I propose to take Questions Nos. 91, 113, 121 and 148 together.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, based in Vienna, is the principal organisation dealing with nuclear matters at the international level. The IAEA works to promote the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. Three main pillars, or areas of work, underpin the IAEA mission: safety and security; science and technology; and safeguards and verification.
The work of the IAEA sets the framework for co-operative efforts to build and strengthen an international safety and security regime. This framework includes advisory international standards, codes and guides; binding international conventions; international peer reviews to evaluate national operations, capabilities and infrastructures; and an international system of emergency preparedness and response. While this framework plays a vital role in setting appropriate standards of safety and security in the nuclear area, it is the contracting states that have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of nuclear installations and materials at national level. On this basis, the United Kingdom has primary responsibility for ensuring the operation of the Sellafield nuclear plant is safe and secure. Nevertheless, Ireland's concerns in regard to Sellafield are articulated clearly and consistently at all suitable opportunities in the IAEA and in bilateral contacts in regard to the work and mandate of the agency. I have reported to the House regularly on progress in regard to the international legal actions and diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the Government in regard to Sellafield.
The IAEA plays a vital role in setting safety standards and providing for the implementation and co-ordination of these in member states. Ireland actively engages with the IAEA on a range of issues with the primary objective of ensuring that the safety and security standards adopted by the IAEA reflect only the highest international standards. This, in turn, will assist in ensuring that nuclear installations in the United Kingdom and globally can be as safe and secure as possible.
One of the principal areas of engagement by Ireland at the IAEA in recent years has been on the issue of marine transports of radioactive waste. Coastal states, including Ireland, argue that, given the risk posed and public concerns in regard to such shipments, it is necessary for coastal states to be fully informed regarding such shipments to enable them to assess the risk and take appropriate measures in regard to emergency preparedness and response should they consider it necessary. The shipping states argue that these shipments utilise international waters, conform to the highest standards of safety set by the IAEA, are secure, and that notification and communication obligations would compromise the fundamental "right of innocent passage" for all high seas shipments enshrined in international law. Ireland has participated actively and constructively on this matter and has co-sponsored a resolution with like-minded states at the IAEA's general conference on this issue.
In relation to nuclear terrorism, the focus by the IAEA is on helping states prevent, detect and respond to terrorist or other malicious acts — such as illegal possession, use, transfer and trafficking — and to protect nuclear installations and transport against sabotage. This aspect of the IAEA's work was brought to the fore post 11 September and in March 2002 the board of governors approved, in principle, an action plan designed to upgrade worldwide protection against acts of terrorism involving nuclear and other radioactive materials.
In approving the plan, the board of governors recognised that the first line of defence against nuclear terrorism is the strong physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials and that the international physical protection regime needs to be strengthened. The board of governors called upon contracting states to contribute to the fund as a matter of urgency. I can confirm that Ireland welcomed this development, responded favourably to the request for funding and has contributed approximately €86,000 in respect of 2003 and 2004 with a further contribution of about €48,000 allocated for 2005.
An important recent, and positive, development in regard to nuclear terrorism was the adoption of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. After several years of negotiations, this convention was finally adopted, by consensus, by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday, 13 April 2005. Ireland participated fully in the negotiations of the new convention through the Department of Foreign Affairs and welcomes its adoption.
Ireland sees the IAEA as a vital element in dealing with nuclear matters at international level. We engage fully and constructively in its deliberations, especially in matters of particular relevance to Ireland, and will continue to participate in this manner and at every opportunity.