Written Answers. - Nuclear Waste.
Eric J. ByrneQuestion:
39 Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the representations, if any, he has made to the relevant United Kingdom authorities following the leaking of an internal Nirex report showing that the geological composition of the proposed underground nuclear storage site at Sellafield is unsuited to the purpose; the communications, if any, he has received from the United Kingdom authorities in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3842/97]
40 Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the steps, if any, being taken to stop the building of an underground nuclear waste dump at Sellafield in view of the announced reopening of the inquiry into the current proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3865/97]
Eric J. ByrneQuestion:
42 Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the representations, if any, which have been made by his Department to the relevant United Kingdom authorities following revelations that both an internal Nirex report and reports by United Kingdom Government experts hold the proposed Nirex underground nuclear waste dump could lead to contamination of the watercourse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3655/97]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 39, 40 and 42 together.
In January 1996, at a public planning inquiry in Cumbria, I set out the Irish Government's objections to the underground rock laboratory at Sellafield currently being proposed by Nirex which I saw as the precursor to a nuclear waste facility for the area. Recently, there has been a spate of media publicity relating to information which has emerged concerning the scientific and economic arguments about this project. I welcome the debate which this has engendered and regard it as playing a positive role in furthering opposition to the proposal.
Taking this information into account and given the prospect of a decision by Secretary of State John Gummer, MP, I wrote to him last week reiterating Ireland's strenuous objections to the Nirex proposals and highlighting the fact that there has been an absence of a fully open and transparent site selection process with independent review.
I indicated that this made it impossible to understand the environmental basis on which the choice of location for the project, so near to the Irish Sea, was made. I called for the plan to be abandoned and maintained that more research should be undertaken into alternative sites and disposal options which would avoid an environmental threat to the Irish Sea. I urged him to refuse Nirex's appeal, or at the very least, to re-open the inquiry so that the many scientific and geological factors which have come to light could be properly assessed.
I reiterated my objections to the Nirex facility at a meeting with the British Ambassador last Friday and I expressed my concern that if eventually approved, this facility could, unfortunately, prove a permanent and constant bone of contention between our two countries.
I am pleased that the UK Government has now decided to engage in a public consultation process about a whole series of additional information which has come to light in the recent past about the Nirex proposal. My Department will be included in this consultation process.
As I understand it, the results of this new consultation will eventually be considered by the UK Secretary of State for the Environment when he adjudicates on the Nirex appeal. Accordingly, my Department will now examine this new area of consultation and elaborate, as necessary, on our strenuous opposition to the Nirex proposal because of the environmental risk which it represents.
I have previously made firm commitments about the Government's determination to prevent this dump being located at the Sellafield site. We will not shrink from pursuing the case further if the rock characterisation facility is approved, drawing upon the best scientific and legal advice to advance our case.
The UK nuclear industry has been operating for many decades. All the benefits of the electricity production, and industrial activity which derives from it have accrued to the UK. At the same time the threat of hazard from UK nuclear reactors and waste inventories affects neighbouring countries who do not share these benefits. We therefore have the absolute right to insist that the UK bear the cost of keeping this hazardous waste totally contained and isolated from our shared environment.