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Select Sub-Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government debate -
Tuesday, 24 Jun 2014

Radiological Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Committee Stage

As we have a quorum of three Teachtaí Dála we will commence the meeting. Is that agreed? Agreed. Apologies have been received from Deputies Michael McCarthy, Noel Coonan and Brian Stanley. Deputy Ellis will be substituted by Deputy Stanley. I remind everyone to turn off their mobile telephones and that the meeting will be conducted in public session.

This meeting has been convened for the purpose of the consideration of Committee Stage of the Radiological Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014. The meeting will continue, if necessary, until 2 p.m. If we have not completed Committee Stage of the Bill by then we will adjourn until later. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister of State who has responsibility for NewERA, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, to the meeting. I also welcome his staff, Mr. Paul McDonald and Kevin O'Donoghue. I thank them for their attendance here today. I call on the Minister of State to address the meeting.

I welcome the opportunity to have a constructive and full debate on Committee Stage.

As Deputies are aware, the purpose of this Bill is to provide for the merging of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, and the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. That is why the legislation is important and we need it in place before the summer recess. The Bill introduces the necessary statutory provisions to enable Ireland ratify the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. It expands the scope of the convention to include measures to protect the environment from any possible deliberate harmful release of nuclear materials or radiation through sabotage of a nuclear facility.

Having listened to the concerns raised by a number of Deputies at the Second Stage reading, I want to again reassure the sub-committee that this merger will not, in any way, result in a diminution, or a perception of a diminution, of our commitment to radiological protection for the public. I believe the merger will enhance our capacity to continue to deliver regulatory and advisory functions to the highest standard, as well as foster greater synergies and linkages between radiological and environmental policies. The establishment of the Office of Radiological Protection, within the EPA, will maintain, and indeed build on, the positive profile of radiation protection.

The EU Basic Safety Standards Directive, which was agreed during the Irish Presidency of the EU, has as one of its core principles the protection of the environment against the harmful effects of ionising radiation. This illustrates the growing synergy and inter-dependence between the current functions of the RPII and the EPA.

I will briefly address a number of issues raised by Deputies earlier. Ireland has an ongoing engagement with the United Kingdom in relation to radiological and nuclear matters. Officials from the Department of Energy, Community and Local Government, and technical experts from the RPII, meet regularly with their counterparts from the UK Department of Environment and Climate Change. At these meetings, Irish officials ensure that the UK authorities are kept aware of any concerns on the Irish side, and emphasise that all possible steps are taken to ensure that the highest levels of safety apply at Sellafield, and all other relevant nuclear sites.

In November 2012, the Department published a summary of a probabilistic risk assessment report, prepared by an independent team of international experts, which assessed the risks to Ireland from any potential incidents at Sellafield. The experts quantified the likelihood and potential impact of an incident occurring at Sellafield, resulting in the release of radioactive material, and found that such an incident would give rise to "no observable health effects in Ireland". The merger will, in no way, lessen or reduce the current high level of scrutiny applied to Sellafield. Indeed, I have been told that a visit by the Department and EPA-RPII representatives to the site at Sellafield is currently being arranged for later this year.

Another issue which was raised in several contributions in the House was the issue of radon gas. The Government's primary approach to dealing with the issue of radon is to concentrate efforts on increasing public awareness of the risks posed by radon in the home.

The National Radon Control Strategy, prepared by an inter-agency group and published in February, sets out 48 recommendations with the ultimate aim of reducing the number of radon-related lung cancer cases which, I think, exceed 220 annually. Successful implementation of the strategy will require action from a range of Departments, public bodies and stakeholders. A co-ordination group, chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, has recently been established to monitor the implementation of the strategy, to report annually on progress and, at the end of the four-year period covered by the action plan, to make recommendations to Government on what further actions are deemed necessary. I want reassure Deputies that the comprehensive action plan, which is currently being implemented, will in no way be adversely impacted by the merger.

Some concerns were expressed during the appearance by RPII board members before this committee last Thursday about the name of the merged body. The name will be the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Radiological Protection will be one of five divisions within that organisation. That means there is a separate division of radiological protection. The issue of the naming and branding of the merged organisation was very carefully considered. A number of options were examined prior to the final decision.

The merger working group, established to implement the Government's decision to merge the two bodies and made up of officials from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the RPII and the EPA, considered the possibility of a name change. Alternative names were considered. The issue was then referred to the Minister, Deputy Hogan, who decided to keep the EPA name. His decision was communicated to the RPII board on 24 June 2013 and the reasons were explained in correspondence.

A key consideration was the fact that the EPA has far greater name recognition amongst the general public than the RPII. Also, it is widely accepted that the RPII will benefit from the greater public reach that the EPA banner gives. The EPA has a much stronger presence on social media, for example. As a result of the merger, the RPII will now be in a position to access the wider reach of the EPA in the social media space. It should be highlighted that the cost of re-branding the EPA would have far outweighed any benefits that would accrue from a re-naming. Finally, it should be pointed out that other environmental protection organisations around the world contain radiological safety divisions, most notably, the US EPA.

The aim of the Government's agency rationalisation programme is to reduce the number of State bodies and integrate their roles and responsibilities back into other existing bodies, with some consequent efficiency savings. Irrespective of the level of savings, the general policy is to follow through on mergers and rationalisations, unless there are strong evidence-based reasons for not doing so. In the case of the merger of the RPII and the EPA, it is clear that the synergies and greater linkages between the environmental and radiological functions will enhance the capacity of both organisations into the future.

Some savings have been identified and estimated, beginning at a low level in 2014 and increasing in 2015 and 2016, as these synergies become embedded. The savings arise mainly under the themes of HR, governance and some administrative cost savings. Cost savings of up to €260,000 per annum are anticipated from 2016 onwards. While this figure already incorporates recognition of staff efficiencies in the order of €100,000 per annum, further workforce planning, including a review of structures, roles and responsibilities, will be completed later this year which can further clarify and identify future needs and capacities, as well as scope for further efficiencies.

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government provided €70,000 in capital funding to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 in respect of the merger. In addition, there is an allocation of €696,000 for current funding and €223,000 in capital funding under the Department's 2014 Vote in respect of merger costs. This expenditure is required to facilitate the updating of human resource, ICT and financial systems, along with accommodation facilities to ensure a smooth operational transition to the merged organisation.

It was determined at the commencement of the merger process that the most efficient and cost-effective way to enable the merger was to establish a fifth office within the EPA structure, namely, the office of radiological protection. None of the existing divisions-offices within the EPA are established specifically in legislation. The 1992 EPA Act sets out that the agency shall consist of a director general and four other directors. The number will be five post-merger as signalled in this draft legislation.

It is the function of the director general "to arrange the distribution of the business of the agency among its directors" but this must be done having regard to the statutory functions and requirements of the body. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate or desirable for legislation to prescribe the divisional organisation of the EPA, or to confer one of the offices with a more pre-eminent or differentiated status. None the less, the EPA board, including the director of the new office of radiological protection, will have to continue to ensure sufficient resources and effort are being directed to meet all the merged bodies' functions, and I have full confidence they will manage their expertise and resources accordingly. This approach reinforces the findings of an independent review of the EPA, published in May 2011, which concluded that "the flexibility and change management shown by the EPA is a major strength and should not be limited by overly prescriptive statutory provisions governing the Agency's structure".

A number of Deputies have raised concerns on the potential loss of radiological expertise brought about by the merger. I reassure the committee that this will not arise and, indeed, is addressed specifically in the legislation. Section 21 provides for a person with radiological protection expertise to be included on the statutory selection committee for directors of the EPA. I note that the chair of the RPII told this committee last week that there was no reason to believe that the office of radiological protection would be depleted of scientific expertise.

The Bill also provides that the Minister may appoint persons with radiological expertise to the EPA's general statutory advisory committee, established under section 27 of the EPA Act. This advisory committee will also be provided with the statutory ability to give advice on radiological protection matters. Furthermore, a separate specialist advisory committee, dedicated solely to radiological protection, will be set up by statutory instrument towards the end of this year.

The second purpose of the Bill is to put in place urgently the statutory provisions required for Ireland to ratify the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. This amending treaty will be a cornerstone of international nuclear security measures. Ireland has long maintained a policy position of encouraging the highest international standards in this regard, and it is important to support our words with actions through ratification of this treaty.

I welcome the general support by all Deputies who contributed to the Second Stage debate for the provisions outlined in this Bill to facilitate the ratification. I look forward to the debate today. I recommend the Bill to the committee.

I thank the Minister of State. I invite Deputy Catherine Murphy to contribute.

When I received notice of this morning's meeting, I asked that the date be changed because, as I have indicated, Tuesday mornings are not convenient for me. I was the only member who had tabled amendments. Clearly, the poor attendance is an indication that Tuesday mornings are not convenient. I would indicate to the clerk that I am not in a position to attend committee meetings on a Tuesday morning for the reason that a meeting of the Technical Group coincides with such meetings. As I am the Whip for the Technical Group, it is particularly difficult for me to attend. I am unhappy at the lack of attendance and also that the meeting has been arranged at a time that does not suit members.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, and his officials. It is worth pointing out that we have no history of being good at institutional building. In fact, we have a litany of organisations and institutions that have been almost tweaked following independence and others that have been created that have been pretty disastrous. The HSE is probably the prime example. We are not particularly good at building new institutions. My experience of the Environmental Protection Agency is mixed. Some of the desktop material is often good and is useful, but when it comes to things happening on the ground, I have had poor experiences with the EPA. This is one of the areas in which the EPA needs to be particularly good. We will not know if the assurances the Minister of State has given us that everything will be fine will be the case. I hope we never know if it is dysfunctional because, if so, the merger of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland with the Environmental Protection Agency could have very serious consequences.

Mergers are particularly difficult in that one is often merging two different cultures as well as the staff of organisations. One could not classify this as a merger, rather it is an incorporation of the RPII into the EPA. A function of the EPA is about protecting the environment, often from the impact of people, whereas the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is very much about protecting the public from the harmful effects of radiation, radon gas and so on. Therefore, it has a different focus. Giving it legislative protection or maintaining some level of independence would have been the very least I would have expected. I would also have thought the naming of the organisation would have been important. Essentially, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is being dissolved and incorporated into the EPA. Arising from the analysis conducted a couple of years ago on the proposed merger, it did not appear there was any great advantage in doing this, even from the point of view of funding. Perhaps the Minister of State will respond in respect of the advantages other than saying there are fewer quangos, which is very much a throwaway comment. We have to look at individual organisations and see what their function should be.

The Bill allows Ireland to ratify the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, to which Ireland is a party, to include the words "and Nuclear Facilities".

It appears that not all aspects of the RPII are transferred to the EPA. My argument is that in terms of coherent legislation, this should have been stand-alone legislation. I will go through the aspects that have been omitted later.

Even where there is good legislation and it would work in theory, often there can be problems in practice. Mixing two cultures in terms of a merged organisation is one matter. The staff complement can be another. I wonder whether this will be looked at as a cost-saving exercise, whether there be the ability to increase the staffing and whether there will be sufficient staff to deal with the merged functions. Some organisations have lost staff through embargoes. There are gaps in that regard and filling those gaps is obviously an issue. Those are the opening points that I would want to make.

Unfortunately, I am watching the clock. I am sure the Minister of State is watching the clock as well. I do not want to dwell further on opening comments.

I propose to deal with the amendments now.

Sections 1 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 9, after line 41, to insert the following:

"Establishment and functions of the Office of Radiological Protection

15. (1) The Agency shall establish within its organisational structure an office to be called the Office of Radiological Protection.

(2) Management and direction of the Office of Radiological Protection, within the organisational structure of the Agency, shall be the responsibility of the person who becomes a director of the Agency under section 14(1).

(3) The Agency shall ensure that all functions transferred to the Agency under section 6(1) shall be administered from and carried out by the Office of Radiological Protection.".

In the event of the merger taking place, there should be a stand alone organisational structure within the EPA for the RPII function. It is a separate and distinct function. I noted the Minister of State's comment that this is a fifth office and the other four would not have had a different legislative basis, but they have not been the subject of a merger. My point is that this one is the subject of a merger.

We must retain public trust that the organisation will act independently, and one cannot say that here. There are some roles that will become the function of the Minister rather than-----

I am not aware of that.

It was my understanding that some of the oversight would be transferred to the Minister. Trust is the big issue.

The EPA sometimes, because of its function in dealing with matters, is trying to curtail activities. We will see this with the climate action and low carbon development Bill where we will be changing consumers' habits. We will be dealing with fairly big issues, such as, possibly, genetically modified food, where the EPA will be under public scrutiny. The maintenance of the trust of such organisations as the Environmental Protection Agency is all the more valuable by virtue of the fact that it is an independent separate body. In the absence of that, the fact that the RPII could be pointed to as having an independent function within the EPA would be the least that we could do to maintain some degree of public trust.

This will happen increasingly. Last summer, we spent more than a week in here dealing with the pre-legislative stage of the climate action and low carbon development Bill. It is clear there will be fairly serious functions for the EPA as a monitoring organisation. That cannot be left outside the door in terms of maintaining that public trust. That is one of the main reasons we should maintain a key independent self-contained organisational structure.

The Minister of State might let me know what is being saved as a consequence of doing this. If we are giving away something that is an intangible, it is important to understand that at least there are tangible returns on it.

I thank Deputy Catherine Murphy for her comments and acknowledge the difficulties of members. Being here is important, and Deputy Catherine Murphy took the time to put down the amendments.

While we all have different experiences of the EPA, and I acknowledge that whatever experience Deputy Catherine Murphy had locally happened, my experience is entirely different. I always found it above reproach. It was a bit like Caesar's wife, according to the history books. It is totally independent and I have never seen a successful challenge on a scientific basis to anything generically of which I am aware that the EPA does. Compared to international bodies, it ranks extremely high in terms of public confidence.

The environmental protection agency of practically all countries is extremely independent, highly efficient and scientifically based. Any meetings I have had with the EPA have always been about facts. They have never been about opinions in terms of the conflicts in my community. The current structure is proven and it has worked well.

On the question Deputy Catherine Murphy raised about the four offices, each office will have a head and the heads report to the director. I am happy that, within the context of what they are presently doing, there will not be any diminution of their role.

There are new efficiencies that can be made. I appreciate that members may not necessarily be aware that the two organisations, the EPA and the RPII, are already working together on the monitoring of drinking water. They are also already working together on waste management, including radioactive waste; water quality; and emergency response protocols. These functions, that they jointly do as two separate organisations, can now be carried out more efficiently and effectively.

There is also a general move internationally towards the merging of functions in a crossover between environmental and radiological protection. On the environmental protection agencies in radiological protection, there are 35 members of the European environmental protection agency and 14 of these have at least some involvement currently in radiological protection. Most of these are called EPA, EA or some derivative. None has the word "radiation" or "radiological" in its title. If that is helpful, that is the international experience.

The role is extremely important. I have every confidence in the professionalism of both organisations when they merge. I acknowledge that when organisations merge there are HR issues and personality issues. They have to merge and there has to be space and time and enlightened management decisions to ensure that there is a seamless transfer. Differentiating the status of the various offices within the EPA, in terms of saying that one section has a different legal role from the rest of them, would likely do more harm than good. They all are under the banner of the EPA and that covers everything.

On the other issues Deputy Catherine Murphy raised, the office of environmental enforcement, the office of climate, licensing, research and resource use, the office of communications and corporate services and the office of environmental assessment all are equally important. They all are part of the EPA. They all have the powers and have to go through the due process. I hope that is helpful.

One of the points I would make about the reporting mechanism is that at present the RPII is independent and that is valuable. In fact, that was one of the elements we sought in terms of oversight of the sectoral plans in the climate action and low carbon development Bill.

What will happen now is that instead of that independence, the reporting will be done through the CEO and there will be a loss of independence.

I do not have any reason to dispute the scientific advice produced by EPA. My concern relates to the EPA's ability to respond where people who hold licences are non-compliant. The EPA tends to work with such people, in some cases for an overly long period. I can identify bad experiences in which the EPA should have become involved at a much earlier stage. It is understandable for the EPA to hesitate if jobs may be put at risk by the closure of a company that is not complying with its licence. There is a trade-off in this regard but the perceptions of such a trade-off can diminish the role of the EPA. I have often wondered whether it has the capacity to follow through in respect of certain non-compliant licence holders. When our meeting concludes, I can provide the Minister of State with a pretty bad example from my constituency if he so wishes but I do not want to outline it here. One's view of an organisation can be coloured by such examples. I can also attest to good examples but these tend to involve licence holders who go beyond the call of duty to be compliant. As I think it should have a separate function, I will be pressing the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 15 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 16 stand part of the Bill."

I will be opposing a number of sections on the same basis because I think they would have been more consistent as stand alone legislation. I will speak on certain sections in detail but, in general, sections 16 to 18, inclusive, should be separate. I wonder why they are not. Perhaps at a later stage I will speak about the reasons that certain elements have been left out of the Bill.

Question proposed: "That section 19 stand part of the Bill."

Question put and declared carried.
Question, "That section 17 stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.
Question, "That section 18 stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.

The definition of radiological protection has been changed to include "the prevention, limitation, elimination, abatement or reduction of the harmful effects of ionising radiation". Perhaps the Minister of State can explain why that has been decided.

Non-ionising radiation is a major issue in our country at present. This new merger will help to bring about responsibility within the EPA for non-ionising radiation, including in respect energy infrastructure, so that we have a one-stop-shop for dealing with the issue. Work has been under way for more than a year to join up the cultures of both organisations to ensure a smooth transition. When the EPA was originally established, it incorporated An Foras Forbatha. There is, therefore, a precedent for another body being absorbed into the EPA. If I cannot answer the Deputy's specific question now, I assure her I will revert to her in advance of Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 20 stand part of the Bill."

I am opposing this section for the same reason. Most of these sections, until section 35, will be the same.

Question proposed: "That section 35 stand part of the Bill."

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 21 to 34, inclusive, agreed to.

I understand it is necessary to list the items that are compensable if damage is wrought by a neighbouring country that has a nuclear facility. I question why two specific items have been excluded from this list, namely, climate and atmosphere quality. Why have they been excluded and, if damage occurred under that category, does that leave us excluded from compensation?

I am advised that the amendment brings in all issues relating to the effects on the environment that may result from radiation.

That includes atmosphere quality and climate?

It is included under the environment and all aspects of it. I am advised that it includes the issues the Deputy raised even if they are not specifically named. We can examine that further if need be at a later stage.

There is a change in the definition of "nuclear material".

I will revert to the Deputy with a note on the matter.

Is Deputy Catherine Murphy happy with that response?

The Minister of State will revert to me. Sections 36 to 38, inclusive, are the same as what I have said before.

We have to deal with section 35 now. As I cannot return to it, the Minister of State will have to find the note now.

When the Deputy says it has been changed, can she compare it with the previous definition?

Just to be helpful, I will narrow it down. The Minister of State might give me a note on it to see if I need to clarify it.

Yes, of course.

If I feel an amendment should be tabled, I can do so on Report Stage.

Absolutely, yes. That is no problem.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 36 to 38, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 39 stand part of the Bill."

I have some concerns about the Minister's ability to veto certain licensing decisions. I am not referring to a current Minister but we do not know who the Minister will be in future. If a loophole is left without being closed off, it can become an opportunity, albeit an unintended one. Could the Minister veto certain EPA decisions on nuclear material licences? It appears that the Minister, rather than the RPII, has the ultimate responsibility.

It states "after consultation with the institute", so I presume that the Minister could not stand over not listening to the advice. However, he or she has to make the regulations on the advice of the institute.

The section allows the Minister, in consultation with the RPII, to make regulations to exclude certain classes of low-risk nuclear materials from the requirements of this section. In other words, they would not all have to have security of a particular type if they were low risk. I presume that is what it means, that is, that there would not be a high risk to health and they would not be transporting any significant source of radiation that would affect health or have any other impact on the environment.

Does the EPA determine that?

Yes, absolutely. It would be the office of radiological protection within the EPA.

This is something that I may revert to on Report Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 40 stand part of the Bill."

I wish to make a number of points on this section. The EPA must produce contingency plans every two years. The legislation states "from time to time" but that is a very open period which needs to be tightened up. Would the Minister of State be willing to do so?

Certainly. If the Deputy can table an amendment to that effect, we will have a look at it. There is no reason that it should not be regularly reviewed within a reasonable timescale. We can come back to the Deputy on that.

I will come back to it on Report Stage and table something specific, or perhaps the Minister of State could table an amendment.

Yes. It would mean that it would be reviewed regularly. There is no issue about it not being reviewed regularly, as opposed to "from time to time".

I have other points to raise. Included in the section is a mandatory ministerial consultation on the preparation of the contingency plan, but at what stage does that happen? Does the Minister see it at the end or is there ministerial involvement right through? How is that provision expected to function?

It states that the institute shall consult prior to the preparation, amendment or revocation of a contingency plan. It starts before any action takes place, so there will be consultation with the Minister at that stage before they effect the regulation. In other words, the Minister would have to take due notice of what was being said. I presume the Minister could not reasonably disagree with it. The Minister would always have to act prudently and wisely, particularly in this area. It would give a dimension to the political system to be aware of, and fully versed in, what the issues were before it would happen.

I take the view that good institutions are ones that have separate, independent oversight. I am worried about the possibility of a direction being given on the contingency plan.

So the Deputy would like to strengthen the regulatory power of the office within the EPA, so that it would basically be mandatory?

An independent function is important.

Yes, unless the Minister might want to add to it as opposed to subtracting from it.

My point is that it is too central a role. It may be that I can put something more targeted in an amendment on Report Stage.

I can see the point the Deputy is making.

I want to raise a number of other points. There is no option for outside organisations like environmental bodies. Some of those bodies have played quite an important role. I found them useful. We had some of them in at the pre-legislative stage of the climate change Bill. We received fascinating insights and information from people. One that sticks out was Board Watch, which was a particular highlight. It does not appear, however, that environmental bodies will be part of the preparation of contingency planning. Is that an oversight? Is it needed and, if so, has it been thought about?

Some of those bodies would already be on the EPA's advisory committee, so they would have a route of communication. There could be significant security issues concerning some of the regulations, so it might not necessarily be wise that everybody would know what some of the issues were. I agree with the Deputy, however, that there must be such a role. People can always write to the EPA and specific bodies. The Deputy's point is whether there is a list of bodies that should be a notice party that the regulations are being made, or to give them an opportunity to communicate on that issue. Is that the Deputy's point?

In other words, while they would not be making the regulations and would not necessarily know every part of them if there was a high-level security issue, they would have an opportunity to comment in advance of them being made.

There could be valuable inputs.

I direct the Deputy to what it states in the regulation, just after line 25 on page 20, section 4: "The institute may, prior to the preparation or revocation of this contingency plan, consult with the Ministers for Defence, Justice and Equality, Health or such other Ministers of the Government or persons as the institute considers appropriate." It is a question of the appropriateness of that aspect. That may or may not cover the Deputy's point but it gives the institute power to reach out to, or acknowledge, specific interest groups in this area, aside from statutory bodies.

There is a difference between being there as a right, or not.

As the Minister of State says, however, there are people on the advisory committee. I will examine that committee and match it against the point I am making.

I have a couple of other points to make on this section. If somebody does not co-operate when making the contingency plan, where they have a permit, there should be some sanction such as revoking a licence. It changes culture if there is a consequence but that is not included in this section. It would be useful to include that kind of aspect.

The first point is that the EPA has prosecuted individuals in the past.

It prosecutes individuals and revokes licences and it has prosecuted company directors in the past. It will be a condition of all licences that licenceholders comply with any direction issued to them under this section.

Is there a provision to revoke the licence or is one needed?

I would say it is implicit in that. It would be in the general EPA legislation but if people do not conform and comply, then automatically they are in breach. I presume the other sections of the Act and the powers of the EPA would have to apply. I can confirm that later.

Section 40 might include some strengthened language to allow the institute to consult other Ministers. It seems to be just the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, but as we know, many things go across several Ministries. Is that implicit in this or is that-----

Section 34A(4), as inserted by section 40, states: "The Institute may, prior to the preparation, amendment or revocation of a contingency plan, consult with the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Minister for Health or such other Ministers of the Government or persons as the Institute considers appropriate." The Minister for the Environment is a notice party automatically. Perhaps the Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food should be included.

Specifically in regard to theft or sabotage. It must be wide enough.

The Department of Justice and Equality is included.

I am looking for stronger language in regard to broader public participation in and access to information on the licensing process. For example, we saw what happened with the deficient process in respect of wind farms. Process is incredibly important in terms of how one deals with the public. The public must be party to it. We talked about this in some detail when we dealt with the pre-legislative stage of the climate change legislation. In terms of access to information, is the Minister of State satisfied the language is strong enough and that there is the possibility of broader public participation in and access to information during the licensing process?

The normal proofs would apply. It would have to consult where it could. I know this may not be part of the Deputy's argument but I presume the Freedom of Information Act would apply, although there could well be exceptions. This would be post the event obviously.

Actually, it is definitely not freedom of information. It is a different way of doing things. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, articulated it quite well about a more open style of Government, and I agree with him on that. The last thing one wants is for people to have to go through freedom of information on something where there should be an open process in which people have confidence. It is about how that process is rolled out and who is included as a matter of right in that process.

I had occasion to look for information from the RPII, which I could not get. Unfortunately, I had to go through freedom of information but I could not get the information through it either because there were issues, in particular security issues. Given the nature of the business, I was not entitled to it. At all times, the EPA operates in a transparent way. In my experience, it is always available for consultation and to communicate. It has always been prepared to visit my constituency if there were proposals of concern to citizens.

It is specifically in regard to the licensing process.

Section 8(3) states that all leases, licences, wayleave or other permissions in respect of land granted by the RPII shall continue in operation after the dissolution day as a responsibility of the EPA. In terms of the transfer of rights and liabilities and the continuation of licences, they continue, so none of them cease.

It is not the point. I will make the point on Report Stage by way of an amendment.

We are talking about nuclear materials.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 41 to 43, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 44 stand part of the Bill."

The Minister of State came back to me on ionising radiation and the definition. Will he state it again? There seems to be a different definition from the old one.

The definition has been changed to update it to the current international definition. The previous legislation was behind. It has been tightened up.

It is stronger. We can give the Deputy a note on that.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 45 stand part of the Bill."

It seems that once the merger happens, the EPA gives itself permission in regard to the custody, processing, handling and transporting of radioactive materials. Is it the Minister who gives the EPA permission or is it the EPA which gives itself permission?

My advice is that the EPA used to need a licence from the RPII to use the materials but now it does not. It does not need to have a licence for nuclear material.

There was some oversight but there is not going to be any now. Is that a weakening of this? Is the Minister of State satisfied that-----

I am advised that legal clarification from the Attorney General's office was that it did not need one. The RPII was the licensing authority.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 46 stand part of the Bill."

I know these are pernickety points but the definition of radioactive substance is different from that in the 1991 Act. Is that a change because of-----

The Bill states that it has the same meaning as that in the 1991 Act.

It has the same meaning but there is a different definition. Is that-----

There is ionising radiation and there are radioactive substances. I do not know if that is a conflict between the two definitions.

What is it intended to mean?

Section 46 states:

Section 3 of the Act of 1992 is amended by the insertion of the following definition:

" 'radioactive substance' has the same meaning as it has in the Radiological Protection Act 1991;".

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 47 stand part of the Bill."

The Bill appears to selectively ratify some changes made to the convention.

Articles 1(a), 4(a) and 4(b) of the convention are no longer included. Why were they removed?

This returns me to my initial point on the convention. The text of the convention has been amended to include the following statement: "Nothing in this Convention shall affect other rights, obligations and responsibilities of States Parties under international law." Is it necessary to specifically include this provision? Articles 4(a) and 4(b) set out specific circumstances under which the convention is applicable to certain nuclear materials and leaves it up to individual states to determine such circumstances, provided "prudent management practice" is in place.

The legal advice received from the Attorney General is that all of these issues are comprehended by the wording and that the prudent management practice to which the Deputy refers is a matter for consultation and is being worked on.

Does "consultation" in this context refer to consultation with the Minister?

If it is helpful, I will circulate a note on the issue to the Deputy.

On the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, known as Espoo, while Ireland is not a nuclear state, our nearest neighbour is a nuclear power. Why was the Espoo convention not included in the Bill as an extra section?

Espoo is a separate convention and is not, therefore, included in the Bill. If it is helpful, I will have the officials provide the Deputy with a note.

When my attention was drawn to this matter I was not certain of the position. I would appreciate a note on the issue, to which I may return on Report Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Title be the Title to the Bill."

Question put and agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.

While the substance of my objections remains, I will not oppose the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy O'Dowd, for his assistance.

Bill reported without amendment.