Written Answers. - Sellafield Nuclear Plant.


asked the Minister for Health, in view of the new study of all deaths which occur in areas surrounding the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria, ordered by British health officials, whether it is appropriate that similar studies be carried out in Irish east coast areas closest to Sellafield.

A study was carried out in this country into the mortality and incidence of childhood leukaemia arising from concern about levels of radiation in the Irish Sea region. The main finding of the study was that no excess of mortality or incidence was apparent on the east or south coast and distribution of high rates was quite random over the country as a whole. The report on this study was published in May, 1987.

More recently a committee under the chief medical officer of my Department was established to examine available data on cancer mortality for the period 1957-86, to address the question of the possible contribution of radioactive emissions from Sellafield to any increase cancer incidence and mortality on the east coast, and to formulate appropriate recommendations.

This committee reported that cancer mortality data alone were not sufficiently sensitive or current to allow conclusions to be drawn regarding specific underlying causes of cancer. It endorsed the need for the collection of information on the incidence of cancer nationally.

I immediately set up a representative group to consider all aspects of the establishment of a national cancer registry and it is now my intention that a national cancer registry will be in operation from September of this year.

A national cancer registry will permit the surveillance and monitoring of cancer cases to provide early warning of the presence of new carcinogens in the environment and will help to identify causal factors.

In the circumstances I do not propose to set up any further health studies at this time.