Shipments of radioactive material, including MOX fuel, are subject to international maritime regulations including the right of "innocent passage" and to strict international safety standards applicable to the marine transport of such material.
The continuing concerns of the Irish Government in relation to all transports of radioactive material through the Irish Sea are regularly and repeatedly conveyed to the UK Government at ministerial and official level. Ireland also co-operates on this issue with like minded coastal states at international fora such as the International Atomic Energy Agency. The concerns we have relate to safety, security and environmental risk from an accident or incident.
Arising from our efforts over the years, information is made available to Ireland on a voluntary and confidential basis by the Governments of shipping states, principally, Japan, France and the United Kingdom, on shipments of radioactive material including MOX fuel. This information is also transmitted for operational reasons to relevant Government authorities such as the Irish Coast Guard service. The Irish Government in response makes clear that such shipments are unwelcome, and seeks and obtains assurances from shipping states that such shipments will not enter Irish territorial waters.
Ireland has been receiving such communications concerning shipments of radioactive material for more than ten years. Given the voluntary and confidential basis on which the information is provided, it has not been the practice to issue press statements on receipt of such notifications. Press queries which may arise are dealt with on a case by case basis. These arrangements are consistent with the long-standing principle of confidentiality in regard to inter-Government communications. That principle is also enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act.
Additionally, in so far as shipments are related to the MOX plant, which is the subject of the dispute between the United Kingdom and Ireland under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, the issue has been the subject of legal correspondence between Ireland and the UK. The MOX plant at Sellafield utilises plutonium, separated during reprocessing of spent fuel for foreign customers at Sellafield, and returns it to those customers in the form of MOX fuel. The Government instituted international legal proceedings against the Government of the United Kingdom under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the commissioning of the MOX plant. These proceedings remain suspended, pending the resolution of issues of Community law between the European Commission and Ireland on the MOX plant case. These issues are being litigated before the European Court of Justice and a final ruling in the case is expected later this month.