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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 10 Feb 2000

Vol. 514 No. 2

Written Answers. - Radioactivity Levels.

Ivor Callely


68 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the level of radioactivity in the Irish sea, the issues which have created these radioactive levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3842/00]

The measurement and monitoring of the levels of radioactivity in the Irish Sea, is a statutory function of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

The institute implements an extensive programme of marine monitoring. It publishes the results of its monitoring programme in a series of reports entitled "Radioactive Monitoring of the Marine Environment". The reports provide extensive details of the level of radioactive contamination in the Irish Sea and of their impact on the Irish population. The results are also available on the institute's web-site at

The dominant source of radioactive contamination in the Irish Sea is the British Nuclear Fuels reprocessing plant at Sellafield. Other sources of radioactive contamination arise from the fall-out from nuclear weapons testing carried out in the 1950s; the fall-out from the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and radioactivity from natural sources.

The institute has found that the radiation doses to the Irish people arising from Sellafield discharges are very low and do not pose a significant health risk to the Irish public. Nevertheless, any contamination of the Irish marine environment is highly objectionable from an Irish viewpoint.

The Irish Government wishes to see a cessation of all radioactive discharges from the Sellafield plant into the Irish Sea and its concerns are repeatedly made known to the UK Authorities. In 1998, the contracting parties to the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, which include the UK, adopted a strategy on radioactive substances. This strategy has as its objective the virtual elimination by the year 2020 of all radioactive discharges to the marine environment covered by the convention, which includes the Irish Sea. Ireland took a prominent role in the development of this strategy and work is now taking place within OSPAR to enable the strategy objective to be achieved. Ireland will play an active part in ensuring that the strategy objective is realised by way of progressive and substantial reductions in discharges into the Irish Sea between now and 2020.