Radiological Protection (Amendment) Bill 2018: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to introduce the Radiological Protection (Amendment) Bill 2018 to the House. While it is a comparatively short Bill and quite technical in nature, it will regularise matters in the area of radiological protection by amending certain sections of the Radiological Protection Act 1991 and to effect the transfer of radiological functions from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment as directed by the Government when the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment was established.

The Bill also includes amendments relating to ministerial powers to make regulations to establish and maintain regulatory oversight of practices involving radiation sources. These amendments will enable the transposition into law of certain articles in Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation. The Bill also transfers the functions currently vested in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment under the Containment of Nuclear Weapons Act 2003, which implements the State's obligations under the UN Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Bill further provides for an administrative appeals process and the right to appeal to the courts to challenge decisions made by the Environmental Protection Agency on registrations or licences for the carrying out of activities involving radiation sources. This brings Ireland in line with international best practice and addresses the recommendation made by an integrated regulatory review service mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to Ireland in 2015 to "ensure legislation provides for appeals against the decisions of the regulatory bodies in relation to radiation safety".

The Bill will additionally provide that a function under the Harbours Act 1996 requiring the consent of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to exempt certain vessels carrying nuclear material otherwise prohibited from entering an Irish harbour will also be transferred by the Bill to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment as it is appropriate to that Minister. Finally, the Bill will provide for amendments to update the terminology in the 1991 Act to account for developments since that Act came into effect.

Before speaking on the details of the Bill, I will outline by way of background the functions of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in regulating this area. The EPA is responsible under the Radiological Protection Acts for providing advice to the Government, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other Ministers on matters relating to radiological safety including monitoring developments abroad relating to nuclear installations and radiological safety; monitoring, measuring and assessing radioactivity contamination of the environment, including the seas around Ireland; controlling by way of licence the custody, use, manufacture, importation, transportation, distribution, exportation and disposal of radiation sources; informing the public on any matters relating to radiological safety and supporting the development and implementation of national plans for nuclear and radiological emergencies. The EPA has a role as regulator in ensuring that acceptable standards of practice are maintained.

Sections 8 and 9 of the Bill will provide the legal basis for the evolution of a one-size-fits-all system of licensing currently operated by the EPA to a risk-based graded approach to the regulatory control of radiation sources, making it a far more streamlined and appropriate system. The provisions on a graded approach to regulation are in line with the requirements of Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM, referred to as the Basic Safety Standards Directive, which lays down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from ionising radiation and with international best practice in the field of radiological protection.

The provisions also address the recommendation made by an integrated regulatory review service mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency to Ireland in 2015 to introduce a graded approach to the regulatory control of radiation sources. The new graded approach to authorisation of practices involving the use of radiation sources will provide a new system of registration for low-risk activities resulting in a reduction of the regulatory, financial and administrative burden for practitioners and companies engaged in such practices. It will also allow for a more efficient use of the EPA's regulatory resources.

Section 10 of the Bill amends and clarifies the Minister’s powers to make regulations to give effect to obligations imposed on the State under European legislation and to regulate activities involving the use of radiation sources. Specifically, the amendments provide that the Minister may make regulations for a registration and licensing system to be established and maintained by the EPA to regulate radiation sources based on the magnitude and likelihood of exposures resulting from the intended practice. Further to this, the Minister may make regulations setting out safety and security requirements and conditions that must be met by the applicant seeking a registration or a licence; the procedures to be followed in the application process for the grant, renewal or amendment of a registration or licence; an administrative appeals process to ensure that clients can appeal decisions of the EPA without the expense of having to go to court to make such a challenge as is currently the case; and for the fixing of fees payable in respect of the application process.

Sections 11 and 12 clarify the consultation process on certain matters to account for the change in ministerial functions arising from various Government decisions since the enactment of the 1991 Act.

Part 3 of the Bill provides for the transfer of functions under the Radiological Protection Acts and the Containment of Nuclear Weapons Act 2003 from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and consequential amendments to ensure the orderly transfer of associated administration and business. These are technical amendments and constitute no policy change in this area.

Part 4 of the Bill transfers a function under the Harbours Act 1996 requiring the consent of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to exempt certain vessels carrying nuclear material otherwise prohibited from entering an Irish harbour to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment as it is appropriate to that ministry. This is a technical amendment to account for a transfer of a function and does not constitute any change in existing policy.

To conclude, the Bill will complete the transfer of functions related to radiological protection to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and will establish the legal basis for Ireland to fulfil its international obligations to ensure robust and reliable regulatory oversight of radiation sources in Ireland. Additionally, the risk-based graded approach to regulation underpinned by the provisions in this Bill will provide for a simpler, less costly and less administratively burdensome regulatory framework for both the regulator and practitioners engaged in activities involving radiation sources.

My Department will be providing funding of €70,000 for a detailed survey of approximately 1,200 households to examine behavioural factors in radon testing and remediation. This will help to inform how a future financial incentive scheme might operate. Principles of and policies on a financial incentive scheme for radon may be included in future legislation. The study will be managed by the Environmental Protection Agency will start next month.

I commend the Bill to the House and look forward to hearing the contributions of Deputies.

Fianna Fáil will support the Bill which is a common-sense and prudent safety measure and an important step in strengthening Ireland's protection against nuclear and radiological threats. Fianna Fáil has always been opposed to any form of nuclear development within Ireland and is conscious of the threat from nuclear developments in other places and the possibility that it may impinge on our borders or pose a threat to the State. We must remain vigilant and the measures proposed are necessary and proportionate.

The Bill advances a risk-based approach, which is very sensible, and replaces the outdated one-size-fits-all approach. I am aware of the Mulcreevy judgments. This is not be the first time and it will not be the last that responsibilities have fallen through the cracks when one Department is transferred to another, or a Minister changes portfolio. The programme for research in third level institutions, PRTLI, is one recent example, but there are many areas where initiatives do not make the cut in such instances. The intention of the Bill is to ensure public consultations, statutory instruments or secondary legislation which the Minister wished to invoke will be subject to scrutiny. This makes a lot of sense.

Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM is also pertinent and a main driver behind the Bill. EURATOM is the main organisation in Europe for the management of nuclear energy, better safety mechanisms and research in nuclear technology. The Bill is the right place in which to include relevant measures.

I note the risk posed by the Brexit decision in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom which is a nuclear power in the areas of defence and energy is subject to EURATOM safety standards, as is Ireland, but it will no longer be subject to its stringent regulations when it leaves the European Union. This is a source of serious concern. Those of us living on the east coast are always conscious of the risks from our nearest neighbour, Sellafield and other plants. Deputy Timmy Dooley raised this issue last October with the Minister who at the time had not interacted with his opposite number in the United Kingdom on the issue, but he has since had a chance to do so and will press it. It is of great concern to Fianna Fáil, as I imagine it is to all Deputies, that the safety standards will continue to apply post-Brexit. Will the Minister tell us what the new arrangement will be?

The Bill brings to mind issues to do with energy security. We recently had a debate on emergency climate measures. I identified the risk in closing down non-renewable resources in Ireland and importing them from elsewhere, as may be happening. What steps are being taken to deal with the possibility of nuclear energy being included in the mix in such a scenario? The interconnector across the Irish Sea allows energy supplies to be swapped with the United Kingdom, but there is a need for the Celtic interconnector, while there are discussions on connecting Ireland and France in order that Ireland will remain in the EU energy market and promote and sustain its energy security, as well as possibly in the future contribute with exports of renewables should we make sufficient progress in that field.

The Mulcreevy decisions dealt with the issue of primary versus secondary legislation. The principle is a common-sense one, but it is important that it be reiterated that it is up to this House to pass legislation. No directive, statutory instrument, regulation or ministerial ruling can or should ever overrule an Act of these Houses.

This is an important Bill for safety reasons and to tidy up a number of other Acts, as well as to deal with some issues that emerged from European directives, EURATOM and the Mulcreevy decisions. Therefore, we welcome it.

I will share time with Deputy Louise O'Reilly.

We welcome the contents of the Bill, although we may table amendments on Committee Stage. The Bill contains many technical changes in regard to the responsibility for radiological and nuclear safety. We know how important safety is in this area. We realise also this stems from the transposition of EU legislation into Irish law, which will be followed by regulations.

Nuclear power poses an immense threat to society when things go wrong. We hope the State will continue its resistance to its use as a source of energy or the creation of a nuclear industry. Nuclear power is used by many states as an answer to emissions reductions, but this is not the way to go. Instead, we need to show vision and use and grow the wide portfolio of renewable energy resources available to us on this island, with the aim of being self-sufficient in electricity production.

At a committee meeting this morning I spoke about our 2020 renewable energy targets and stressed the need not to put all of our eggs in one basket, as we are doing in relying on onshore wind enegy. Instead, if we are ever to replace fossil fuels, we need to develop a wide array of renewable energy resources such as biomass, biogas, offshore wind energy, solar energy and microgeneration. There is no solar energy after 6 p.m., while there is no wind blowing on a frosty night; therefore, having energy resources that complement the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy is vital. On nuclear power, we cannot take the moral high ground, as some Members of the House do. On the one hand, we say we are nuclear-free on this island, but, on the other, we freely use the electricity generated at nuclear power plants in Britain that is supplied through the interconnector. There is no morality in that regard. We should have the interconnector and create the proposed interconnector with France. I had the pleasure of meeting the French ambassador to discuss this subject last year. We can drive around in electric cars and have energy-efficient homes, but many of them are powered by nuclear energy supplied from Britain and energy produced from coal which is a very dirty fuel. The interconnector should be seen as part of the wide number of renewable energy sources we can develop.

It is estimated that we have one third of Europe's offshore wind resources. We need to see ourselves as being in a position not just to satisfy our own needs but to be able to export some of that energy. We are the only country with an Atlantic coast in Europe that has no offshore wind farms. Portugal, France and the UK have them but we do not. We are the only country facing out into the Atlantic that does not do that. We need to look seriously at that. Some countries bordering the North Sea are ahead of us when they do not have the wind advantages we have. Some Deputies have put forward this proposal on relying on another states for nuclear power. That is fine. I do not agree with it but we must accept it as part of the mix coming into us. However, we should aim to become a net exporter, which would mean that we would not be using nuclear power. One is either for or against nuclear power. We need to work on that and turn the tide around in terms of becoming a net exporter of electricity.

With regard to nuclear safety in this State, with which this legislation is concerned, we also need to be aware of nuclear safety vis-à-vis our neighbours. Ultimately, in the event of ongoing environmental damage or an outright nuclear accident, borders will not be relevant. Some of these plants such as Sellafield are very close to us. What happens in one state will affect its neighbours. Nuclear fallout and pollution spread. We saw some terrible examples over the years. We are all aware of the ongoing issues that occur with Sellafield. There are also issues with the first new nuclear power plant to be built in Britain for 30 years. This nuclear power plant is currently under construction in Somerset on the south-west coast of England. That is just 240 km from this State. The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee made recommendations concerning environmental impact assessment relating to the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor in the UK. Many Irish environmental NGOs, most notably An Taisce, have raised concerns over the implications the development could have for Ireland. I have submitted parliamentary questions on this issue but have received no clarity about what this Government has done or plans to do with regard to the building of the plant and the British Government's requirement to consult about the environmental implications. The Minister might come back to me with a more substantial response on that. There will now be a public consultation, which has come about after a five-year legal battle. The case taken by An Taisce argued that the UK Government's decision to approve the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant without first consulting the public in Ireland was contrary to international, EU and English law. It subsequently lost this case. It was pressure from Germany, Holland and Denmark and not, it seems, pressure from the UK's closest neighbour, Ireland, that finally opened up the avenue of consultation which opened this week. If we are going to take the issue of nuclear power seriously, we need to consider this State's environmental measures in which this State does not seem to have taken much of an interest up to now. There have been reports about the use of parts of this island, particularly the Six Counties, for the disposal of nuclear waste. This also needs to be a major concern for us. We do not want nuclear dumps anywhere on this island.

There are many aspects to this Bill and many technical elements. Radiological safety involves the transposition of the directive and regulations will follow from this Bill. There is a proposal in the Bill for registration with regard to dealing with radiological equipment. In terms of the registration, there will be changes to accession to the upcoming European Union (Basic Safety Standards for Protection against Dangers from Medical Exposure to lonising Radiation) Regulations 2018. Myself and other Deputies have been contacted directly by chiropractors regarding future regulation that will stem from this Bill. I raised the matter with the Taoiseach two weeks ago. Chiropractors have called for their inclusion under the regulations. The Minister for Health has said that the statutory instrument transposing the EU directive will designate those who may refer for radiological tests, those who may carry them out and other functions. In this regard, we should look at including other medical professionals such as nurses, doctors, dentists, chiropractors and so on.

The issue of radon is of concern to me. There are maps of Laois, Offaly and Westmeath that show where a high risk of exposure to radon exists. We know exposure to radon is a cause of lung cancer. Many of us stopped smoking years ago to lessen the risk of lung cancer but we might have radon in our homes. I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say about this. People in the midlands, in counties like Laois, Offaly and Westmeath, want to know about this. We do not know if there are radon barriers in houses built in the past 15 years. I live in a house that was built ten years ago. I do not know if it has a radon barrier and I would like to know. If there is no radon barrier in it, I would like to put one in and I am sure my neighbours would like to do so as well. If it needs to be done, it would be good if we assisted homeowners in this regard. I know there are competing demands but this is a fairly strong public health issue that affects where families live, eat and sleep. If there is a high risk of exposure to radon in midland counties like Laois, Offaly and Westmeath along with Kildare and other areas, we would like to see it tested. The local authority in an area where there is a high risk of exposure to radon should be able to say that it is a condition of planning permission that a radon barrier is installed when a house is built. It is a form of sheeting that goes under the floor. This must be a condition of planning permission. We introduce measures relating to road safety and fire safety when houses are being built and that is all right and good but we should look for radon barriers.

It is in existing regulations for all new houses.

Is that for every new house in the State?

When did that start?

What I am saying is that everything that was built during the noughties, including my tigín-----

By all accounts, it is not a tigín.

It is a three-bedroom terraced house. I am not complaining. What I am saying is that we should be told if there is no radon barrier in the house and then whether a radon test exists. Can one be done simply? How can we access it? How can we get radon tests carried out in homes in the midlands and other parts of the country? If radon exists, is there some way we can come up with a scheme for people? There is a particular risk in the midlands. I do not want to scaremonger but if there is a high level of radon in family homes in the midlands and there is unclear information about whether or not there is a barrier in these homes, we should be able to establish that. In the absence of information from developers, most of whom are AWOL, is there a simple way of finding out without turning the house upside down whether or not there is a radon barrier in the house? I welcome the fact that it is included in the new regulations. That is good news and a very progressive step forward. It was a very good move on the part of the Department. We must look back at the 500,000 homes that were built during the boom, or false boom, to see what the situation with those homes is and whether or not they contain barriers. If not, can we sit down and devise a method of resolving the problem? It is very important. I look forward to the Bill going to Committee Stage.

I understand that many aspects of the Bill are quite technical as they seek to amend certain provisions of the Radiological Protection Act and also provide a legal basis under the principal Act for the transposition into Irish law of certain articles of the EURATOM Council directive.

It is important that certain radiological functions are appropriated to the correct Department. As secondary legislation will follow on from this, it is important that the functions lie with the correct Minister, as outlined by a previous speaker.

I have chosen to speak on this Bill because I wish to implore the Government to ensure that when applying the European Union Basic Safety Standards for Protection against Dangers arising from Medical Exposure to Ionising Radiation Regulations 2018, which will follow on from this legislation, chiropractors will be allowed to continue to use X-ray machines while adhering to the applicable health and safety regulations.

In response to parliamentary questions, the Minister for Health has said that the statutory instrument transposing the BSSD will designate those who may refer for radiological tests, those who may carry them out and other functions. In this regard he proposes to designate nurses, doctors, dentists and radiographers as appropriate. I urge him to add chiropractors to that list and allow them to continue providing the services they already provide. I am not asking for any less stringent application of health and safety regulations; I am merely requesting that the Government allow chiropractors to continue to have the access to X-rays they have had for decades. The Minister for Health has stated that information available to his Department suggests that a number of EU member states do not propose to designate chiropractors for the purpose of the BSSD. I would challenge this by saying that a number of states are allowing chiropractors to be designated under BSSD.

I further challenge the Minister on apparently bending the knee to the EU on this when the ultimate power in how the BSSD is applied lies with the Government. This is a Government decision at the end of the day and if it tries to hide behind the EU, we on this side of the House will ensure it is exposed on that.

We support the Bill. I have a few questions on the Minister's speech. The Bill provides that the power to exempt certain vessels carrying nuclear material otherwise prohibited from entering an Irish harbour will be transferred to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. When such exemptions are given, is it a matter of public knowledge? If it is not a matter of public knowledge, is there a process by which such exemptions could be made public? If they are not public knowledge, there may be a legitimate reason for that, but I would like to know.

I wish to raise an historical issue. I have information dating back to 2011 when the management of radioactive waste was the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in conjunction with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. Information on radioactive waste in the country's education sector indicated that 2,037 sources were held at 17 institutions in dedicated storage facilities. I take it that information is now out of date. The Minister or his officials might correspond with me on the matter. I could table a parliamentary question to that effect. In replying to the debate the Minister might indicate if there is an updated register of the sources held at the 17 institutions.

I presume that the existing law will also transfer over. It is a licensing requirement that an application to acquire new sealed sources is accompanied by a take-back agreement whereby the supplier agrees to take back the source when it is no longer required. Given that provision in law, I imagine the figure of 2,037 sources has probably not increased considerably since 2011. I seek further clarification on that.

In 2011 there was material in storage at University College Cork. It did not come from a nuclear reactor, as was suggested at the time. I understand it was originally incorporated into a device called a sub-critical assembly used in laboratory-like conditions. I understand that became obsolete and that University College Cork no longer had use for that material. A response to a parliamentary question from the then Deputy, Senator Humphreys, on Tuesday 4 October 2011 stated:

UCC is hopeful that a resolution can be achieved shortly. It is too early to assess the costs that will be associated with disposal at this time.

The components of the SCA were last inspected by the European Atomic Energy Community on 6th October, 2010. The nuclear material is securely stored at UCC in a proprietary radioactive waste store built to a design approved by RPII.

What is the status of that waste at present? Does the status quo pertain or will this material be disposed of responsibly at some stage in the future? I know at the time the Government made funding available for the safe disposal of material of that nature.

The response further stated, "The material is held at UCC under licence from the RPII whose Inspectors regularly inspect this store in addition to inspections by the EU and by the IAEA." Given that we are now transferring powers - I know everything transposes as seamlessly as possible - I want to ensure a consistent monitoring of that material and that the Minister is aware of its existence. It may have been disposed of in the meantime, but I wish to ascertain the status of that material.

Many Deputies have been in contact with the chiropractors. What is the status of their interaction with Government? Perhaps in his own constituency, the Minister has had contact with chiropractors. I understand their case is made via the Minister for Health and the Department of Health. I ask the Minister, Deputy Naughten, in his role as a Cabinet Minister to have regard to their position. They are reputable and responsible practitioners. I hope the Government can devise a process to ensure that chiropractors have access to X-rays. On a Second Stage speech we have a certain degree of leeway. Technically speaking it does not come under the ambit of the Bill, but the material with which they are dealing arguably does.

We give our support to the case they are making, to find some process to ensure that they are not without the facility of X-rays in the future and that their position would be given some consideration. I thank the Oireachtas Library and Research Service for the Bill digest. Although the briefing is extremely technical, a very comprehensive brief has been provided for us. I, like my colleagues in this House, have an interest in parliamentary procedure and ask the Minister to come back to us with his own explanation of the Mulcreevy-type legal issues that exist with the transfer of responsibility from one Department to another. I will quote from the report that we have been given by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service:

“Mulcreevy type” legal issues arose in the Supreme Court case Michael Mulcreevy v Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which involved the construction of the M50 and its potential impact on the archaeology of Carrickmines. This case involved a transfer of functions which resulted in the Minister effectively having to consult with themselves rather than consulting with fellow Ministers as was the aim of the National Monuments legislation. The effect was that the number of bodies that had to be consulted with before a decision was made was reduced from three to two. The case hinged on whether primary legislation could be amended by secondary legislation. The Supreme Court found it could not.

Perhaps the Minister will outline the consultation process that existed when the decision was made to transfer powers from another Department to his Department and whether that is a seamless transition. Are guarantees in place to ensure that it does not become subject to further scrutiny in the courts?

I have a speech here but would like to address as many of the questions that were raised as I can. Deputy Stanley raised an issue which is very close to my own heart, the midland counties. He forgot to mention that Roscommon is a midland county too.

I know. I always thought of people from Roscommon as westies.

We also have a particular problem in east Galway with radon gas. I have been very conscious of the issue. The difficulty with radon gas is that it is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils and is colourless, odourless and tasteless. People do not know that there is a build-up of radon in their homes. After smoking, it is the next biggest cause of lung cancer in this country and is responsible for approximately five cases of lung cancer in Ireland every single week. That is a pretty serious statistic. Deputy Stanley is right that there is a problem with it right across the middle of the country. I, as Minister, have been very conscious of it since my appointment and taking over responsibility for this area. I wanted to try to move on the issue of radon gas.

The big barrier that I have come up against is that there is already a legislative scheme in place. Something that I learned is that having primary legislation already in place is a barrier at the moment to addressing this issue. I have spent a considerable amount of time over the past 12 months trying to have this problem addressed. The current legislation is unworkable in the present format. Realistically, we will not know what type of scheme works until we start to apply it on the ground and tweak it to meet needs but we cannot do that without first putting the scheme in primary legislation. It is a chicken-and-egg situation. I had hoped to delete the existing provisions and bring it in by statutory instrument, which would be the normal course, but I was told I could not do that because I would be taking away powers that are already within the Parliament here. I then suggested that we bring forward a statutory instrument that would require the approval of Parliament, but I am told that is not feasible either. That is why I have announced today that we are running a pilot scheme in six locations, looking at how this should work, how we would need to tweak it and then putting it in primary legislation and allowing for a scheme to be introduced. I intend to do that because I am very conscious of it. Approximately €75,000 is being set aside for the pilot scheme, and once we can tweak that, we can amend the primary legislation and put a proper programme of work in place.

Deputy Stanley asked about existing houses and how one knows if the radon barrier is in place. It is in place now for new houses as part of the building regulations that were put in place relatively recently. If a property is being sold, there are questions on the conveyancing form asking if a house has been tested and-or remediated against radon. As houses are being sold and the transfer of ownership is taking place, this will come up as an issue, but as I say, I intend to bring forward legislation in this area to put a proper, robust scheme in place.

Deputy Sherlock asked me about the Mulcreevy-type issues. How did it arise with regard to this issue? The defects relate to references to various Ministers within Acts not being updated to keep in line with the changing functional areas of various Departments over the course of several Government formations. With regard to the Radiological Protection Acts, the Mulcreevy-type issues first arose in 2002 with regard to section 30(1), section 30(2), section 30(8), section 31(1) and section 31(2) of the Radiological Protection Act 1991. The relevant functions were, on the enactment of the 1991 Act, in the remit of the Minister for Energy. Since the making of SI 303 of 2002 on 18 July 2002, those functions have resided with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, now the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, essentially requiring that over the intervening period to date, the said Minister had to consult himself or herself. This anomaly must be rectified to enable the transfer of relevant functions under the 1991 Act to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. These issues are not confined to the Radiological Protection Acts. A Mulcreevy-type issue has also been identified with regard to section 54(2) of the Harbours Act 1996. I am sure others will be identified as we go through legislation.

Deputy Stanley raised the issue of energy policy. Ireland currently meets its electricity requirements from a combination of thermal and renewable energy sources. While Ireland has chosen not to develop a nuclear power industry and the Government has no plans to change this policy, we acknowledge the right of states to develop their own energy mix. Where a state chooses to develop a nuclear power industry, this is done in line with the highest international standards with respect to safety and environmental protection. I am not sure of the recent figures because I do not have them to hand but I know that through much of 2017, Ireland exported electricity to the UK, not the other way around, because we have more than sufficient capacity here in power generation and the UK is very stretched. That is simply because of the number of gas-fired power stations in Ireland.

There is an abundance of power capacity in Ireland.

Issues were raised in regard to Brexit and what that will mean in terms of nuclear safety. The United Kingdom remains a member of EURATOM and the UK nuclear industry is still subject to oversight by the EU institutions. It is likely that the UK will remain subject to such oversight during the transition phase, which is projected to last for at least two years following the exit day in March 2019. Post-Brexit, the UK will continue to be a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, which establishes and monitors adherence to standards on nuclear safety, security and safeguards. Through the various conventions, partnerships, agreements and inter-governmental treaties under the auspices of the IAEA, Ireland will continue to play a role in directly analysing and peer-reviewing UK nuclear safety procedures and ensuring the UK meets its international obligations in that regard.

There are several significant hazards on the Sellafield site and these are recognised by the industry, its regulators and the Irish authorities. Sellafield has the largest inventory of radioactive waste in Europe, some of which is stored in ageing facilities. This situation is acknowledged by the UK authorities as requiring active hazard reduction programmes. In light of long-standing concerns about the potential for an incident at Sellafield and its impact on Ireland, the Government commissioned a team of international nuclear experts to undertake a probabilistic risk assessment, PRA, of Sellafield. The assessment looked at a wide range of events, including operator error, earthquakes, fires, floods, meteor strikes and terrorist attacks. The assessment included incidents caused by internal events such as a fire within the facility, as referred to in the BBC "Panorama" programme. The PRA found that while internal events such as a fire could lead to significant releases within the site and surrounding area and potential injuries to, or deaths of, site personnel, they would not lead to significant contamination reaching Ireland. The PRA also considered more severe external events, such as a meteorite or an aircraft crashing into a facility and causing the dispersion of radioactivity into the atmosphere. The assessment concluded that such events would not lead to high enough contamination levels in Ireland to cause observable health effects but could require the introduction of food and agricultural protective actions here, which would have significant socio-economic impacts. Ireland has in place a national emergency plan for nuclear accidents which is designed to deal with the consequences of such events and includes arrangements for introducing appropriate protective actions for people and the food chain.

At a governmental level, there is a formal agreement between the UK and Ireland for the early provision of information in the event of a nuclear accident. There are also regular meetings of officials from Departments in both countries to discuss nuclear issues. At a technical level, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, meets at least annually with the UK nuclear regulators, the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency and maintains regular contact with them in the case of incidents or other developments of interest at nuclear sites in the UK. The EPA will be discussing the contents of the "Panorama" programme at its planned meeting with the UK nuclear regulators in November and in the meantime has been in contact with the Office for Nuclear Regulation to get its views on the safety concerns raised in the programme.

As regards geological disposal facilities, functions in regard to the management of radioactive waste in the United Kingdom are devolved from the United Kingdom Government to the devolved administrations. In addition to an area having the right geology, community acceptance is also required. Previously, a site identified in Cumbria in England was rejected as it did not have the support of the local council. In Northern Ireland, a decision to host a geological disposal facility would be for the Northern Ireland Executive, taking into account planning and environmental considerations. There are no current plans to site a geological waste facility in Northern Ireland. The UK consultation notes that such a decision would take 15 to 20 years.

The issue of chiropractors was raised. I stated in my opening contribution that we are introducing a new graded approach to the authorisation of practices involving the use of radiation sources, which will provide a new system of registration for lower risk activities and result in a reduction of the regulatory, financial and administrative burdens on practitioners and companies engaged in such practices. The intention of the legislation is to make registration simpler and easier, in line with best international practice. We currently have a one-size-fits-all system. We will introduce a graded system with registration at high, medium or low risk levels. Under the legislation, it will be easier for people to comply with the regulations. There is no specific provision in the legislation in regard to chiropractors. The enactment of the Bill will not impact on the ability of chiropractors to take X-rays of their patients or refer them for X-rays. It will make matters simpler rather than more complicated.

The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, as part of the transposition of Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM laying down basic safety standards for protection against dangers arising from exposure to an ionising radiation, intends to recognise certain professions, namely, doctors, dentists, nurses and radiologists, as competent to take and refer X-rays. The proposed designation of relevant professionals is based on patient safety and public health considerations as reflected in the advice of the chief medical officer. Any decision regarding who is designated will be made by the Minister for Health. It will be easier for practitioners to comply under this legislation, so we are lowering the bar in that regard and streamlining the process. It is for the Minister for Health as to what professions he designates to comply with this lower threshold and that should be taken up directly with him. I have received representations on the issue and I appreciate the concerns raised by Members but it is a health matter based on advice from the chief medical officer and is not within my competency. It is for the Minister for Health to bring in the statutory instrument in that regard.

Has the Minister discussed it with the Minister for Health?

I have discussed it with him.

There will be no change in policy regarding nuclear vessels. There is no process to make those decisions public and that is for security reasons. I am sure Deputy Sherlock will return to the point.

On whether there are any radioactive sources without take-back arrangements, approximately 30 disused sources without take-back arrangements exist. They are a legacy of the time prior to the introduction of requirements in that regard. For security reasons, no register of radioactive waste is available. Disused sources have been reduced to approximately 30. All new sources must have take-back arrangements in place. The new basic safety standards, BSS, legislation includes financial support for the disposal of orphan or disused radiation sources.

I have addressed most questions raised by Members. I am sure we will have further engagement on the Bill on Committee Stage. I thank Deputies for their contributions.

On a point of order, I specifically asked the Minister about University College Cork, UCC. He may not have the relevant information to hand.

I do not have specific information in regard to University College Cork but I will revert to Deputy Sherlock on the matter.

I thank the Minister.

Question put and agreed to.