Written Answers. - British Nuclear Industry.

Ivor Callely


40 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the level of risk to the Irish public as a consequence of the British nuclear industry especially Sellafield/THORP; his views on whether a major accident in a United Kingdom nuclear reprocessing plant could have horrendous consequences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8901/95]

The risks from the British nuclear industry, particularly Sellafield/THORP, have been identified by the Radiological Protection Institute through the results of its radiation monitoring programme. The institute monitors the levels of contamination of the Irish Sea and has published the results of a series of reports since 1982. It has found that radioactive contamination decreased with increasing distance from the point of discharge at Sellafield. It has also found that there have been substantial reductions in the levels of contamination in recent years reflecting reductions in discharges from Sellafield. The institute has consistently stated that the radiation exposures arising from Sellafield discharges into the Irish Sea do not give rise to a significant health hazard to the Irish public. It has found that the annual exposure of a heavy consumer of seafood is only a fraction of 1 per cent of the average annual exposure received by a member of the public from all sources of radiation.

However, Sellafield has caused and, with THORP's commissioning, will continue to cause long-lasting radioactive contamination of the Irish Sea. I consider that such radioactive pollution of the Irish Sea is objectionable and should be forestalled and eliminated

Krypton-85 is the principal radionuclide discharged to the atmosphere and the amounts discharged annually will increase with the commissioning of THORP. However, the institute regards Krypton-85 to be of negligible significance from the point of view of health. The institute monitors the level of Krypton-85 in the air at Dublin and has found that the levels are similar to those found in the northern hemisphere.

In relation to the threat of an accident at Sellafield/THORP, I would remind the Deputy that, in conformity with the Euratom Treaty, the EU Commission has issued a formal opinion that the implementation of the plan for the treatment of radioactive waste at the Sellafield/THORP was not liable, either in normal operation or in an accident of the type and magnitude considered, to result in radioactive contamination, significant from the point of view of health, of the water, soil or airspace of another member state. Ireland was specifically recognised in the opinion as the nearest State to THORP.
Notwithstanding this, the Government considers that Sellafield/THORP poses a serious continuing threat to the health and safety of the Irish people. This is specifically recognised in the Government's policy agreement,A Government of Renewal. The Deputy will be aware that I have drawn up a blueprint for action to implement the commitments on Sellafield and the Irish Sea in the policy agreement. This is currently being considered by an inter-Departmental Committee of Ministers and Officials who will report to the Government on their recommendations.