Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (830)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

947 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it will be necessary for Ireland to establish a storage facility for disused high activity sealed radioactive sources; the date by which such a facility must be established; the consideration if any which has been given to possible locations for such a facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1379/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Council Directive 2003/122/EURATOM of 22 December 2003 on the control of high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources came into force on 31 December 2003.

The purpose of the directive is to prevent exposure of workers and the public to ionising radiation arising from inadequate control of high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources, and to harmonise controls in place in member states by defining specific requirements ensuring that each such source is kept under control.

The directive obliges member states, before issuing any authorisation for any practice involving a source to ensure that adequate arrangements have been made for the safe management of the source, including when disused. These arrangements may provide for the transfer of such sources to the supplier, or their placement in a recognised installation, or an obligation for the manufacturer or the supplier to receive the sources.

Where there are no arrangements for the return of disused sources to the supplier or manufacturer, the directive effectively places an onus on states to have a secure radioactive waste storage facility by 31 December 2005.

Ireland's radioactive waste is mainly low level and low volume and arises from hospital, educational and industrial applications. All users of radioactive materials in Ireland do so under licence from the RPII. Radioactive waste is currently stored in hospitals, third level educational establishments and on industrial premises also under licence from the RPII. While the RPII does not consider that radioactive waste is stored unsafely at present, storage in diverse locations is not an acceptable long-term solution and is inconsistent with the Directive in the case of high activity and orphan sources. The RPII inspects storage premises regularly to ensure that licence conditions are being upheld. Both the RPII and my Department have been exploring possible locations for a storage facility, and a suitable location has yet to be identified.