Written Answers. - Nuclear Safety.

Dan Wallace


49 Mr. D. Wallace asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the steps, if any, he has personally taken to impress on the British Prime Minister the level of concern here regarding our vulnerability to nuclear accidents in the United Kingdom; the level and nature of comfort he has received subsequent to such representations; and the current state of the debate between the two Government heads on this matter of crucial national importance. [3877/97]

As Minister of State with responsibility for nuclear safety, I have availed of all opportunities to highlight the concerns of the Government and Irish people about the safety of the British nuclear industry generally and Sellafield, both bilaterally and at a wider international level.

My main concerns include the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at the THORP plant at the Sellafield complex, the ageing Magnox reactors at the site, the facilities for the storage of high level radioactive liquid waste and proposals by UK Nirex Limited for a nuclear waste repository.

The Taoiseach and I in the recent past have written to the UK authorities and expressed the concerns of the Government and the Irish public about Sellafield's activities generally and more particularly about the age, safety and reliability of such Magnox reactors, increased levels of Technetium-99 in the Irish Sea from discharges from the Sellafield plant, Nirex's proposals for an underground nuclear waste repository and the level of safety in the UK's nuclear industry.

Last Friday, I met, at my request, the British Ambassador. I conveyed to her the Government's concerns about the recent reports of incidents at the Sellafield complex, our concerns about the possibility of an accident at the high level waste tanks at Sellafield which the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland has identified as a major accident risk, and our objections to proposed further developments by UK Nirex Limited of a nuclear waste repository near Sellafield.

I called on the British Government to carry out an independent engineering study on the probability and possibility of an accident involving the storage of high level waste at Sellafield. I also requested copies of documentation of probability risk assessment which up to now BNFL have refused to release publicly.

I requested that an independent safety review of all the operations at the Sellafield complex be undertaken. I also asked that information relating to safety reviews carried out for the various UK nuclear installations be made public.

The Ambassador assured me that she would convey our concerns to the British Government. I will continue to press for action on these issues. It should be evident from the above that this Government is committed to pursuing all realistic and effective courses of action to convey to the British authorities the concerns of the Irish people about the British nuclear industry.