I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I welcome the opportunity to introduce Second Stage of the Radiological Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014. The Bill has two main objectives: first, to provide for the dissolution of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, and transfer its functions to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and, second, to introduce the necessary statutory provisions to enable Ireland to ratify the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
The Bill also provides for the updating of certain fines under the Radiological Protection Acts, updates the definition of "ionising radiation" to the latest international standard and makes provisions to enable the RPII and the EPA to hold radioactive substances or irradiating apparatus necessary for the fulfilment of their functions without requiring a licence.
As part of the comprehensive spending review of all areas of public expenditure, the programme for Government includes a policy of reducing the number of State agencies. A decision of November 2011 provided for the rationalisation of 48 State bodies and agencies and the critical review of another 46 by the end of June 2012. The merger of the EPA and the RPII was considered as part of this critical review process. Following completion of the critical review in October 2012, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced that the EPA and the RPII were to merge, with a target date for the merger of summer of 2014. In order to meet this target, enabling legislation must be in place before the summer recess, but I want to place on the record that there will be no diminution in the functions of either agency, or of the levels of service provided by them, arising from this merger. The synergies and greater linkages between environmental and radiological functions will enhance the capacity of both organisations.
The aim of the agency rationalisation programme is, ultimately, to reduce the number of State bodies. While the savings may not be significant, the policy is to follow through on mergers and rationalisations unless there are strong evidence-based reasons for not doing so.
However, efficiencies following the merger of the EPA and the RPII should give rise to reduction in certain costs over time.
It was concluded that the most efficient and economic means of merging the two bodies was dissolution of one and transfer of all of its functions, staff and assets to the other rather than dissolution of both and the creation of a new entity. This approach requires significantly simpler legislation, costs less and ensures the least potential disruption to service delivery. It also makes it easier to ensure ongoing maintenance of the functions of both agencies. Accordingly, it was decided to dissolve the RPII and transfer its functions, powers, staff and assets to the EPA, it being the larger of the two organisations.
As well as drafting the requisite enabling legislation, extensive preparations and structures have been put in place to ensure a smooth and efficient merger process. These structures include a project management group and a project working group, comprising representatives of both organisations and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Both groups have met on a monthly basis to ensure the merger is progressing on all fronts, including administration, human resources, financial, accommodation, corporate and the environmental functions and operations of both agencies. All efforts have been geared towards amalgamation of the operations of the two agencies this summer, which adds further impetus to the necessity to enact this Bill prior to the recess.
The merger will take the following approach, as reflected in the Bill. First, on a day appointed by ministerial order, the RPII will be dissolved and its functions, powers and staff will transfer to the EPA. It will become a radiological protection office within the agency, headed up by a director, taking the number of offices in the agency to five. The other four offices are environmental enforcement; climate, licensing, research and resource use; environmental assessment and communications and corporate services. This Bill will make the necessary repeals and amendments to all relevant enactments and statutory instruments to ensure that the EPA on behalf of the public has the requisite powers to assume the radiological protection role. In this regard, all current functions of the RPII become functions of the EPA from the date of transfer.
Second, this Bill is to enable Ireland to ratify the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, CPPNM. The initial CPPNM was signed in March 1980 and included all EU member states as signatories. Ireland ratified the convention in September 1991, the terms of the treaty being provided for through the Radiological Protection Act 1991. The original CPPNM required that the international community afford certain levels of physical protection to nuclear materials, including during international transportation. It established a framework for cooperation among states that are party to it for the protection, recovery and return of stolen nuclear material and also set out a range of serious criminal offences for the misappropriation or harmful use of nuclear material, which participating States were to make punishable under national law or in respect of which offenders could be subject to extradition.
In July 2005, the states party to the CPPNM agreed the text of an amending treaty to strengthen its provisions, primarily by extending the provisions to require ratifying states to protect nuclear facilities and materials in peaceful domestic use, storage and transport. It also provides for extended co-operation between and among states to enable rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material and to mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage. The original CPPNM required that states introduce a series of offences relating to nuclear materials. These included unlawfully obtaining or demanding nuclear materials or using, or threatening to use, such materials in a manner that would cause death or serious injury to a person or substantial damage to property. The 2005 amendment to the CPPNM extends the range of criminal offences to include also offences relating to the sabotage of nuclear facilities, the smuggling of nuclear materials or facilitating, conspiring or directing offences that could lead to deliberate, malicious and dangerous dispersal of nuclear materials or release of radiation from a nuclear facility. It also requires ratifying states to make it an offence to engage in any deliberate activity that releases radioactive materials, or radiation through the sabotage of a nuclear facility, in a manner that causes significant harm to the environment.
This amending treaty, when ratified, will create the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities, CPPNMNF. It is an important milestone in international efforts to improve the physical protection of nuclear material and facilities. It is regarded internationally as being significant for nuclear security and is expected to have a major impact in reducing the vulnerability of states to nuclear terrorism. It also increases nuclear security internationally by requiring common high standards of physical protection of nuclear material and facilities and that parties to the convention introduce a range of offences to prevent acts of terrorism involving nuclear material or against nuclear facilities and allows for international co-operation to meet such threats. The strategic importance of the CPPNMNF to international efforts to combat nuclear terrorism and increase nuclear security was emphasised to me recently when I met Dr. Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. Dr. Amano expressed the strong hope that Ireland would ratify the treaty soon as ratification of it by 96 nations is required to enable it to come into force. As of 29 May this year, 76 states had ratified it. I assured him that Ireland, as a signatory to the amendment and a nation with a strong track record and interest in promoting nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation, takes its responsibilities in relation to the CPPNMNF very seriously and would endeavour to ratify the amendment as soon as possible.
Ireland has been a key driver of non-proliferation since the 1960s. The then Minister for External Affairs, Frank Aiken, was the first minister to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, Review Conference called on all states party to the CPPNM to ratify the amendment to the convention as soon as possible. It is important that Ireland does so in order to maintain its good standing. I know that my colleague, the Tánaiste, would very much like his Department to be in a position to announce Ireland's ratification of the CPPNMNF at the 2014 meeting of the IAEA's general conference in September 2014. Following this conference, Ireland will take its turn in joining the IAEA's board of governors for a period of two years. Ratification of the CPPNMNF is also regarded by the EU as a key element of Europe's nuclear security policy. Currently, 26 of the 28 EU states have ratified the treaty, with Italy close to doing so. However, the EU, through the Euratom Treaty, cannot ratify the treaty until all 28 member states have first ratified it. In this context, the EU and our EU partners have communicated their desire that Ireland ratify the amendment at the earliest possible juncture. To do so, we must first enact primary legislation. It is hoped the legislation will be enacted soon and that we can ratify the treaty prior to the summer recess.
I will now give a more detailed overview of the Bill. The Bill is divided into five parts and one schedule. Part 1 is a general part and contains three sections. Section 1 sets out the Short Title of the Bill on enactment and allows that this Bill and the Radiological Protection Acts 1991 to 2002 may be cited together as the Radiological Protection Acts 1991 to 2014. Section 2 defines the use of key terms and phrases upon enactment. Section 3 allows for the repeal of those sections of the Radiological Protection Act 1991 which enable the RPII to exist and function.
Part 2 contains 12 sections and provides for the dissolution of the RPII and the transfer of its functions, powers, staff and assets to the EPA. These are, in the main, standard legal provisions necessary to ensure the smooth transition of the merger. Sections 4 and 5 provide for the setting, by order, of the date of the dissolution of the RPII and that the RPII will be formally dissolved on that day. Section 6 transfers all functions of the RPII to the EPA and provides that from the date of dissolution and transfer all references to the RPII in legislation will be construed as references to the EPA. Section 7 allows for the transfer of lands and properties to the EPA. Sections 8 and 9 allow for legal continuity, transferring all rights, liabilities, and continuation of leases, licences and permissions granted by the RPII and liability for any legal matters occurring before the dissolution day to the EPA. Section 10 covers the transfer of functions, assets and liabilities to the EPA, puts in place transitional measures for actions not completed and allows for transfers of moneys and other financial assets from the RPII to the EPA. Section 11 allows for the preparation of the final RPII annual report and accounts by the EPA for presentation to the Minister. It requires that the final accounts are audited and that the Minister present the final accounts and final report to the House.
Sections 12 and 13 make provision for staff transferring from the RPII to the EPA. Section 12 allows for the transfer of staff to the EPA, preserving their conditions of employment as they relate to remuneration. That is an important point. Section 13 ensures that the terms and conditions of employment of RPII staff relating to superannuation are preserved after transfer to the EPA. It protects the pensions of former staff of the RPII and of An Bord Fuinnimh Núicléigh, which preceded the RPII.
Section 14 provides for a smooth operational transition by appointing the chief executive officer of the RPII as a director of the EPA for a transitional period up to 30 April 2016. Section 15 makes several technical provisions to ensure that licences, authorisations, approvals, certificates, codes of practice, etc., remain in effect after the dissolution day.
Part 3 of the Bill makes various technical amendments to ensure that the EPA can continue to carry out all of the functions of the RPII without interruption after the RPII is dissolved, and to provide the EPA with the necessary functional authority to do so. It consists of 16 sections and is divided into three chapters. The first chapter makes the necessary amendments to the Radiological Protection Act 1991, the second chapter amends the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, and the third chapter amends other relevant legislation and statutory instruments.
With regard to Chapter 1, section 16 amends section 8 of the 1991 Act to ensure that codes of practice concerning radiological protection matters which are completed after the dissolution day comply with the standards laid out in the EPA Act. Section 17 amends section 9 of the 1991 Act to ensure that it refers only to radiological functions and not all of the functions of the EPA upon transfer as a consequence of the provisions of section 6 of this Act. Section 18 amends section 36 of the 1991 Act to remove a potential conflicting duplication between the confidentiality requirements laid out in the 1991 Act and the EPA Act.
In Chapter 2, section 19 amends section 3 of the EPA Act by inserting definitions of "ionising radiation", "radioactive substance" and "radiological protection" for the purposes of that Act. Section 20 amends section 16 of the EPA Act to ensure that RPII staff and radiological inspectors are indemnified while undertaking bona fide duties of the EPA upon their transfer. Section 21 amends of section 19 of the EPA Act to provide for a fifth director to be appointed to the EPA. Sections 22 and 23 amend sections 21 and 24 of the EPA Act, respectively, to allow the Minister to appoint a person with radiological protection expertise to the selection committee that appoints directors to the EPA and that such radiological protection expertise may be a consideration in the appointment of EPA directors by the selection committee. Section 24 amends section 25 of the EPA Act to ensure that the determination of licences issued under Acts or orders dealing with radiological protection may be delegated to staff below director level after the RPII functions transfer to the EPA. Sections 25 and 26 amend sections 27 and 28 of the EPA Act to allow that radiological protection expertise may be a basis for appointments to be made to the EPA advisory committee and that the advisory committee may provide advice on radiological protection matters.
Section 27 amends section 45 of the EPA Act to disallow the transfer of radiological protection functions from the EPA to other public sector bodies, such as local authorities, using general devolutionary powers under this section available to the EPA in regard to its other functions. Section 28 is a technical amendment to section 53 of the EPA Act to ensure there is no duplication between the principles and policies laid out in this section, and similar provisions relating to radiological protection functions in the 1991 Act concerning the ability of the Minister to confer additional functions upon the EPA. Section 29 is a technical amendment to section 55 of the EPA Act to allow the Minister, other Ministers and the Government to seek advice or recommendations from the EPA in relation to radiological protection functions transferring from the RPII, as well as advice on environmental protection functions as currently provided for within that section. Section 30 amends section 66 of the EPA Act to extend the entitlement of the EPA to undertake, or seek, quality assurance exercises or guarantees from laboratories undertaking radiological protection work, as well as from those engaging in environmental work as currently allowed by that section. Section 31 amends of section 76 of the EPA Act to ensure that the standards for production of EPA codes of practice apply to codes of practice produced in regard to radiological protection matters after the transfer of functions to the EPA. This does not affect or negate any codes of practice drawn up prior to the transfer and still in operation. Section 32 amends section 79 of the EPA Act so that the Minister can give general directives on radiological protection matters in addition to environmental matters, as currently provided for by that section.
In Chapter 3, section 33 is a technical amendment of the Dumping at Sea Act 1996, as amended by the Foreshore and Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Act 2009, to resolve a legal technicality relating to the setting of minimum radiation levels of waste dumped at sea. Section 34 amends various regulations issued pursuant to the European Communities Act 1972 to transpose various EU directives and regulations to remove the RPII as a "public authority" from a number of European regulations under which the EPA is already a designated competent authority, following the dissolution of the RPII.
Part 4 of the Bill makes the necessary statutory provisions to enable Ireland to ratify the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM. Section 35 amends section 2 of 1991 Act by inserting a series of definitions relevant to the provisions which are necessary to meet the requirements of the amendment to the CPPNM. Section 36 amends section 8 of the 1991 Act to provide the RPII, and subsequently the EPA, with responsibility for the exchange of information internationally regarding the protection of nuclear facilities as well as nuclear materials. Section 37 amends section 27 of the 1991 Act to make the RPII or EPA the competent authority for the CPPNM, as amended. Section 38 amends section 29 of the 1991 Act to provide the RPII or EPA with the authority to seek Garda Síochána assistance when making inspections pertaining to quality assurance schemes that relate to the physical security of nuclear materials and facilities.
Section 39 amends section 30 of the 1991 Act, inserting new subsections, (4B) to (4E), to require that conditions relating to security measures for nuclear materials and facilities are incorporated into the licences issued in respect of them. Section 40 inserts two new sections, 34A and 34B, into the Act of 1991. The new section 34A introduces a requirement to prepare contingency plans, setting out the procedures to be implemented in the event of any theft or loss of any nuclear materials in or over the State, or an accident relating to such material. The new section 34B establishes a quality assurance scheme with a view to providing confidence that specified arrangements necessary for the physical protection of nuclear materials and nuclear facilities are put in place.
Section 41 amends section 36 of the 1991 Act to require that individuals maintain the confidentiality of information received from another State under the CPPNMNF, unless duly authorised otherwise by that State. It also requires that any person with knowledge of security arrangements relating to nuclear facilities or nuclear materials should keep it confidential unless duly authorised. A breach of these confidentiality requirements will be an offence.
Section 42 amends section 38 of the 1991 Act to incorporate new offences relating to criminal use of nuclear materials or sabotage of nuclear facilities. In particular, it makes criminal deliberate activities intended to cause significant damage to the environment. The new offences set out include: extending offences relating to nuclear material to include offences relating to the receipt, discharge or emitting of nuclear materials in order to harm people, property or the environment; being reckless as to whether the receipt, possession, use, transfer, alteration, disposal, dispersal, discharge, emission or introduction of nuclear material would harm people, property or the environment; the illegal import or export of nuclear material; sabotage of a nuclear facility in order to release ionising radiation or radioactive substances to cause harm to people, property or the environment; being reckless as to whether sabotage of a nuclear facility could cause such harm; threatening to use nuclear material to damage the environment; or threatening to sabotage a nuclear facility to compel any person, international body or the State to undertake any action.
Section 42 amends section 38 of the 1991 Act to update the legal definition of the word "steal" to accord with that of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. Section 43 amends section 40 of the 1991 Act to increase the maximum level of fine payable in respect of serious offences, reflecting the provisions of the Fines Act 2010.
Finally, Part 5 of the Bill outlines a number of miscellaneous provisions. Section 44 amends section 2 of the 1991 Act to update the definition of "ionising radiation" to reflect standard international legal scientific definitions. Section 45 amends section 7 of Act of the 1991 Act to provide a general function to the RPII to hold, use and dispose of nuclear devices without needing a licence. Section 46 amends section 3 of the EPA Act to insert a definition of radioactive substances the same as that in the 1991 Act. Section 47 amends section 52 of the EPA Act to provide a general function to the EPA to hold, use and dispose of nuclear devices without needing a licence. The Schedule to the Bill incorporates the text of the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM.
In conclusion, this is a very important Bill which should be enacted without undue delay. In part, it is a technical Bill that allows for the merger of the RPII and the EPA as required to meet Government policy. It also makes a number of small technical amendments to facilitate the radiological protection functions of the RPII and the EPA when it takes over these functions. This Bill also seeks to put in place the necessary legal provisions for Ireland to be able to ratify the amendment to the CPPNM. This is an important convention in terms of international nuclear security and to mitigate the potential for nuclear terrorist acts. It is important that we live up to the standards that we have always held in regard to nuclear materials by meeting our responsibilities regarding this convention. If not, we risk undermining our position and the reputation we have developed over the last 40 years as champions of international nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation. The sooner this Bill is passed, the sooner we can ratify the convention. I commend the Bill to the House.