new institute will be under the direct control and auspices of the Department of Energy. This is one of the areas of greatest concern. There is clearly a potential conflict between the Department of Energy as the Department responsible for the provision of energy and the institute as the agency responsible for monitoring and providing radiological protection. If it is to be a genuine Radiological Protection Institute, then it should be under the control of either the Department of Health or the Department of the Environment. It should be a genuinely independent operation, not an arm of the Department of Energy. It should have the same degree of independence as, say, the Ombudsman. Yet under this Bill the entire membership of the institute will be appointed by the Minister for Energy. No criteria are given in the Bill for any qualifications or specialised knowledge required for membership of the institute. If this Bill is passed there is nothing to stop the Minister for Energy appointing 11 members made up entirely of the Salthill branch of the Progressive Democrats, except that possibly there may not be 11 members in Salthill. There is nothing in this Bill to stop that.

He may well do, and it is open to him to do so. I can assure the Minister he would be very welcome to him. The very least the Minister should have done in the Bill was to specify the interest groups which should be represented in the institute — a member of the medical profession, a radiologist, a food scientist, a marine biologist, a representative of the staff, a representative of the consumers or whoever. Why could the formula used for appointments to, for example, An Bord Pleanála not be used for the institute, a procedure whereby certain specialist organisations can nominate a panel of names from which the Minister must select? This would give us an institute with some degree of independence and expertise. What we are likely to get under this Bill is an institute whose membership is determined largely by political considerations rather than technical or scientific expertise.

To make matters worse, while the chief executive of the institute will normally be appointed by the board the first chief executive will be appointed by the Minister. The Minister is clearly making doubly sure that he is going to have a tame institute — he is going to appoint the members of the institute, he is going to appoint the first chief executive and, under the terms of section 17, he is effectively going to determine the work the institute may carry out. It is hard to see this institute being anything other than a tame and subservient servant of the Minister and the Department of Energy.

I am also concerned that the institute have been given no power to advise the public on possible dangers arising from radiological hazards. For instance, section 7 requires the institute to monitor the exposure of individuals to activity or ionising radiation and to advise the Government on measures for the protection of individuals in the State from radiological hazards. Why should the institute not also have the function of advising the public of any hazard and alerting them as to the appropriate protective measures? It is entirely conceivable that a Government, for their own political reasons, might want to keep a nuclear incident secret but the institute should have a clear mandate in such circumstances to go over the heads of Government and directly alert the public.

I am also concerned that the institute have not been given a more direct role in the question of the disposal of radioactive waste. While we do not have a problem on the same scale as other countries, especially those with nuclear power stations, there is a growing problem with the storage and disposal of radioactive waste arising from medical, scientific or industrial uses. At the moment some of this waste is simply stored and some of it is exported. We need a national policy on the storage and disposal of this waste, and this is clearly a function that should have been given to the new institute.

I note from section 7 that one of the functions of the institute will be to monitor the radiation level in food. I presume this will cover irradiated food, an area which is of increasing concern to consumers.

It is not possible to adopt a definitive position on food irradiation at this stage but it is certainly true that there is a need for much more research. Irradiation may have a legitimate role to play in extending the life of foodstuffs, but we must make sure that it is not used to disguise natural deterioration in food. There is already evidence that irradiation can lead to the partial depletion of certain vitamins and natural acids. The taste and texture of food can be affected, which can lead to the adding of artificial chemicals and additives to make it more attractive to the consumer.

The minimum requirement must be to ensure that all food which has been irradiated is clearly labled as such. Consumers are entitled to know what they are buying and have the right to choose to buy natural foods which they know have not been interfered with in any way.

The most disappointing aspect of the Bill is that the Government have failed to avail of the opportunity presented by it to establish Ireland as a nuclear free zone and to make clear our absolute opposition to nuclear weapons. A few years ago, Dublin City Council passed a Workers' Party motion declaring Dublin to be a nuclear free zone. Dundalk and other towns have similarly declared themselves to be nuclear free zones. Although it was part of that motion, signs were not erected around Dublin city stating, "You are now entering a nuclear free zone". Citizens would have been able to see such declarations at all times and people coming into the city would have noted them. Neither has any effort been made to ensure that Dublin is and remains a nuclear free zone. In other words, there has been no monitoring of shipping, preventing the entry into Dublin port of shipping which is nuclear-powered. Even though Dublin has been declared a nuclear free zone we really have done nothing to ensure that it remains so. The Workers' Party believe all of Ireland should be declared a nuclear free zone.

This Bill deals exclusively with the threat posed by civil nuclear power and fails to acknowledge that the main threat to the lives of Irish people comes from nuclear weapons of mass destruction. It is regrettable that the Government were not prepared to follow the example set by New Zealand and use the Bill to prohibit the entry into Ireland of ships and aircraft carrying nuclear weapons.

We would also like to see the Government initiating discussions with the nuclear powers with a view to securing international agreement on banning nuclear submarines from passing through the Irish Sea. Everyone is conscious of the relatively lucky escape the world had at the time of the Chernobyl disaster, but the fact is that virtually every day potential Chernobyls, in the form of nuclear submarines, pass up and down the Irish Sea, sometimes within a few miles of the Irish coast. The volume of traffic of nuclear submarines through the Irish Sea is possibly the highest of any similar sea in the world. Yet the relatively shallow water and the density of population on both sides of the sea mean that any accident involving one of these vessels would have appalling results.

In recent years there have been a number of incidents involving submarines, both nuclear and conventional, in the Irish Sea. In March 1986, the US nuclear submarine, theNathaniel Green, ran aground east of Wicklow. There have also been a number of incidents in which trawlers were sunk by “netting” submarines and a number of others have had lucky escapes. Given the increasing volume of traffic through the Irish Sea we can no longer rely on luck to protect us.

The largest and most dangerous submarines passing through the Irish Sea are the US Poseidon submarines, based at Holy Loch in Scotland, each of which carry 16 nuclear missiles. British submarines also exercise in the area, and it is likely that both the US and British vessels are shadowed by Warsaw Pact submarines.

The US Poseidons using the Irsh Sea are normally passing through on their way to the Mediterranean or the South Atlantic. There is no reason why these submarines cannot use the slightly longer but much safer route to the North of Ireland into the Atlantic. Similarly, the British Navy's exercise area for submarines which is only 30 miles to the east of Dundalk should be transferred to waters well away from populated areas. After all, the cold war is over. It is time that somebody told the navies of the world what the position is. In particular, somebody should tell the commanders of the submarines. We should press for a regulation that will ensure that, now that the cold war is over, all submarines will surface when sailing through the Irish Sea.

To secure an Irish Sea free of nuclear weapons would require the agreement of several nuclear powers. To ban aircraft or vessels carrying nuclear weapons from our national territory would require only political will on the part of the Government. While attention in this area has tended to focus on naval vessels which occasionally visit Irish ports, the major threat probably comes from the over-flights of military aircraft. In some recent years there have been up to 11,000 military over-flights per year, the vast majority of which is US Air Force traffic on their way to and from bases in Europe. In 1987 there were 10,800 over-flights and of that figure more than 8,000 flights were US aircraft. Last year there were 6,500 over-flights by military aircraft and more than 65,000 civil aircraft. There were 4,200 US military aircraft over-flights in that year. In fact, according to a reply to a parliamentary question on 9 May, 1989 20 countries had military overflights and none of them was from the USSR. In May last year the Minister told me that there was no occasion in the period concerned when permission for an over-flight was refused. Given the significance of nuclear weapons in the overall military strategy of the United States it is hardly credible to ask the Irish people to accept that none of those aircraft are carrying nuclear weapons. Imagine the consequences of a Lockerbie-type disaster over Ireland involving one of those planes or an accident between civilian planes.

While I am glad that the Bill has been introduced I am most concerned at the lack of power and independence the institute will have. I intend tabling a considerable number of amendments on Committee Stage to extend the areas which the institute can cover and monitor. The institute should be given greater independence and more teeth. I hope the Minister, having heard the debate on Second Stage, will take on board the points made and introduce appropriate amendments on Committee Stage. It is important that the public should have confidence in the institute. We must have an end to the secrecy and moreglasnost. We should do what we can to give the institute more independence and authority and if we do that the public will have confidence in it.

We are being afforded an opportunity in this debate to protest against the direct contamination of our environment by British Nuclear Fuels. I welcome the Bill which proposes to establish an agency to monitor radiation. They will be available to deal with the consequences of any serious accident at the British Nuclear Fuels plant and will ratify certain international conventions. Our ecologically delicate environment is in a fragile state. We are engaged in a race against time but time is not on our side. I should like to take the opportunity to refer to a television programme I watched on BBC last night called, "The Earth Imbalance." The narrator, presenter and script writer of that programme was none other than the Prince of Wales. It was an excellent programme which took an overview of the state of the environment in the context of pollution, safety and the health of future generations. It dealt with issues in areas as far apart as Scotland, Hong Kong and Indonesia. As the programme dealt with the importance of environmental protection and what the future holds for the planet nothing but good can come from it. I am pleased to be able to compliment the presenters of the programme. However, I must register the strongest possible protest against any attempt by any authority, from the British monarchy to the profit-making concern that British Nuclear Fuels is, to engage in a public relations exercise to whitewash what is happening on our doorstep. There was no reference in that programme to the appalling risk we are under as a result of the Sellafield plant.

I referred to that programme to indicate the strong forces we must face on the international scene to register our protest against Britain over Sellafield. The need for British Nuclear Fuels to close down their ageing and positively dangerous plant at Sellafield becomes more obvious each day. It is frightening to hear that young men who work at Sellafield are being recommended not to father children because of the possible genetic defects that can be passed on to their offspring as a result of them being exposed to radiation while working in the proximity of nuclear reactors. The key question in the debate on Sellafield is the risk to health. It should not be necessary for any industry to remove young men from their working environment because of the danger of genetic defects. What about those who remain in the area? The need to close that plant is self evident. Ireland has protested against that plantad nauseam but with little success.

I have not changed my view about that plant over the years and I have consistently called for its closure. The Government should take British Nuclear Fuels to the European Court on this issue. Anything short of that will be seen to be pandering to them or compromising with the activities that are taking place at the Sellafield plant. About five years ago I referred to what I consider to be the most significant development to take place in that area for many years. I was referring to the development of the THORP, the thermal oxide reprocessing plant which is nearing completion. That represents an expansion of the Sellafield plant and if it commences operations as planned in 1992 there will be a greater risk of radioactive discharges. Many communities will be affected by that nuclear cesspit or dustbin. It will affect Britain and, to a great extent, Ireland and European countries. The expansion plant will prove to be far more hazardous than British Nuclear Fuels past reprocessing experience at Sellafield, which is a lamentable record of accidents and dangerous cover-ups starting with Sir Douglas Black's repeated assurances in 1984 that there could be no link with the high incidence of cancer in Cumbria. However, this report was heavily criticised later as being a complete whitewash and has been totally discredited.

The marine discharge of plutonium and other nuclear waste in the Irish Sea will increase to a very high level. What we have had to endure since 1947, when the plant was initially opened to produce materials for Britain's atomic bombs, was bad enough but the future is quite frightening. The aerial releases of nuclear waste are set to increase tenfold and the transboundary nature of these discharges will continue to expose many communities — I do not apologise for being parochial in referring principally to this country — to increased levels of radioactivity. I have a litany running to ten pages of accidents chronicled in relation to Sellafield. Indeed, I prefer to refer to it as Windscale because the name was changed in 1981 as part of a public relations exercise as it had such a bad name.

Seventy per cent or 80 per cent of the THORP plant will be foreign, which is amazing. We are not talking about reprocessing for the British need, this is a money making industry where they put profits before people and there is no attempt to consider future generations whose parents will have been exposed to low dosage radiation.

The most hazardous waste will continue to be transported across the world by ships, air and different rail routes. Considering the rail network, whole communities will be at risk as a result of carrying spent fuel from nuclear reactors and ports of entry for foreign waste. Once separated from the spent fuel, many tons of plutonium will be returned to foreign customers. With transportation of plutonium by air and sea, the risk of terrorist sabotage and hijack is very real. Unprecedented security arrangements in Britain — which will also affect Ireland — will be required. It is common knowledge, for example, that Japan plans to send warships to the Irish Sea to escort some of the ships which will be carrying waste from their country to be reprocessed at Sellafield.

Our civil rights as a democracy in Europe are at risk as a result of this appalling future plan by British Nuclear Fuels. THORP is not needed for any future energy requirements, strategic needs, military considerations or technical reasons. The plant is being expanded in the guise of providing future employment to unfortunate people working at the plant — and their families — and people in the Cumbria region, but it is for one reason: to make money for British Nuclear Fuels. The time has come for this nation to join people within Britain — this is where the Minister could have a very strong input — to unite against this future expansion.

It is only a matter of time before the ageing plant at Sellafield and other places will be forced to close down because they are unsafe and would not pass a European inspection, if one is organised. However, the real threat is future expansion and that is where vast sums of money are being spent at present. It is a huge investment in a unique industry. For example the facility will not be available in Germany, Japan, America or France. Where will reprocessing be done? At Sellafield. It will be a buyers' market for British Nuclear Fuels and they have no regard for the safety of this country.

The Minister should consider sending an observer or two to a proposed conference which will take place on 17-18 July next organised by Cumbrians who are opposed to a radioactive environment. The organisation — CORE — is strong and has the support of the Greenpeace Organisation. There is a huge resident Irish population in the whole catchment area of Cumbria and Liverpool who are very sympathetic to our point of view. There is no point in just taking a "close Sellafield" approach. We know that such a call falls on deaf ears and although the Minister may, with the best will in the world, make our feelings known to her counterpart in Britain the response is usually that they appreciate our problem but that Sellafield will never close. There is also secrecy about the future expansion of the plant. However, we can tap the goodwill of our British counterparts who live daily in fear of Sellafield. They know of the risks to their children and of the carcinogenic effects on babies born in the catchment area. They are now aware of medical opinion which is quite unanimous in its view, that the long term effect of low dosage radiation is very harmful.

We must ask ourselves what level of radiation, in medical terms, is acceptable? We are afforded an opportunity of keying into this huge groundswell of opinion developing in England. It is not realistic merely to call blindly for the closure of Sellafield. Of course we can do so, but what might be described as the public relations experts working for British Nuclear Fuels, with a huge budget, on a day-to-day basis will counteract any attempt made for its closure. They will whip up the fears of 11,000 people working directly at the Sellafield plant or in the catchment area.

Through the EC we should be supporting ways and means of finding alternative employment for such people, if you like, converting it into a ghost industry in which people are not prepared to run the risk of working, supported by medical evidence and by the many reports I have in front of me showing that it is an unsafe environment in which to work. We must assist such people in finding alternative sources of employment. There should be no fear or doubt about our need to take Britain to the European Court. We must do this for the benefit of future generations who will inhabit this planet.

On a timescale we are drawing very close to a point at which it will be almost incumbent on us to take this type of action; we will not have an alternative. There are things happening at present. I remember talking in this House on the subject of nuclear energy — going back perhaps seven years — and I am not for a moment saying it was regarded as a trite subject or one that people felt was peripheral to their every day duties or lives, but nonetheless it appeared then to be a very remote subject. As the planet geographically grows smaller, as our ecological environment comes more and more into focus — because, with the aid of satellite technology, we can look in on the planet and realise that its resources are finite — and we realise that the destruction of rain forests is causing appalling acid rain damage, the overall effect of global warming and so on, people are beginning to realise — and it is fantastic that they are — that we must protect our environment.

As a nuclear-free nation, Ireland can stand proud. We do not need to be apologetic to anybody about the stand we will take if Britian is not prepared to listen to us. Our Ministers have made very many protests at the highest level. The EC passed resolutions opposing the Sellafield reprocessing facility a few years ago. My remarks are focused on what is to come. It is not at all unreasonable to assume that there will be a very serious accident or incident at Sellafield as that plant expands. It is important that that possibility be realised and recognised. Bearing that possibility in mind — indeed for that reason alone — our Government are afforded an opportunity of taking Britain to the European Court. Why not? If we feel we might not succeed because of particular regulations, so be it; that is my view. But we must very rapidly focus world opinion on what Britain is doing.

What I dislike about the entire exercise taking place at present in Sellafield — and this is common knowledge — is the public relations exercise. Many people say that one can convince people if one tells them often enough that a product is safe and they will believe it. There is a great deal of money being spent in an endeavour to gloss over the seriousness of this proposed new expansion. For example, they talk in terms of increasing profits for Britain, contending that it is a new, clean industry, a whole new technology being put in place, not like that of the old days. In fact they even bring tourists into the Sellafield region, showing the plant against the backdrop of greenery, showing them this new huge industry that will contribute so much to the British economy. It is absolutely appalling.

Let us hope we are close to a breakthrough in techniques that will involve the safe reprocessing of waste. I am speaking now more in terms of the fusion technology for creating nuclear energy rather than the present system which creates awful waste which will remain on this planet for thousands of years. It is interesting to note that some of the nuclear waste will be on this planet for the next half a million years or some 16,000 generations. That is the legacy we are leaving behind. We inhabit this planet for a short number of years only; we are its temporary custodians. Why should we apologise to Britain? Why not just take a strong stand on this issue? Every Irish citizen will stand strongly by our Government. I am sure every British citizen will stand by the Irish Government if they take that strong lead in bringing Britian to the European Court.

There is also the necessity for education in the area of nuclear energy, its development and consequential damage and danger to our environment. That is indeed necessary at present. I might refer briefly to the new technology that will provide clean, nuclear energy. I am very conscious of the damage to our environment that can be caused by other techniques in producing such energy. I have heard that argument advanced repeatedly, such as the burning of coal and so on which can be ecologically very damaging; of course it can be, but, on balance, we must ascertain how energy can be generated in the cleanest possible way. Perhaps in the future nuclear energy can be created by way of fusion when there will be no wastage. I am speaking about the type of energy created in the stars, in the sun, where there is no wastage whatsoever. Regrettably there have been some research failures in this area. For example, some research was conducted recently in Trinity College Dublin, when they were very close to a breakthrough in simulating the production of nuclear energy by fusion techniques.

It is only a matter of time before technology will bring us this new source of energy by a much cleaner method, but at present the nuclear industry are endeavouring in the most destructive possible way to store and dump nuclear waste. Again, I must revert parochially to the Irish Sea and refer to the 2.2 million gallons of wastage dumped there every day over such a long period. Who is even to believe those statistics? Who is to believe the litany of false information that has emanated from the British nuclear industry, which give us no reason to have any semblance of confidence whatsoever in anything they say or contend?

The impact of nuclear power and energy and its potential hazards on mankind has been immense. Even in countries, including our own, where there are no nuclear installations there is a growing consciousness of the awesome strength of nuclear energy and the danger that it could get out of control, heightened, I suppose, by the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. As I said, there are positive and negative sides to nuclear power. I would not dare for one moment condemn the positive sides of nuclear power or some of the medical research being conducted in this area which I hope will lead to safe techniques.

Young people in particular, as they are going to represent those who will be primarily concerned with this problem, should know what the risks are. There should be a mandatory requirement that such education be provided, with all schoolgoers being made aware of nuclear power and the rudiments of nuclear fission and ingredients. They should also be made aware of the dangers posed by radiation and contamination and the advantages or disadvantages nuclear power may bring to their lives. If industry is given a free hand without people being involved, all sorts of dangers can ensue. One would not be unreasonable if one took Romania as an example in highlighting the uncontrolled bureaucratic attitude towards unsafe nuclear installations. That country is now practically a wasteland. The same is true of southern Russia and those countries where people do not play a part in controlling the expansion of these industries.

When we consider the question of the expansion of Sellafield it is very important and I say this in the very best spirit — I also said this when in Opposition — that there should be no point scoring by those who are genuinely concerned about this matter. I listened very attentively to the contributions of the Minister, the shadow spokesperson and other speakers and there is no doubt in my mind that we are united and committed in our attempt to focus attention on the dangers posed by Sellafield and its future development and also by the nuclear industry as it develops on this planet.

We should not get caught in the trap that perhaps Britain would wish us to be caught in and that is to be found arguing among ourselves. We are united on this issue. Nuclear devastation and the potential holocaust which has been referred to by many speakers will know no boundaries. The damage will be immense. What we need is a united political voice. It is very important that we focus in on this issue and support each other. We are talking about the world's most dangerous nuclear plant on our doorstep and we cannot let Britain off the hook. It would be most shameful if we were to find that some of our MEPs in the European Parliament were criticising the action the Government were taking or criticising them for failing to take action.

About five or six years ago I sat in on a television debate with a member of British Nuclear Fuels who was well versed and armed by his public relations people. He started by saying that some of our people felt that it was perfectly safe and inquired why I felt it was not. Such division will place us in a very serious position. Therefore, there should be no point scoring and we should be united in our condemnation. Perhaps the Minister would consider taking out, at the highest possible level, an injunction against the expansion of this plant. What may happen is that this will occur without anyone objecting to it. Parties on all sides of the House, local authorities, medical opinion and interested organisations such as Greenpeace, CORE and Friends of the Earth and young people in schools should unite and make public our view that we intend to follow through on this matter and bring Britain to the European Court. Such action — and there has to be action at this stage — would force the hand of a very uncaring neighbour in this regard.

During the past ten years, since I first became interested in this issue, I have never come across an official statement from British Nuclear Fuels indicating that they would be prepared to have discussions with the Government, to speak with interested people in Ireland, or engage in dialogue which would be of help to them in shutting down their ageing plants. We are prepared to offer help and assistance through the EC and support the view that the employees of any plant shut down should be assisted and alternative employment sought for them.

It is important that we adopt such a view but we should not be afraid. There should be no fear. We will only live for a short number of years on this planet and we owe it to future generations to do something. Normally one speaks in terms of one's own lifetime but never in terms of what planet Earth will be like in 1,000 years from now for the simple reason that we feel this is way beyond the imagination of human beings, but it is not. If people focused their minds on just how old our planet is and on how fragile it has become in recent years due to our own selfishness and unbridled profiteering at the expense of people through activities such as the cutting down of our forests, to the pollution of our rivers, to destroying the quality of air they would soon realise that 1,000 years is a very short number of years.

We have now reached a crossroads for civilisation. The red flag is up. We know that the planet is becoming warmer. We know that serious problems are afoot. Equally we know that if we are prepared to stand up and be counted, no matter what the cost, we can at least be seen to be addressing the problems. At least we could do that for future generations. It is bad enough living under the threat of some nuclear accident at Sellafield with the increased THORP expansion but it would be shameful and horrendous if we were not concerned enough about future generations to take action. If taking a stronger line could mean a resolution at the United Nations for a condemnation of this plant, let us do it because there is no way Britain will move on this issue unless people get behind the cause and start to become concerned, British people as well as Irish people.

In conclusion let me refer briefly to a few other matters which will come within this Bill. I welcome the fact that we are now setting in place proper facilities for monitoring the awful possibility of a nuclear accident and the safety of food because the irradiation of food is of very serious concern. We will also be monitoring leakage of radiation from waste that has been illegally dumped. All of these moves are very welcome. I think the Bill could best be referred to as a serious attempt to focus on coping with an accident and monitoring nuclear levels within our country. I would like the Minister to give consideration to including greater powers for the Minister to take action against offending countries directly, rather than having to go through a very lengthy process, if they endanger our country.

I find the thought of what is going on at the moment quite depressing. I feel that perhaps we are living in the eleventh hour of our planet. I would urge the Minister to make his view known direct to Cabinet, to inform them that the nation is entirely behind the Government, along with many spokespeople on the Opposition benches, in taking Britain right on to centre stage, from its monarchy right down to its local authorities, to the highest level of court action and to the UN to make them accountable for the potential destruction of our environment and the risk to our nation. Our first duty is to those we represent in this land.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this long awaited Bill but regret that Fine Gael are not in a position to support it. We reluctantly oppose it because it is seriously flawed and defective. It is nothing new to have an Irish solution to an Irish problem. It is a notable but regrettable first for the Minister to offer an Irish solution to a problem of global dimensions, one which will ultimately affect the lives of all of us. It is a problem that this Bill does little to assist. It does nothing to allay growing public concern at the manner in which the Government are approaching their responsibilities in the whole area of radiological protection.

Radiation, both natural and manmade, is part of our lives and will continue to be so for as long as we inhabit this earth. The manner in which we monitor its effects or control its uses will determine how successful we are and whether coming generations will be able to live in the safety they have a right to expect. There is scarcely an aspect of daily life which is not touched in some way by the presence of radiation. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the very ground we walk on are all being affected increasingly by radiation. As far as Ireland is concerned the vast bulk of manmade radiation which affects our daily lives originates outside this country. Yet the Government's solution to the problem, as evidenced by this Bill, is merely to replace an existing State agency with another State agency under the control of a Government Minister who would have total discretion in the discharge of his responsibilities under the proposals, and who would not be required to act on the advice of any independent agency, or even to involve any other departments affected by the Bill. Not alone does the Minister propose buying a watchdog, he also proposes to do all the barking himself.

The Irish Radiological Protection Institute, proposed by the Fine Gael Party in 1987, was to have been an independent body appointed by the Minister for the Environment and would work in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Meteorological Service. It would have regional monitoring units and would have satisfied a vigorous public demand for local answers to local issues, along with fulfilling the need for co-ordination of information at national level. The Ministers for Energy, Agriculture and Food, the Marine, Industry and Commerce, and Health, would have full access to the facilities available through the medium of the Institute and its standing committees comprising of competent interested individuals and organisations. But the important point about those proposals is that they would be based on the complete independence of the institute and thus its freedom to operate without hindrance within the areas of its competence and be within the ambit of the Minister for the Environment, with full access for all areas affected by the subject.

It is now a fact that these proposals were not acceptable to the present Government and we are presented instead, with this ill-conceived child from a Minister whose blinkered vision will not permit the proper maturation of this fledgling Bill. It could, indeed, have set the standards for the future in the most far-seeing fashion. Instead, this Bill will place a subject of international importance into the hands of a Government Minister, and not even the correct one at that, and give that Minister the power not alone to make the laws, but to enforce them. This Bill gives the Minister for Energy the power to be both judge and jury, and if passed, will create a dangerous and irreversible precedent. We do not ask our law-makers to be our law-enforcers: imagine for a moment that the members of the Garda were to become the servants of the Legislature. We can only guess at the speed with which law enforcement would self-destruct in an explosion of illogicality and uncertainty.

But yet, that is exactly what this Bill proposes to do. We are all of a mind that there is a necessity for a radiological protection institute and we are all agreed on the broad concept of its operations. But we differ sharply when we come to assessing its status within the terms of a government Act. A body such as the institute must, of its very nature, be free to carry out its duties within the areas of its competence and be subject to the normal constraints of good management practice, supervised by a properly constituted board. It must be free to incorporate other interested and competent agencies in an advisory capacity and to use such agencies to build a broader base of expertise and factual information resources. To deny the institute this facility is to limit their effective contribution to those areas on which they impinge, namely, the environment, health, food and public safety. The spirit of any law is as important as the letter of that law and I think I can say that the spirit of this law is totally at variance with the realities of life and with the wishes of the vast majority of Irish people.

Chernobyl, Sellafield and Three Mile Island have entered the pages of history: we may never have a nuclear accident in this country, but we should, and must, have the machinery to protect the people of our island from the effects of any such accident in the future and from the effects of the mismanagement of nuclear power in its many forms by other countries. If we fail to recognise the necessity for an independent monitoring agency, then we fail to recognise the truth of the situation. On this single point alone, this Bill fails to answer its first major question.

Another major area in which this Bill will fail to satisfy the people of Ireland and all those interested in the environmental welfare of the country and its attendant public health ramifications, is the question of conventions, which are proposed to be incorporated into the Bill. First, the conventions are now over three years old and the time lag involved in their implementation into a Government Act makes them almost irrelevant in the context of recent developments and happenings in various countries. I have referred already to Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, where accidents with far-reaching consequences have occurred. In the case of Chernobyl at least, we were saved from serious contamination only by the good fortune of our geographic location. However, a far more serious consequence is the growing body of evidence which points to Sellafield as being a deadly pollutant of our territorial waters and marine life, not through any nuclear accident or catastrophe, but through a deliberate and planned strategy of the dumping of nuclear waste in the Irish Sea.

The failure of the Taoiseach and his Government to achieve any meaningful progress in this area during our so-called Green Presidency amounts to a serious dereliction of duty. A wonderful opportunity has been lost by the Government, because they were preoccupied with costly public relations exercises and with the razzle dazzle of banquets and parties. Fine Gael are concerned that the Government have lost an ideal opportunity to focus world attention on this problem. We have been concerned about it for a number of months and in the past week the Fine Gael Party have tabled a motion in this House demanding that the Taoiseach and his Ministers take urgent iniative in the final weeks of the European Presidency to advance Ireland's case against British nuclear practices.

There has been no progress in containing the threat from the 38 British nuclear reactors and from engaging in reprocessing activities at Sellafield, during the Irish Presidency. Instead, matters have deteriorated. For example, in February the Gardner report shattered the confidence which we can have in British standards of what constitutes "safe levels" of exposure to radiation. Its evidence clearly linked childhood leukaemia to workers in Sellafield. In April, it became public that a contract to reprocess German nuclear waste had been signed, greatly expanding reprocessing at Sellfield. Our Ministers have only reacted by making public statements of protest. They have taken no initiatives that will advance the Irish case. Even the credibility of the protests has worn thin when, on two occasions during the Presidency, it became clear that no detailed objections had been raised with the British Government by our Ministers.

The initiatives which Fine Gael will be demanding by way of this motion are: first, as provided in Article 32 of the Euratom Treaty, the Minister for Energy should demand a revision of the now discredited "safe standards" in use in the British nuclear industry. Second, we believe the Taoiseach should persuade the West German Chancellor to rescind the recent contract for reprocessing of their spent nuclear rods at Sellafield. This move by Germany is at complete variance with the EC principle that waste should be stored and managed in the country in which it is created. Third, the Government should ensure that the continued operation of British Magnox reactors beyond their design life should be examined by Euratom, as can be done under Article 34. Fourth, Ireland should also insist that the Commission lay down limited values for emissions into the air and into the Irish Sea, which would prevent the expansion of reprocessing at Sellafield, without reference to Irish environmental concerns. Fifth, we believe that the Irish Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy, should bring to a head the issue of an independent EC inspectorate, which has been floated for a number of years and must be decided upon before Ireland vacates the Presidency.

We believe that two bodies should be set up, first a radiation safety inspectorate to monitor radiation levels in the environment and in the work place and its effects on plants, animals and man. The inspectorate would have the right to enter any site and conduct monitoring. They would also be responsible for collating radiological protection data throughout the EC and also with other international bodies. Monitoring would include areas such as medical and dental radiation. The inspectorate should also monitor levels of background radiation and should be in a position to make recommendations to the EC and member states on the introduction of any new safety procedures required. The inspectorate should be able to enforce EC regulations on radiation levels. Second, we believe we should be pressing at this level for a nuclear installations inspectorate which would monitor the safety procedures and design of nuclear installations — that is storage, reactors and other ancillary equipment. The inspectorate should also assess the viability of on-site emergency plans in the event of an accident. This inspectorate should also be able to enter all relevant installations and should be able to enforce EC regulations, as laid down.

Both of these inspectorates would prepare annual reports to be presented to the EC Council, Commission and Parliament and should also inform the general public of radiation levels, safety procedures and the conditions and the implementations of emergency plans. Two bodies are required in order to ensure that the best possible service is provided. This is necessary in order to ensure that all our safety is provided for.

The acceptance of this Bill, as presented to the House, with its incorporation of the convention, which I have already mentioned, is merely paying lip service to a problem which many competent observers say is much worse that is generally stated. The manner in which the Bill proposes to ham-string the radiological institute by limiting their independent status and thereby their effectiveness means that collection, collation and dissemination of vital information regarding nuclear emissions in Irish waters will be very much at the discretion of the Minister for Energy. It is conceivable that a situation could arise when political expediency might well stay the hand of the Minister is either authorising the collection of such data or, having collected it, choosing not to release it to the relevant areas inside or outside the Government. There is no need to expand on the implications of such a situation but the framework has been supplied through the wording of this Bill and we can supply the flesh by passing it into law.

It is right that we join with the brotherhood of nations seeking a uniform approach to the use and control of energy resources and associated materials and to any potential radiological hazards arising therefrom. It is good to see this approach being articulated in part of the the Bill but we should not be deluded into thinking that all is well simply because the International Atomic Agency have laid down guidelines. The agency are concerned principally with the maintenance of a nuclear industry, albeit on a safe and responsible platform, but almost inevitably biased in favour of the industry that they have been set up to protect and develop. We have no such axe to grind as Ireland does not, and will not in the foreseeable future, have any nuclear generating stations but we are at the radiological mercy of those countries that have such stations. Let us, therefore, lead instead of being led and let us be the builders of the standards instead of mere conveyors of other's thoughts. If a properly constituted and independent authority is set up to control, monitor and regulate this whole area, assisted by all the relevant Government Departments through their input from competent bodies and with advice and help from interested organisations who have their own expertise to offer, we can come to terms with the problem and leave posterity with a controlled environment.

(Wexford): I would like to say a few brief words. I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister on bringing it before the House. Since I came into this House eight or nine years ago we have heard a lot of talk about the problems of the nuclear industry. There have been a number of debates and motions on this matter. Indeed on three different occasions during the previous Coalition Government there were debates on the problems of Sellafield, Chernobyl and the nuclear industry in general and its effects on our people and our environment. The disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station brought home to all of us what could happen if such a disaster occurred across the Irish Sea. It put the world on notice that all nuclear power, civilian as well as military, represents a threat to the safety of mankind. It must be obvious to all sensible people that there is a real doubt about our ability to control nuclear power.

Radiation related diseases is one of the most insidious enemies mankind has ever known, particularly because in many cases they cannot be detected or directly and demonstrably related to a particular cause. Certainly there is no known cure for such disease. One must ask whether the people in charge of nuclear reactors have the faintest idea what they should do if a melt-down of a nuclear core occurs. There is no safe means of disposing of nuclear waste. The people in charge do not know how to dismantle a nuclear power station when active life is over, but yet there are dozens of those lethal installations in existence which are capable of wiping out large sections of humanity and destroying large sections of the environment. Unfortunately the nuclear industry and those who manage it cannot be trusted. There is clear-cut evidence from around the world of lies and cover-ups in the name of national security. Accidents, leaks and lapses of security have occurred and have been concealed. The dreadful and inescapable reality is that we are not told the truth about the nuclear threat.

During the late sixties and the seventies we had a great debate concerning the placement of a nuclear station at Carnsore Point in my constituency. Many people, including some of the Government Ministers at that time, tried to bulldoze through a nuclear station for that area. The majority of the people of Wexford objected and, fortunately, were supported by the majority of the people in the country. The Minister, Deputy Molloy, outlined all the reasons the nuclear station did not go ahead at Carnsore Point — such as over-capacity of electricity — but one of the main reasons was people power, the ability of people to make their voice heard and to stand up and be counted.

During that period, when I was growing up in Wexford, there were massive rallies at Carnsore Point. Thousands of people congregated there twice and three times yearly to voice their disapproval. Most of these were long haired, long robed young people who were described as hippies, and topless ladies who came to sing songs. They were condemned by a number of Ministers and others, but they all had one thing in common, the anti-nuclear message. People in authority thought they were mad or that they were out for the craic and the joke but the happenings of recent times have proved that those young people knew what they were doing and were way ahead of the so-called experts who tried to justify the existence of nuclear stations.

I welcome the Minister's statement that the lands at Carnsore, which are at present in the hands of the ESB, are to go back into farming and afforestation. Up to very recently the people of Wexford had a sneaky suspicion that the nuclear proposal was just being put on the backburner and could be resurrected at any time. For that reason I welcome the Minister's statement that this land will be used for agriculture and afforestation. I suggest that some of the land be used as a park for the people of south Wexford and as an amenity centre with playgrounds. It is very close to the Carne area which is an expanding holiday resort. The two areas could be linked as a major tourist attraction and possibly there could be a joint venture between the ESB, the Government and private enterprise for the development of a leisure and amenity centre for the area.

It is regrettable that Fine Gael are opposing the Bill but they are entitled to do so. It is important that there is a united front in objecting to the nuclear industry. Sellafield has been of major concern to everybody, particularly those along the eastern seaboard. It is ironic that having rejected such a facility at Carnsore Point in Wexford we should have a facility on our doorstep that is of no benefit to the Irish people. It is totally objectionable that the health and environment of our nation is under continuous threat from the mismanagement of a nuclear station in a foreign land. Yet, while we say it is a foreign land, it is only a few miles across the sea and if there is an accident there it will have a devastating effect on our people and our country.

Besides the danger from the plant in Sellafield there is another area of concern clearly related to its operation. Sellafield and Cap de la Hague in France are the only reprocessing plants in western Europe. Sellafield has become a dumping ground for nuclear waste from other nuclear industries throughout the world. It is big business and the making of massive profits for British Nuclear Fuels. That seems to be their only motivation; they do not appear to be concerned about health, safety or protecting the environment. The Irish Sea is being frequently used for the transportation of deadly nuclear waste from different parts of the world to Sellafield. What happens if an accident occurs during its movement in the Irish Sea? Not only would the Irish Sea and the Irish coast be ruined with detrimental effects on the livelihood of fisherman but it would have grave health risks for our people.

There have been many illegal discharges from the reprocessing plant at Sellafield. The Irish Sea is regarded as possibly the most heavily polluted sea and as containing the highest level of radioactivity in the world. According to the experts, a millionth of a gramme of plutonium is lethal to an individual. Discharges have been many times less at the more modern reprocessing plant at Cap de la Hague in France and this must be of major concern.

The beach at Sellafield has been closed to the public since December 1983 and studies have shown a high incidence of leukemia off the west coast of Scotland, which is directly in the path of currents. Radiation is 100 times higher on the east coast of Ireland than on the west coast. The incidence of cancer are closely linked to the dumping of radioactive waste. These are all genuine reasons we should be concerned about the effects of Sellafield on the Irish people and on the Irish environment.

British Nuclear Fuels — I suppose they are in the business of making money and massive profits — use high-powered public relations to con the people. It is regrettable that we have to say that but it is a fact. They spend massive amounts of money on feeding out false propaganda. At Sellafield there has been a leak a week, fires and numerous incidents involving toxic fuels, corroded containers, radioactive leaks and dumping into the Irish Sea.

Different medical opinions say that leukemia, cancer and the incidence of the Down's Syndrome in babies can be linked to such fall-outs and leaks. The EC Commission, the guardian of EC treaties, are duty bound to take action against the British for allowing Sellafield to be a continuous danger to the public. A few years ago it was called Windscale, then it was changed to Sellafield. One wonders why it was decided to change the name. Was it in an effort to confuse and con the public even more? I believe, because of studies and surveys carried out, particularly in Dundalk, Newry, Wexford and other parts of the east coast, that the plant at Sellafield is a time bomb ticking away with enormous potential dangers for our people and our environment.

The Irish Government and the Minister must use their position to negotiate the closure, if possible, of Sellafield. That will be very difficult. When I spoke in this House in 1986, as a Member of the Opposition, I made the point that we would all like to see the closure of Sellafield but because of the major financial gains for the British Government it would be difficult. Perhaps we should look at a change of tactics. If we do not succeed in having Sellafield closed we must work in close liaison with the operation there.

The time has come for the Minister, Deputy Molloy, and the Taoiseach, who is President of the EC at present, to seek to have a seat on the board of the British Nuclear Fuels who are directly responsible for the operation and the decision making at Sellafield. That may not seem possible but a fall-out or a major disaster could have serious consequences for the Irish people and the health of the Irish people. Therefore, the day-to-day decisions which they make, directly or indirectly, affect the Irish people. As that is the case it is important that we would have a person there representing the Irish Government, whether from the new board being set up by the Minister or directly from the Government, to ensure the safety of the people and the Irish environment. This is a matter we must bring to the European and world stage to ensure that we get representation, through British Nuclear Fuels, to have our say and to ensure that we are safeguarded for the future.

The British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, is on record as saying that no problem exists at Sellafield. One would have to be cynical and feel that this smacks of an arrogant, scant disregard for Irish men and women. It should not be tolerated by the Irish Government. Regardless of who is in office we should not allow the British Prime Minister and her Cabinet to treat us with disdain and disregard. We should bring the problems that exist with the nuclear industry across the water onto a European and world stage and let the people know we are not a nation of foolish people who will allow any British Prime Minister or a British Cabinet to hang the dangers of nuclear activity over our heads forever.

The young people of Ireland are generally cynical of politicians, but because of our inability to deal with this nuclear problem they have become even more cynical. It is not only this Government and the previous Government but for a number of years now we have been too easy going in relation to the whole issue. The young people are very much aware of the dangers of the nuclear activity and have not been impressed by the actions of different Governments. As custodians of the nation the Government of the day are duty bound to protect the health and welfare of this and future generations from dangerous situations such as Sellafield. We should work in close co-operation to deal with the dangers that exist at Sellafield.

If we have to take this issue to the European Court to seek protection for our people we do not need, as Deputy Brady said earlier, to make any apology. Chernobyl was surrounded in secrecy. Indeed, three days elapsed before the people of the world knew there had been a major disaster. Were it not for the vigilance of the Scandinavians it might never have been known. It is interesting to note that the major accident which took place in Sellafield in October 1957 was also surrounded in secrecy. It took 26 years for the full story to be told. It is ironic that 30 years on we still had the same basic principle of secrecy as evidenced from the Russian debacle. That is not good enough. As a nuclear free nation we have a duty to our European people and the rest of the world to speak out and highlight such disasters and to ensure that if they occur they are immediately made known to the people here and in surrounding countries. The Russian fallout went a lot further than the surrounding countries; it affected Wales, Scotland and even some parts of this country. Therefore, there should be no secrecy about this. We are talking about people's lives and the environment and we as a nation who pride ourselves on our clear, clean environment should be to the forefront in ensuring that the world will be aware of incidents such as the accident at Chernobyl. We must ensure also that there is proper protection against emissions from nuclear plants such as Sellafield. A question mark hangs over those British nuclear plants at present because we have been told the lifetime of a plant is 30 years and some of those plants have been there longer than 30 years and do not seem to have the inbuilt protection and wall structures that are needed, and which were lacking in Chernobyl.

We have heard a great deal in the last nine or ten years about the introduction of legislation, and the Minister must be complimented on taking the initiative in introducing this Radiological Protection Bill. If amendments are needed, the Minister will introduce such amendments and I hope all sides of the House can come to some agreement so that we will go forward together as a Government and Opposition, a Dáil, a parliamentary group, seeking to have the protections provided in the Bill for the people and the country.

Section 7 outlines the general functions of the institute. These include monitoring radioactivity, advising the Government on various radiation safety matters, assisting in radiological emergency planning and responses, controlling the use of radioactive substances and carrying out or co-ordinating research. Section 8 outlines the particular functions of the institute.

There has been criticism of the fact that the Minister is directly involved. There was a suggestion in the House today about the need for the institute to be more public, that the Minister of the day in any Government, regardless of who he is, might want to cover up or to impose secrecy. I have no fears in that area. Because of what happened in the past and the feelings of the people and the politicians, no Minister would have the audacity to keep secret or to cover up something that may affect the general public. I would have faith in the Minister of the day, regardless of what party he belongs to, to publish information about such matters and to treat the people in a responsible way and ensure nothing underhand would happen that would adversely affect the health of the people, the environment, the food chain or industry.

When the Minister is setting up the institute he should ensure that the membership comprises people who have knowledge of nuclear matters. I said recently on another debate that boards and institutes were set up whose membership comprised people within the Government of the day. Some people were put on boards or institutions through political favouritism and some of them were not capable of running a huckster's shop, let alone making a contribution to the board to which they were appointed. Therefore, I ask the Minister to ensure — as I know he will — that the people appointed to the Radiological Protection Institute will know what nuclear power is all about and what the Irish people are thinking in this area. They should be capable of taking the problems in adjoining countries on to the European and world stage, and debating the consequences and problems — from a health and environment point of view — of enforcing change and updating thinking on nuclear matters, how they are handled and their effect on our people and the world generally.

I spoke earlier about the Irish Sea and the effects contamination may have on the fishing industry. That industry is vital to this country especially along the eastern seaboard and is one of the major job creation areas, and it would be appalling if it were affected adversely by leaks from Sellafield or other nuclear plants in England. Fishing is a major industry right around our coastline. It employs thousands of people. It has tremendous potential for future expansion and development, and it should be expanding and developing far more quickly than it is, but that is for another day. The Minister can use this as a weapon in the fight against the effects of leakages and emissions from Sellafield. We as a Government should not allow another country to destroy a valuable industry and thus cause serious loss of jobs in an area which is earmarked for expansion and development.

The movement of submarines up and down the Irish sea is something the Minister must again examine to see if we can control it under this new Bill. According to some of our experts the nuclear submarines operating off our coasts are a more immediate danger to our people than Sellafield. Submarines are powered by the same type of reactors as Three Mile Island, and if a Three Mile Island type of incident occurs in a submarine it will be impossible to foretell the consequences.

According to the experts, unlike land based reactors, submarines have no containment area and there is no way to shut down appliances and no access to keep the water in circulation to prevent the melt down. They are armed with nuclear warheads which could result in the dispersion of radioactive material contaminating massive areas of the seabed and the shoreline. Submarines, US, British, French and Russian, are travelling up and down the Irish sea at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour and are a major potential hazard. It takes only a crash against the sea floor or a collision with a reef or other vessel for the worst to happen.

It is known — although it is vigorously denied — that along the eastern seaboard submarines have pulled down some of our fishing boats, split the nets and done all sorts of damage to the fishing fleet. They are posing a great danger. It is important that the Minister investigate this and see if he can include in the Bill provisions to deal with it because it affects the lives of our people.

The Minister has brought forward a Bill which many other Ministers talked about over a period of eight or ten years. I hope some of the suggestions made from all sides of the House may be taken on board. This Bill is in the best interests of the health of the people and in the best interests of our environment. I hope we can resolve some of the problems in the nuclear industry generally and alleviate the possible effects on this country of the British nuclear industry.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. The Minister in his opening speech covered a very broad range of issues, including an introductory lesson on the nature of radiation and its effects. He also referred to the various conventions.

I should prefer the Bill to give authority to the Minister for the Environment rather than the Minister for Energy. The Government's environmental action plan lists this Bill under environmental legislation, yet the Bill gives all the authority to the Minister for Energy. Nevertheless I welcome the Bill. It carries a thread of truth. This is important since many people do not fully understand what radiation is about, nor do they appreciate the necessity for us as a non-nuclear nation to devise measures which can be implemented in the event of trans-boundary radiation due to accidents or wars. It is regrettable but essential that plans be made to deal with this eventuality.

Over the years we have had various discussions on radiation, with particular reference to the Sellafield plant. A great deal of rubbish and nonsense has been spoken and a great deal of political playacting has gone on. We had assurances and promises from various people then in Opposition that the plant across the water would be closed down when a new Government took office. Obviously that is not the case. That kind of political pandering to emotions for the achievement of power is not truthful and politically it is morally incorrect.

I hope the Minister for Energy and the Minister for Finance will see to it that the new institute is given the necessary resources and finances to prepare a reaction to events which may occur in other countries. With increased technology and the pumping of vast resources into research and development in nuclear fusion or nuclear fission, various heads of government are more than anxious to have at their disposal nuclear weapons for military purposes and are devoting vast resources to that area of research. We as a nation have taken a clear stand against nuclear reactors as a source of energy. We have to be in a position to respond with our Community colleagues to these world matters. There is cause for genuine concern when we hear about Iraqi super guns and the vast resources being pumped into the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the realisation of nuclear power in various Eastern countries.

If an opinion poll were taken on public understanding of radiation one would get a broad cross-section of answers, some of which would be very confused. One would need to be an expert in the field of radiation to understand clearly where we as a country find ourselves and the consequences of nuclear accidents elsewhere. The Minister referred to this in his address.

Every speaker whom I have heard has referred to Sellafield. I do not think it is fair to call for the closure of the reprocessing plant at Sellafield. I was part of the deputation from my party who visited British Nuclear Fuels accompanied by an independent expert. BNFL are capable of mounting a major public relations exercise which will prove facts to their own satisfaction. Fourteen thousand people are employed in the Sellafield plant and it provides a major economic boost for the British Government. I feel that they have absolutely no intention of closing down the Sellafield re-processing plant. How would we react if the British Government requested us to close down the Moneypoint generating station due to emissions of sulphur dioxide? Would we be willing to put British lobbyists on the board of the ESB dealing with claims for the closure of that generating plant? Realistically our efforts should be directed to bringing about an awareness of the dangers, while continuing pressure to ensure that emissions from the re-processing plant should be of the lowest possible order.

We can call until we are blue in the face for the closure of Sellafield but I do not think it will work. In fairness, political pressure nationally and from Scandinavia, our European colleagues and various other organisations forced BNFL into spending huge amounts of money to bring down the levels of emission. They can prove that levels are very much below those of the early 1970s. We must maintain a high public profile in relation to this matter and press for a monitoring agency to be established by the Community so that BNFL and the British Government will be constantly aware of the concern of Governments and peoples in relation to these matters.

The phasing out of the Magnox reactors will have to be brought about. When we consider that many of these reactors have to be covered over in concrete and left for over 100 years before they can be decommissioned this puts into perspective, in a human context, the dangers associated with nuclear reactors. When one stands beside the nuclear reactor in Calder Hall in Sellafield one realises how antiquated, obsolete and outdated it is. The decommissioning of a Magnox nuclear reactor like that is an extremely sensitive and dangerous job. A visit through the Sellafield plant is an incredible experience in terms of how the human mind conceived the idea and put it into reality. I have spoken to the workers in this huge plant who value their jobs.

Great concern has been expressed about the consequences of the emissions from Sellafield in terms of genetics, leukaemia in children and other ailments. Research into these ailments is continuing. It is interesting that in Seascale, which is a short distance from Sellafield, evidence can be produced of higher than normal incidents of leukaemia in the late twenties, before the atom was ever actually split. Experts of all descriptions can produce facts and evidence to back up their beliefs and claims.

Over the years many speakers in this House have called for the closure of Sellafield. I recall hearing the present Minister for Communications saying time and again that the Irish Government, through Europe, would bring legal action to bear on Britain to close down Sellafield. That has not happened and obviously is not going to happen, even though the Minister for Energy said that he wants to continue the achievements of these aims by discussing the matter with the UK Secretary of State for Energy. He did not go so far as to say that the Government are going to bring legal action against the British Government in the dying days of our Presidency of the EC. If follow through is anything to go by, then Fianna Fáil speakers, in particular, have not been active when they have been in Government.

It is interesting to note that in The Hague on 7 March this year the Minister for the Environment, when referring to radioactive waste disposal in the marine environment, said it was a cause of considerable public concern — which it is — and the Sellafield plant was a major source of radioactive pollution in the North Sea. He then asked, and I quote, "How much more, then, is the impact on the Irish Sea?" At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis on 6 April the same Minister said, "We want Sellafield closed and we will not stop until we see it closed for good". He went on to say that Ireland will not take no for an answer in the matter of Sellafield. What are the Government doing about this problem? During the Irish Presidency of the EC they have threatened legal action on the British Government and we have heard volumes of words on this issue.

In a Dáil speech in 1986, the Taoiseach rightly referred to the deadly consequences of emissions of plutonium into the marine environment and the atmosphere. Plutonium is one of the deadliest substances known to man. The Taoiseach referred to its effect on health and, more seriously, the lives of Irish citizens. He called for direct confrontation with the British Government on Sellafield and the demanding of its immediate closure. We have heard that kind of speech often enough but it is not being followed through in terms of effective political action. What we really have to do is pressure other countries to deal with their radioactive waste in their countries in a safe and effective manner. By highlighting the dangers of transporting radioactive materials for reprocessing to an area like Sellafield they will see that they would be placing citizens in this country in danger if an accident were to happen. That kind of international, political and public pressure in shaming other countries to deal effectively with their radioactive waste should be brought about. Clear decisions should be taken in so far as the elimination and decommissioning of dangerous, obsolete and antiquated Magnox reactors are concerned. As I have said, there should be continuous monitoring of these reactors by a European political agency of experts dealing with emissions from nuclear plants.

When one goes through Sellafield and sees at first hand the measures which are taken to deal with the disposal of low, medium and high level waste it is obvious that colossal costs are involved. It is only through constant public, political and international pressure that the very best standards will be achieved.

Other speakers have referred to the Carnsore Point reactor station which was to be built some years ago. It is interesting to note that the present Minister for Industry and Commerce was Minister for Industry and Energy at that time. In aSunday Press interview given in September 1978 by the Minister, he said that the proposed plant was well tried technology and that over 200 such power stations were in operation throughout the world at that time. He went on to say that he had not heard any arguments which would obviate the advantage of getting 15 per cent of our electricity supplies from the proposed nuclear plant by the end of the eighties. He rightly said that nuclear energy and power were associated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also said, and I quote, “Nuclear stations will, in fact, be safer than a coal fired station and will be better in terms of cleanliness for health and the environment”. It is interesting to note how circumstances, times and new information can change a person's attitude. He said that in Britain experts had established that radiation from nuclear power plants was smaller than that created by medical appliances. He also said he could not defer decisions the effect of which would leave this country short of electricity in ten years' time. We now have an oversupply of electricity. Obviously the incident at Three Mile Island, the fears about Sellafield and Dounreay and the tragic consequences of the Chernobyl accident have changed people's attitude for the better. I am glad the Government, all political parties and interested organisations firmly believe that there should be no nuclear power station in Ireland.

There has been a great deal of political pandering to the concept of the closure of the nearest nuclear station to Ireland, that is, the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, but this has not been backed up by effective political action by people when they get into Government. I would like to think that the points I made about a monitoring agency, the decommissioning of antiquated reactors and the need for continuing international political pressure will be borne in mind so that safety levels of the highest standards will apply in those areas.

Reference has been made to the use by submarines of the waters around our shores. On several occasions I have complained to the Minister for Foreign Affairs about the fact that we do not have any system to detect submarines using our waters. We are not members of the NATO Alliance and we do not have the marine equipment to monitor such traffic. Consequently, we must rely on the good faith of other countries to inform us of the presence of their submarines in our waters. I do not know of any occasion when the commander of a submarine, French, American, British or Russian, informed the Department of Foreign Affairs of his intention to pass by our coast loaded to the hilt with nuclear weapons. Submarines are obliged to travel on the surface but I do not know of any occasion when that occurred. Off the western seaboard one often finds shoals of submarines instead of herring. It appears that the tracking system used by the Americans and the Russians depends on the currents that are off our west coast. Those currents deaden the noise of the engines.

The new board should clean that act up. We have all heard of trawlers being towed backwards and of nets being damaged. It is fair to assume that a nuclear power that orders submarines out on exercises will not inform a country like Ireland of their intentions. If that took place the element of surprise would be missing from their operations. During the fishing season Blacksod Bay looks like the Manhattan skyline at night from the lights of foreign trawlers but I dread to think of what is travelling under the surface at that time. I have no doubt that there is intense submarine activity off the west coast. NATO exercises take place off that coast and the submarines of the US, France, Britain and Russia travel along it at will. We do not have any idea of how close they come to our shores and I cannot recall any of those super-powers informing us of their intention to travel close to Ireland.

I have read of Russian submarines being trapped off the Scandinavian coast and I shudder to think what would happen if there was a nuclear accident on any of them. If there was an accident on a nuclear submarine using our waters our local authorities or the Government would not be in a position to make an adequate response. The super-powers who have such military equipment should be told constantly of the fears of Irish people of a nuclear accident at sea. We should explain to them that we are not in a position to deal with such an accident. The new board should highlight this problem.

Under section 8 the board are empowered to make recommendations to the Minister, or any other Minister as appropriate, in respect of proposals for legislation and measures for protection against radiological hazards. It is not my intention to broaden the debate too much but I must refer to recent announcements by the Minister for Energy about mining activities. He used his power under an Act to withdraw prospecting licences and that was correct but, on the other hand, if the Government intend promoting mining activities in non-environmentally sensitive areas, as they are called, that will give rise to an increase in the release of natural radiation. The new board should be given the power in that section to deal with the Department of the Environment in so far as assessing the consequences of mining activities are concerned.

I should like to refer to an issue which affects the west of Ireland generally. I am referring to radon gas which was highlighted by doctors and research agencies. That gas arises from natural radiation in the rocks and soil. When it infiltrates dwellings it gives rise to radon decay products which can be inhaled by people thereby irradiating the lungs. That can be a contributory cause of lung cancer. A great deal of research has been carried out on this in the US and many thousands of deaths annually have been attributed directly to radon gas. International estimates suggest that from 5 to 10 per cent of lung cancer deaths are due to exposure to domestic concentrations of radon. In an Irish context this translates to between 80 and 160 lung cancer deaths per year.

The Nuclear Energy Board established a working group to consider this question. That group consisted of representatives of the Departments of Energy, Health and the Environment and of the Nuclear Energy Board. Dr. McLoughlin from UCD conducted a national survey on radon concentrations in Irish dwellings. That survey indicated that 2 per cent of Irish dwellings may well have indoor radiation concentrations in excess of 400 becquerels, the unit used, per cubic metre. That survey indicates that a value of 400 becquerels per cubic metre could give rise to a dose of 20 millisieverts in one year or eight times the average natural background radiation dose in Ireland of 2.5 billisieverts. That is 20,000 times the dose received by the average eater of fish from the Irish Sea. The report indicates that the occupants of approximately 20,000 houses receive between 20 and 90 millisieverts of radon concentration gas per year. The upper end of that scale constitutes a serious hazard to health and it is important to take action in this matter.

The Nuclear Energy Board survey showed that many of the western counties, particularly Mayo, Galway and Clare, appeared to have a higher level of radon concentration than other counties. There has been a great deal of international discussion about this and obviously the Department of the Environment and local authorities must be involved in so far as building requirements and that whole area is concerned. Arising from a higher profile in this area, I should like to think that local authorities would be in a position to dispense a general information leaflet to applicants for planning permission, which would indicate — in so far as it is possible to determine in the various townlands — the approximate levels of randon gas concentration or, indeed, alerting them to the fact that they may well live, or intend to build a house, in an area which appears to have a higher level of radon gas than normal. They should outline the kind of remedial action that should be taken in regard to foundations and protection of the indoor area of the house from infiltrations of the gas.

It is possible for the ordinary citizen to have a monitoring device made available from the Nuclear Energy Board. It is left in a house for three months and then sent back to the board for assessment. If the reading is over 100 on the relevant scale the board would indicate that action should be taken. The problem is that local authorities do not have sufficient information regarding the concentrations in the various areas. There is a need to disseminate more information in that area so that maps would indicate, as far as possible, the places where concentrations are above the norm. Probably the only effective way of doing this is to monitor on an individual basis as even two houses side by side could have very different readings.

I should like to think that the new board will co-operate and deal effectively with the Department of the Environment and the various local authorities in relation to radon gas. It was estimated by experts that between 80 and 160 lung cancer deaths annually in Ireland are directly attributable to radon concentration levels. Even one death is too many and, for a relatively small outlay, information could be made available to tenants of existing houses and to would-be builders on the kind of action that should be taken to remedy this. I will be looking forward to the Minister's reply in regard to increasing awareness of radon gas and of making an information leaflet available to the public so that they can understand what they must do if they are located in an area with a higher than normal level of radon concentration.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate on the Radiological Protection Bill which is to establish the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and to dissolve the Nuclear Energy Board. The Nuclear Energy Board were set up in 1971 because the Government at that time were considering a nuclear power programme. Since 1971 the Nuclear Energy Board have supplied information and monitored radioactivity in the environment, foodstuffs, rainfall, water and so on. Due recognition must be given to the members of the board and their employees for their work. However, from time to time the Nuclear Energy Board were criticised, most noticeably at the time of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. They were only one among Irish and international agencies which were found wanting at that time.

I want to refer briefly to the remarks of Members on the opposite side of the House. Their main Opposition spokesperson and other Members referred to "ministerial control" of the institute. However, it is my understanding from speaking to the Minister — and from reading his speech — that he indicated he would be moving amendments on Committee Stage. In the Bill he is referred to as "the Minister of the day" and I know that it is not his intention to have stringent controls or direct ministerial input into the activities of the institute.

Due recognition must be given to the Minister for bringing this Bill before the House. In fairness, one must recognise and accept that the Minister is setting up a radiological protection institute in the best interests of all our people. It is certainly not for his glory today, tomorrow or in future. The Minister also indicated — and it is provided for in the Bill — that this is a framework which he hopes can be developed, although it is comprehensive in its own right, for radiological protection which will have legal and regulatory guidelines for the radiological protection of the public in normal circumstances and in emergencies.

Most people are aware of the use of radioactive substances, materials and devices in normal circumstances and they are used on a regular basis. I was surprised that some of the speakers on the opposite side of the House objected to this Bill because one should welcome any control in this area. We have heard concern expressed in regard to radiation but surely the Bill is a step in the right direction. In recent years more and more people have expressed their concern at the use and level of radiation, natural or man-made, in the air that we breathe, in food, soil and in our seas.

It is accepted that people are exposed to levels of radiation from natural resources and from its use in other specific areas such as science, research, medical and dentistry fields and paramedical activities. As I said, in these areas radioactive substances and materials have been proved to be beneficial. However, there is concern, which I share, over the handling, use and, more importantly the disposal of radioactive substances and materials. I have no doubt that various sections of the Bill will greatly assist in the overall safety of the use of radioactive materials and substances in the areas I mentioned. Part III of the Bill provides for the control and protection of radioactive substances. Later I will be referring to section 29 of that Part in which I have an express interest, those are the powers of the inspectorate.

Other provisions in the Bill enable Ireland to adhere to the three conventions, that is with regard to assistance, notification and protection.

Debate adjourned.