I welcome the opportunity to introduce Second Stage of the Radiological Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014. The Bill has two main objectives: to provide for the dissolution of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, and transfer its functions to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA; and to introduce the necessary statutory provisions to enable Ireland to ratify the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, CPPNM.
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 Government decision of 15 November 2011 provided for the rationalisation of 48 State bodies and agencies, and the critical review of 46 other bodies by the end of June 2012. The merger of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, 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 of summer 2014 for the merger. To meet this target, enabling legislation needs to be in place before the summer recess. 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. In fact, the synergies and greater linkages between environmental and radiological functions will enhance the capacity of both organisations.
It was concluded that the most efficient and economic means of merging the two bodies was to dissolve one and transfer all its functions, staff and assets to the other, rather than to dissolve both and create a completely new entity. This approach requires significantly simpler legislation, less cost and less potential disruption to service delivery. Accordingly, it was decided to dissolve the RPII and transfer its functions, powers, staff and assets to the EPA, as the larger of the two organisations. The merger will take the following approach which is 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 the Office of Radiological Protection 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. The Bill will make the necessary repeals and amendments to all relevant enactments and statutory instruments to ensure the EPA 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.
The second principal objective of the Bill is to enable Ireland to ratify the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, CPPNM. The convention 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 convention required that the international community affords certain levels of physical protection to nuclear materials, including during international transportation. The CPPNM established a framework for co-operation among states that are party to it for the protection, recovery and return of stolen nuclear material. It also set out a range of serious criminal offences involving the misappropriation or harmful use of nuclear material which participating states were to make punishable in national law or for which offenders could be subject to extradition.
In July 2005, the states that are 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 sabotage of nuclear facilities; 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, requires parties to the convention to 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.
Dr. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, expressed the strong hope that Ireland would ratify the treaty soon, as it requires 96 ratifying nations to enable it to come into force. Ireland has committed to ratifying 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 parties to the CPPNM to ratify the amendment to the convention as soon as possible. It is important that Ireland does so to maintain our good standing as a state party to the NPT and at the IAEA.
Ratification of the CPPNMNF is also regarded by the EU as a key element of Europe's nuclear security policy. At present, 26 of the 28 EU member states have ratified the treaty, with Italy very close to concluding its own ratification process. However, the EU, through the EURATOM treaty, cannot ratify the treaty until all 28 member states have ratified it first. In this context, our EU partners have also communicated their concern to us that Ireland ratifies the amendment at the earliest possible juncture. However, this ratification cannot take place until the necessary primary legislation is passed. As such, it is important that the enabling legislation to allow this ratification to take place is enacted, similar to the merger provisions, before the summer recess.
The Bill is divided into five Parts and one Schedule. Part 1 contains three sections. Section 1 sets the Short Title of the Bill. Section 2 defines the use of key terms and phrases. Section 3 allows for the repeal of sections of the Radiological Protection Act 1991.
Part 2 contains 12 sections providing for the dissolution of the RPII and the transfer of its functions, powers, staff and assets to the EPA. These are standard legal provisions necessary to ensure the smooth transition of the merger.
Part 3 makes various technical amendments to legislation to ensure the EPA can continue to carry out all 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 1991 Act. The second chapter amends the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, the EPA Act, and the third chapter amends other relevant legislation and statutory instruments.
Part 4 contains 9 sections which make the necessary statutory provisions to enable Ireland to ratify the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM.
Part 5 contains 4 sections and outlines a number of miscellaneous provisions updating the definition of ionising radiation and making certain licensing exemptions for the RPII and the EPA to hold radioactive substances and devices necessary to carry out their functions.
The Schedule to the Bill incorporates the text of the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM.
This is an 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 the Government's agency rationalisation objective. The 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 we have always held on nuclear matters by meeting our responsibilities regarding this convention. If not, we risk undermining our position and the reputation we have developed over the past 40 years as champions of international nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation. I commend the Bill to the House.