Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Ceisteanna (282)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

282. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps Ireland has taken to ensure that effect is given to the provisions of the Espoo Convention which requires that the party of origin shall ensure that affected parties are notified of a proposed activity that is likely to cause a significant adverse transboundary impact as early as possible and no later than when informing its own public regarding that proposed activity in view of circumstances (details supplied). [4622/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has not been notified of this national consultation by the French authorities pursuant to the UN Convention on assessing environmental impacts in a transboundary context (the Espoo Convention), or the Protocol on strategic environmental assessment (SEA), or the corresponding requirements of the EU Directives relating to environmental impact assessment (EIA) and SEA.

The Meeting of the Parties (MoP) to the United Nations Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (the Espoo Convention) has been considering, since 2014, whether the extension of the lifetime of a nuclear power plant is within the scope of the Espoo Convention and would therefore trigger a transboundary environmental impact assessment.

In 2017, the MoP established an ad hoc working group to draft guidance on addressing the applicability of the Espoo Convention with regard to decisions on lifetime extensions of nuclear power plants. Work is continuing on the draft guidance, which is expected to be submitted for finalisation to the MoP by the ad hoc working group in December 2020. The progress of the ad hoc working group on this matter will be discussed at the upcoming Intermediary Session of the MoP in February 2019.

As it is not yet clear whether lifetime extensions of nuclear power plants engage the requirements of the Espoo Convention, I have no function in relation to the public consultation concerned, which is for the French public and not a transboundary consultation with other States or Parties to the Convention. My Department has therefore consulted with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) on this matter as responsibility at national level for nuclear policy and radiological protection is within the remit of DCCAE.

Ireland's established position is that, while not a nuclear energy producing country, we acknowledge the right of States to determine their own energy mix. However, we expect that, where a State chooses to develop a nuclear power industry, this will be done in line with the highest international standards with respect to safety and environmental protection.

The issue of ageing nuclear power plant infrastructure is closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the general regulatory requirements to be applied by national competent authorities in relation to the approval and operation of nuclear power plants within the EU is set out in the EU Nuclear Safety Directive.

Officials from both my Department and from DCCAE will attend the upcoming Intermediary Session of the Espoo Convention MoP in February 2019.