Written Answers. - British Geological Survey.

Dermot Ahern


659 Mr. D. Ahern asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communication if his attention has been drawn to the details of the recent British Geological Survey which concludes that Ireland and Britain are situated on large fault lines in the rock strata to such a level as to cause concern regarding future earthquakes; if his Department has taken this matter into account in all its representations regarding the nuclear industry in Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16510/96]

I am kept informed and advised on relevant and substantive issues relating to earthquake potential and risk in Ireland and Britain by the Geological Survey of Ireland, a division of my Department.

The issue of seismic (earthquake) hazard has been fully taken into account, wherever relevant, in all representations regarding British nuclear installations, both existing facilities and the proposed underground radioactive waste storage facility in Sellafield.

I am aware of the recent articles in the Irish media, particularly the article in the Irish edition of theSunday Times of 15 September 1996 on which others were apparently based. The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) has been in contact both with the British Geological Survey (BGS) and Professor Jacob of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies who are referred to in the article.
The GSI has advised me that the article is very speculative, alarmist, inaccurate and technically unsound. The references to Ireland are particularly misleading.
The BGS has prepared a report on seismic risk in the UK in relation to building regulations but it has not been published and is not officially in the public domain. So there is no new published report or assessment by BGS as the wording and timing of theSunday Times article would imply.
Whereas earthquake prediction is inherently difficult, particularly over long time spans, seismicity in Britain and Ireland is continuously monitored and expertly assessed and prudent allowance for seismic hazard is taken into account in building and other construction regulations, including UK nuclear installations. Although theSunday Times article seeks to convey that the British Geological Survey's assessment of earthquake risk in the UK and Ireland is substantially worse than was previously thought, in fact, the reverse is true. The present assessment is lower than it used to be.