Under the Waste Management Acts 1996 to 2003, each local authority is required to make a waste management plan in respect of its functional area. All local authorities involved in the waste management planning process have made plans and are now actively engaged in the process of implementation.
My Department has been developing a national overview of waste management plans. This national overview will not take precedence over the current generation of waste management plans; rather it is designed to provide a composite national picture of the infrastructure and services which the plans provide for, to outline progress achieved and to address issues which have arisen in the implementation process to date. The national overview is at an advanced stage and I expect it will be concluded very shortly.
Responsibility for the preparation of a national hazardous waste management plan is assigned to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, under the Waste Management Act 1996. The agency published such a plan in 2001, setting out recommendations in respect of four main areas: implementation of a national hazardous waste prevention programme; improved measures for the collection of hazardous wastes from households, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and other sources of unreported hazardous wastes; provision of requisite infrastructure to attain national self-sufficiency in the recovery and disposal of hazardous wastes; and identification, risk assessment and, where necessary, remediation of sites where hazardous wastes were disposed of in the past.
A committee, chaired by the agency, has been established to oversee the implementation of the plan. In addition, under section 26 of the Waste Management Act 1996, relevant public authorities are required to have regard to the plan and, where they consider it appropriate to do so, to take measures to implement or otherwise give effect to recommendations contained in it.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
It must also be borne in mind that activities involving hazardous waste are strictly regulated under the waste management licensing system.
In relation to the safe management of nuclear waste, it should be borne in mind that Ireland's radioactive waste is mainly low level and low volume and arises from hospital, educational and industrial applications. All users of radioactive materials in Ireland do so under licence from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. Radioactive waste is currently stored in hospitals, third level educational establishments and on industrial premises also under licence from the RPII. The RPII inspects storage premises regularly to ensure that licence conditions are being upheld.
While the RPII does not consider that radioactive waste is stored unsafely, storage in diverse locations is not an acceptable long-term solution and is inconsistent with Council Directive 2003/122/Euratom on the control of high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources which came into force on 31 December 2003. Both the RPII and my Department have been exploring possible locations for a storage facility. A suitable location has yet to identified.