Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (70, 71)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

50 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if and the way in which the Irish Presidency of the European Union raised the issue of Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27548/04]

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Pádraic McCormack

Question:

53 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has considered raising the issue of Sellafield at EU level to bring pressure to bear on the United Kingdom to close its facility at Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27547/04]

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 53 together.

During its EU Presidency, Ireland was actively involved in seeking to develop a sound consensus in the European Council's atomic questions working group on two proposed directives, one relating to safety of nuclear installations and the other to the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. In the event, because a blocking minority of states opposed the principle of a legal instrument and, despite intensive efforts by the Irish Presidency, it was not possible to secure a consensus in the working group for adoption of the directives.

However, the Council of the European Union, at a meeting on 28 June 2004 under the Irish Presidency, adopted conclusions on nuclear safety and on the safety of the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. These conclusions reaffirmed the commitment of the Community and its member states to a high level of nuclear safety and to the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

While the EURATOM Treaty, already envisages the promotion of nuclear energy, Ireland seeks to avail of all opportunities at EU level to steer EURATOM activities in the direction of nuclear safety and radiological protection and away from expansion of the nuclear industry. This approach is in line with An Agreed Programme for Government.

The Irish Government has taken significant steps to bring about the closure of Sellafield. This objective was given added impetus by the legal actions taken by Ireland against the UK under both the OSPAR Convention and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As the House will be aware, the action under the OSPAR Convention has been heard already but the action under UNCLOS is currently adjourned pending resolution of a jurisdictional issue raised by the European Commission which is now the subject of litigation by the Commission against Ireland before the European Court of Justice.