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Nuclear Plants.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 2 April 2008

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Questions (950, 951)

Joanna Tuffy


1014 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken in response to the reported leak at Sellafield on 26 March 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12396/08]

View answer

Joanna Tuffy


1015 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps taken by Ireland in respect of seeking the closure of Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12397/08]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1014 and 1015 together.

Ireland has long been concerned about the threat posed by the nuclear site at Sellafield. Our concerns in relation to the site have been consistently articulated to the UK Government at political, diplomatic and official levels.

In 2001, in response to the imminent commissioning of the MOX plant at the site, Ireland instituted legal proceedings against the UK under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Pending the hearing of the case, Ireland applied for and received a Provisional Measures Order, which ordered a review by Ireland and the UK of the mechanisms for inter-governmental notification and co-operation. Arising from this, a series of co-operative measures was developed, agreed and put in place.

These measures are valuable from Ireland's viewpoint, are working well and represent distinct real added value to the necessary co-operative relationship between the two countries. The Bi-Lateral Agreement on Early Notification of a Nuclear Incident, direct access to the UK Radiation Monitoring System (RIMNET), access for the Garda Síochána to Sellafield, access for the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to Sellafield and other facilities, significantly improved information exchanges, co-operation on emergency planning with the UK, and improved and ongoing contacts at regulator and official level on nuclear issues, all provide objective evidence of real improvements.

In relation to the recent leak at Sellafield the relevant UK agencies have advised the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) that, on 19 March 2008, around 30,000 litres of low level liquid waste spilled from a holding tank in the Sellafield Effluent Treatment Plant (SETP) into the surrounding concrete compartment. Some liquid seeped into an access corridor.

The UK Environment Agency has advised the RPII that the indications are that there was no environmental impact and no additional discharges to the environment as a result of the event. Accordingly no implications arise for Ireland. I have been advised also that the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Environment Agency will conduct a joint investigation into the matter shortly in accordance with normal practice. However, the incident is further confirmation that the concerns we hold in relation to the site are legitimate and we will continue to press for higher standards and adherence to best international practice in relation to the orderly operation of the site.

The Government will continue to pursue all political, diplomatic and, where necessary, legal options to secure the safe and orderly decommissioning of the Sellafield facility. I consider that the ongoing discussions between the two administrations in relation to Sellafield have resulted in increased recognition by the UK Government of the depth of Ireland's concern about Sellafield and of the priority accorded to the issue by the Irish Government.

Ireland has supported and will continue to support efforts by the European Commission to develop an increased safety role within the European Nuclear Industry. Adoption of recent European Council Conclusions in regard to the establishment of the EU High Level Regulators Group is a significant development in the area of nuclear safety. In Ireland's view, the transboundary risks and impacts arising from nuclear installations must be fully reflected in the instruments, structures and institutions of the EU.

Question No. 1016 answered with Question No. 965.