Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land-Based Sources, commonly known as the Paris Convention, was concluded in that city on 21 February 1974. The convention was drawn up having regard to the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972 and in recognition of the need for concerted international action to protect the marine environment. The convention has already been signed by Ireland and by 12 other countries and it has been ratified by ten countries and by the European Community. By reason of Article 29.5 of the Constitution, the convention must be approved by Dáil Éireann before the State can be bound by it. Approval of the  present motion will allow the formalities for ratification by Ireland to be completed in the near future.
The Paris Convention requires the contracting parties to take action under a number of headings. There is a general obligation to take all possible steps to prevent pollution of the sea from land-based sources, including man-made marine structures, through the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy which cause hazards to human health, living resources and marine ecosystems, or cause damage to amenities or interference with other legitimate uses of the sea. In particular, measures are required to be taken by each contracting party to achieve the elimination, if necessary by stages, of pollution caused by certain persistent and toxic substances which are listed in Part I of Annex A to the convention. These substances are not readily degradable or rendered harmless by natural processes and may give rise to accumulations of dangerous materials in the food chain. Substances included are organohalogen compounds; mercury, cadmium and their compounds; persistent synthetic materials; and persistent oils and hydrocarbons of petroleum origin. Under the convention, measures must also be taken to secure the reduction of pollution by other less noxious substances which are listed in Part II of Annex A. These include organic compounds of phosphorus, silicon and tin; elemental phosphorus; arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, nickle, zinc and their compounds; and substances which have a harmful effect on the taste or smell of fish. Contracting states are also required to forestall and, as appropriate, eliminate pollution of the sea by radioactive substances, including wastes, which are covered by Part III of Annex A.
In addition to the obligations I have just mentioned, there are provisions in the convention for consultation between contracting states for the purpose of negotiating agreements to control pollution from land-based sources in one state which is likely to prejudice the interests of one or more other contracting states. There are provisions, too, for the establishment  of complementary or joint programmes of scientific and technical research, including research into the best methods of eliminating or replacing noxious substances so as to reduce marine pollution from land-based sources. The convention also requires the contracting states to set up, progressively, a permanent monitoring system, allowing the earliest possible assessment of the existing level of marine pollution and of the effectiveness of measures taken to reduce pollution from land-based sources. Finally, states are obliged to assist one another, as appropriate, to prevent incidents which may result in pollution from land-based sources, to minimise and eliminate the consequences of such incidents, and to exchange relevant information.
The convention provides for the establishment of a commission, composed of representatives of contracting states, to supervise the implementation of its provisions. In addition to this general supervisory function, the commission has power to draw up measures for the control of pollution from land-based sources and to make recommendations on the amendment of the lists of polluting substances. They operate in accordance with its own Rules of Procedure and Financial Regulations which were adopted by unanimous vote. The commission is serviced by a permanent secretariat and financed by means of an annual budget which also requires the unanimous support of delegations. Each state contributes 2.5 per cent plus a balance proportionate to gross national product, to the budget. Our contribution in 1984 is about £4,200. The only other direct charges on Exchequer funds will arise through attendance at commission meetings and participation, as necessary, in working groups. The amounts involved will be relatively small.
The Paris Convention provisions also apply to those parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans which are north of Gibraltar and east of Greenland. This is the same sea area covered by the Oslo Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft, which Ireland ratified in 1981. The London Convention on the Prevention  of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter which Ireland ratified in 1982 is also relevant. The provisions of this latter convention are generally similar to those of the Oslo Convention. However, the London Convention differs in that it applies to all the seas and oceans of the world. It is, perhaps, best known for its prohibition on the dumping of high level radioactive waste which the International Atomic Energy Agency has declared to be unsuitable for dumping at sea. Ratification of the Paris Convention follows naturally from our acceptance of the objectives of these other conventions and will permit full participation in the comprehensive framework of international measures aimed at preventing pollution of the seas from whatever source. It is in the context of these international agreements that our interests, as an island nation, can best be protected.
As a signatory of the Paris Convention, Ireland has already indicated acceptance of its objectives. We have taken part in the meetings and technical working groups of the commission but our role will be enhanced by formal ratification of the convention. At the level of the European Communities, the objectives of the convention are reflected in a Council directive of 4 May 1976 dealing with pollution from discharges of certain hazardous substances into the aquatic environment. The directive covers those substances to which the Paris Convention relates as well as other substances which are considered to constitute a pollution threat. The directive adopts the same approach as the convention of the classification of substances under two groups or lists. Those on List I, which pose the greater danger because of their toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation, are to be subject to controls so as to eliminate pollution, while the objective is to reduce pollution from substances on List II, which generally pose a lesser danger to the environment. The directive requires that discharges of List I and II substances are to be controlled by a system of prior authorisation. A number of subsidiary directives have also been adopted setting limit values for mercury and cadmium,  and others are under consideration by the Council or being prepared by the Commission. In due course, these will be given effect in this country by regulations.
The pollution control measures necessary to comply with the Paris Convention will be enforced primarily through the provisions of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977. In so far as discharges of radioactive substances are concerned, appropriate controls may also be exercised under the Nuclear Energy (General Control of Fissile Fuels, Radioactive Substances and Irradiating Apparatus) Order, 1977 which is administered by the Nuclear Energy Board and which complements the licensing provisions of the Water Pollution Act. Dumping from marine structures may be controlled, as necessary, under the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981.
The Water Pollution Act contains a general prohibition on the entry of polluting matter to waters, including the sea, and is primarily enforced through the licensing, by local authorities, of discharges of trade and sewage effluents from point sources to waters and to sewers. By the end of December 1983 local and sanitary authorities had issued over 1,150 licences for such discharges compared with 14 at the end of 1979. Where necessary, conditions are attached to these licences in relation to the nature, temperature, volume, rate, method of treatment and location of a discharge, the periods during which discharges may be made, and the effect of a discharge on receiving waters. Licences may be reviewed after they have been in force for three years, or at any earlier time with the consent of the licensee.
Apart from issuing licences, local authorities are empowered under the Water Pollution Act to issue notices requiring measures to be taken to prevent or control pollution of waters. In 1983, a total of 243 such notices were issued. In addition, local authorities carried out 1,960 investigations during the year under the general provisions of the Act and initiated prosecutions, where necessary.
 Of particular interest at this time are the Paris Convention provisions in regard to the pollution of the marine environment through discharges of radioactive wastes. Under Article 5 of the Convention, contracting states undertake to adopt measures with the aims of preventing, and, as appropriate, eliminating pollution caused by such substances. In implementing this undertaking, states are required to take full account of the recommendation of the appropriate international organisations and agencies regarding disposal of radioactive substances, including safety limits and monitoring procedures.
The action to be taken under the convention with regard to radioactive substances is under continuing review by the Commission. At the June 1983 meeting, the Irish representative expressed this country's concern to protect man and the environment from excessive levels of radioactivity. We also expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of specific requirements under Article 5 for the control of radioactive waste discharges and questioned the adequacy of this article to achieve the desired protection. We stated the Irish view that the best available technology should be used to minimise radioactive discharges, particularly from existing facilities dedicated to the processing of radioactive materials. Ireland also requested the Commission to initiate further scientific studies into the general question of radioactive discharges to the aquatic environment.
The issue of radioactive discharges will be further considered at a meeting next month of the Commission established under the convention. Matters to be dealt with include a proposal from Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark that states should be required to take account of the best available technology at existing and any proposed nuclear reprocessing plants in order to minimise discharges. This proposal was first put forward at a technical working group meeting held in Dún Laoghaire last March. On that occasion, Ireland supported the forwarding of the proposal to the main Commission meeting. These  efforts to protect the marine environment from pollution by radioactive wastes and other substances can be enhanced through the ratification of the convention and through full participation in the international forum which it provides.
Provision is made under Article 9 for consultation between states with a view to negotiating a co-operation agreement where pollution from land-based sources in one state is likely to prejudice the interests of another. Such an agreement may define the areas to which it is to apply, quality objectives to be achieved, and the methods to be used. Where consultations fail to secure a satisfactory solution the Commission may be called upon to make recommendations.
I am fully aware of the public concern about discharges into the Irish Sea from the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, formerly Windscale. These discharges must comply with limits specified by the United Kingdom Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the United Kingdom Department of the Environment. Our own Nuclear Energy Board conduct an independent monitoring programme which is designed to provide information on the distribution of radioactivity in the Irish Sea and estimates of the radiation exposure of the public. The programme includes the sampling and analysis of fish, seaweeds, sediments and seawater. In our case, the most significant source of public exposure to radiation arises from the consumption of fish. However, the results of the board's monitoring programme indicate that the exposure level from this source is less than 1 per cent of the annual whole body dose equivalent limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
While the monitoring results are reassuring, the Government are nevertheless concerned about the higher concentrations of radioactivity in discharges from Sellafield compared with other nuclear reprocessing plants such as that at Cap de la Hague in France. We are also concerned about the absence of conclusive scientific evidence which would allay fears as a possible cumulative effect of radionuclides in the aquatic environment.  Our unease is increased by the evidence of inadequate management and operational controls found by an investigation undertaken by the Department of the Environment in the United Kingdom into the unplanned release of radioactive liquid late year which led to the closure of beaches in the vicinity of the plant.
During the past year, Irish concern in the matter has been conveyed on several occasions to the appropriate UK authorities. At a meeting on 17 February 1984 between the Tánaiste and the United Kingdom Secretary of State for the Environment, the Tánaiste emphasised the Government's view that discharges should be discontinued as soon as practicable and that measures to reduce the present levels of discharge should be accelerated in the best interests of health and the environment. He suggested that there should be a more extensive research programme on radiological hazards in the Irish Sea, that there should be an extension of official level contacts on nuclear matters and that the UK authorities should undertake to inform the Irish authorities immediately of any unplanned discharges that take place. Finally, he pointed out that any review of discharge authorisations for the Sellafield plant should take account of Irish concern in the matter. The Tánaiste has already expressed his appreciation of the understanding and positive attitude adopted by the Secretary of State towards the Irish position and there is to be close co-operation in the future between the two countries on these matters of mutual concern.
I should explain that the Tánaiste's presentation of the Irish position on the Sellafield discharges was made in his capacity as Minister for Energy, in which capacity he has responsibility for nuclear matters. In this context, it might be noted that while the Minister for the Environment has a general responsibility to provide for the protection and improvement of the environment, Government policy requires each Minister to consider fully the environmental effects of policies and other activities for which his Department and related agencies are responsible. In  the case of the Sellafield discharges it is therefore appropriate that the Minister for Energy, who has specific statutory functions in relation to nuclear matters, should take the lead role but it is, of course, essential that the interests of other Departments, including Environment, Health, Fisheries and Communications are taken into account. Accordingly, inter-departmental consultative arrangements, involving also the Nuclear Energy Board, have been established and these have permitted full input of environmental considerations in the determination of national policy on this issue. I intend that my Department will continue to be involved closely with this matter.
While it does not arise directly under the Paris Convention, I might refer briefly to the general question of dumping at sea of wastes, particularly the dumping of low level nuclear wastes, which is at present permitted under the London Dumping Convention. The Government are opposed in principle to such dumping of nuclear wastes and at the February 1984 meeting of the London Convention called on all signatory countries to consider strongly the disposal of any further low level radioactive waste on land. The scientific and technical basis for the proposal made at the 1983 meeting to amend the London Convention to prevent the dumping at sea of low level radioactive waste is at present under review. It is anticipated that the proposal to amend the convention will be considered at the September, 1985 consultative meeting when the findings of the review will be taken into account. We are prepared to consider these findings but will not commit ourselves to accepting that they should be binding. Our attitude will be determined by our concern to ensure the immediate and long-term protection of our population and environment.
As I have indicated already, ratification of the Paris Convention is consistent with our position as a contracting state to the Oslo and London conventions which are concerned with pollution of the marine environment from other sources. It is through concerted international  efforts that such pollution can be tackled effectively. In our case, as an island country, these efforts are particularly important because of the contributions made to our economy by our fishing industry and the high amenity and recreational value of our beaches and coastal waters for our own people and tourists alike. Accordingly, I have no doubt but that the House will approve the terms of the convention and so open the way to its ratification by Ireland.
Mr. Molloy: On behalf of Fianna Fáil I welcome the motion before the House approving the terms of the Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land-Based Sources and assure the Minister of our full support for the motion. When one recalls that the Paris Convention was concluded in February 1974 it must make one wonder why it has taken Ireland ten years to ratify the convention. I believe that recent events in Cumbria hastened the Government's ratification of this important convention.
There is no doubt that there is very serious public alarm in this country at the fact that radioactive waste has been and continues to be discharged into the Irish Sea by the British nuclear reprocessing plant at Windscale. The terms of this convention would seem the most appropriate way for Ireland to participate in making known this public alarm and the Government's concern at the continued activities of the plant in discharging these dangerous substances into the Irish Sea. According to some reports they may have been responsible for loss of life in England and interfered with the health of Irish citizens living on the east coast. I cannot produce any scientific or medical proof of this but the Minister and the House are aware of the concern which has been expressed.
Lack of scientific knowledge and the effects on marine and human life of the discharge of radioactive waste into marine waters is a matter of serious concern. Until scientific knowledge is advanced to a stage where all is known it is highly irresponsible of any Government to authorise the continued discharge  of substances of this kind which carry with them such a grave threat to life.
We have a particular interest in ensuring that the quality of the waters surrounding our coasts are maintained at the highest level of purity. We are an island nation and our economy is supported through the industrial activities of our citizens which include efforts by our State to establish a strong seafishing industry. Anything which interferes with the quality of the water and results in contamination of the fish which are caught and brought to the marketplace is of great concern. We are greatly dependent on revenue from the tourist industry and it is imperative that we do everything possible to maintain the cleanliness of our water and beaches so that our country will continue to be an attractive and safe place for people to come on holiday. We must set the highest possible standards and take every action at international level to ensure that no other country will contaminate our fish.
These dangers were recognised and led to the convention being adopted in Paris in 1974, as has been mentioned. Ireland's delay in formally ratifying the proposal through the adoption of the motion in Dáil Éireann is a matter of regret. I attended the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 and listened to the fears expressed by people scientifically qualified to speak about the effects of radioactivity. I saw the effects it had on some people who presented themselves for inspection there to warn the world about the need to be extremely careful about how we disposed of and use radioactive substances. I was shocked at what I saw.
I am pleased that world opinion has resulted in governments adopting conventions with the intention of introducing strict control on discharges of this kind. Until scientific knowledge about the bad effects of radioactive waste and the discharge of other materials into marine waters and the environment generally is fully developed there is need for great caution and the application of the strictest possible controls. I am concerned about the controls we operate.
 I recall that some weeks ago questions were put to the Minister for Energy about the location of monitoring stations operated by Irish Government agencies. I understood from the reply given that no specific monitoring procedures were implemented by any Irish agency but that we were relying on information supplied by British agencies. There was definite confusion in the minds of Deputies on that occasion. It was at Question Time and that does not always present the best opportunity to tease out matters and get a full and complete answer.
In replying to this motion I hope the Minister will tell us in great detail exactly what procedures are operated by Irish agencies to monitor the quality of the waters and establish whether any of these dangerous materials are present in the waters surrounding our coasts. We must know this if we are to allay public fears. The best way to do that is to give details of whatever monitoring procedures are in operation at present and what proposals there are for extending these monitoring procedures in the future. From the information we have been able to elicit from the Government those procedures seem to be minimal. Many people were surprised and shocked to find that we were not more active in protecting our environment through applying the most modern monitoring procedures and having a regular analysis of the quality of the water and the air under our control. There is some confusion about which Minister is responsible. We accept that it must become the concern of a number of different Departments. I recognise that on occasion the Minister for Energy might be the appropriate person but on another occasion the appropriate person might be the Minister for the Environment.
In view of the importance of protecting our marine environment it would be worthwhile, indeed necessary, to establish a committee consisting of persons actively interested and involved in this area; on the one hand, people with scientific knowledge and on the other, people with specific vested interests. Representatives of different Government Departments and industrial interests,  such as representatives of the fishing and tourist industries, local authorities — who would be involved in maintaining the purity of the environment in their own areas — and other interested and involved persons, should be brought together on a national committee and charged with ensuring that we are seen to be complying with the conventions which we are ratifying and participating in. This committee would be seen to be active on a daily basis in analysing the quality of the environment and examining Government proposals and proposals from private individuals and companies and would continuously monitor all developments with the intention of securing the highest degree of purity in all matters relating to the environment.
I do not think we can continue in the slipshod fashion in which this has been managed up to now. Concerned citizens should have the opportunity of participating on a permanent committee established by the Government which could deal with matters raised by various groups who have been expressing concern over the years. Such a committee would help to co-ordinate the work of the official and voluntary bodies who are concerned and giving a great service to the community by protecting something which is of great value and which we are all anxious to ensure is not destroyed or allowed to be diluted in any way. If the Minister agrees with such a proposal, or if he considers that such a committee is not necessary, I would like to hear his views one way or the other. It appears to the public at large that it has been left to voluntary groups to set the pace in this area. That is not appropriate nor is it the way forward for this country. This committee would provide a vehicle for Departments and organisations — such as An Taisce, Greenpeace and so on — to act as watchdogs for the protection of our environment.
Due to the lack of scientific specific knowledge and the actual effects of the various levels of radioactive waste in our waters, it is difficult to be specific as to the level of the danger and when it might reach a critical point. It has been suggested  to me that radioactive waste levels in the Irish Sea are 100 time higher than the waste levels in Galway Bay. The last time I made that comment the Minister said that was a scare statement from Fianna Fáil. This information was given to me by somebody qualified to speak on these matters. I am not giving it as a scientific fact, but I am asking the Minister to tell us if this is true. Are radioactive levels in the Irish Sea growing at such a pace that they are now 100 times greater than levels in areas off the Atlantic coast, such as Galway Bay, where none of these industrial radioactive wastes is being discharged into the sea because of the remote location vis-à-vis Europe and America? If that is so, it must be causing the Minister some concern because no matter how low the level of radioactive waste is at present, or that it is so much below the accepted danger levels, if it is increasing continuously, then the day could come when the critical levels would be attained and then it might be too late to do something about them.
Even if ten years have been lost in our participating in this particular convention, I do not think we have reached the critical stage yet. We can make full use of our membership of the commission which will be set up to monitor and implement the agreed articles in this convention. I hope our membership will be vigorous, that we will lead the way and act as a watchdog not just for our own coast but for the whole of western Europe. Because of the tidal and wind movements and the prevailing winds from Europe we have a very special interest in ensuring that deleterious matters being dumped into the sea or into the air by European countries do not end up here because there is a very strong possibility that this could happen. Warning signals are being flashed by scientists and we must pay heed. I appeal to the members to be appointed by our Minister to be active and vigilant on our behalf in their membership of this commission.
The Minister said our Water Pollution Act is the instrument under which the terms of this convention can best be implemented here. That Act places obligations on local authorities in regard to  the preservation of the purity of the waters around the country, and in particular authorises them to issue licences for discharges into those waters which would occur primarily in the case of sewerage systems which can be very dangerous if not properly handled, by interfering with the quality of the waters.
Unfortunately, we have established in a number of cases that the body charged with implementing and enforcing this legislation is itself the greatest offender. This is a matter of serious concern. This comes back to the principle where local authorities are allowed to do things without having to obtain the consent of the local community, whereas the local community have to obtain the consent of the local authority for any developments they propose. In some cases local authorities implement schemes which do not maintain the highest standards and result in causing pollution in the case of water in particular and sometimes in emissions into the air. I am astonished that the Department recently approved of a major sewerage scheme in the Galway city area which proposes to discharge untreated all the sewage collected in the greater Galway city area into Galway Bay at one point.
The Water Pollution Act contains a general prohibition on the entry of polluting matter to waters, including the sea, and is primarily enforced through  the licensing, by local authorities, of discharges of trade and sewage effluents from point sources to waters and to sewers.
I want to make a critical comment about the matter in which the local authorities are discharging their duties under that Act and to criticise the Minister and his Department for having approved of a scheme in the Galway city area which in the view of every expert who has been consulted would result in serious pollution to the deep waters of inner Galway Bay.
Mr. Molloy: ——for shellfish and other sea fish which are caught there and consumed by human beings from that area. It is important for the tourist trade and for the residents that the general aesthetic amenity of the area be preserved. This is a matter of major importance to Galway which is one of the primary tourist resorts and is our second or third largest fishing port, based at Rossaveal. Since the matter was raised previously in the Dáil, I have been informed that the Department of Fisheries would not agree to issue a licence for the discharge of sewage into Galway Bay at the point proposed in the Minister's plan if they were to be asked now. This is because of new information which has become available to them about the toxic effect of effluent consumed by shellfish such as oysters which are consumed raw, not giving people the protection of cooking which in some cases results in the cleansing and purifying of the items before being eaten.
I warn the Minister that we are looking to him to ensure that all the fine principles enshrined in the Paris Convention, in the Water Pollution Act and in the statements made by him and his predecessors on various occasions and at international conventions will be implemented at ground level and that there is no short cut to save money. That is what is happening in the case of the Galway sewerage scheme, which is a dangerous threat to the lives of the people and tourists in that area. It could wipe out the shellfish industry in the inner Galway Bay area and destroy the aesthetic beauty of the bay and its beaches forever more.
It is essential that rigid application of these laws and principles be applied. We do not want to see develop in Galway, Cork or any other part of Ireland what has been allowed to happen in Dublin Bay. The citizens of that area are now afraid to allow their children into the water because of the effects which it will have on their health. We have had many reports of damage to the health of adults and children from swimming in Dublin Bay, due to the excess level of sewage pollutants in those waters. That is a serious  threat and a matter about which I know the Minister's Department are concerned. They are anxious to eliminate it as quickly as possible. I know that his Department are committed to the expenditure of many millions of pounds through Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council in an effort to eliminate that problem as soon as possible. Vast sums will have to be spent yet before we can hope to achieve the restoration to their former glory and purity of the waters of Dublin Bay.
We do not want that type of situation to develop in other urban areas and in our coastal waters adjacent to them. That is what the Minister's Department almost allowed to be done in Galway, until the citizens objected and forced the corporation to tell the contractor to leave, saying that they were not going to allow the contract to start. That contract now has been held up. Granted, the Minister has consented to a postponement for six months.
Mr. Molloy: —— to ensure that there will be a full, modern treatment of the sewage effluent before it is discharged into Galway Bay and that the other proposal about building in the playing fields of South Park is not proceeded with. The Minister, happily, has been down and seen the area and I am pleased with his response to my invitation. I am disappointed that he did not tell me of the day he was coming or I would have been there. However, I had people there who met him ——
Mr. Molloy: ——and who explained the situation to him. We are looking to the Minister to ensure that the right decision is made. The Minister's colleague,  Deputy Coogan, and I participated in a march in Galway last Saturday to bring to the attention of the Minister and the local authorities the feelings of the people about this.
An Ceann Comhairle: I just wanted to make it clear that the Deputy was in order because his remarks are generally relevant, but he should not go into the matter in detail, blow by blow. A long debate on a specific matter could not be allowed.
Mr. Molloy: ——who like to enjoy the pure, clean waters of the Atlantic coast. I know that the Chair would not like to see them polluted by the Minister and a Government with whom he has been associated.
Mr. Molloy: There is no doubt but that the leakages at Windscale, which is now called Sellafield, in Cumbria, England, which is a nuclear processing plant, have caused great public alarm and concern. They display great negligence on the part of the British authorities. I understand that since the early fifties the nuclear reprocessing plant at Windscale has been discharging radio active waste into the Irish Sea via two pipelines in what has been admitted to be an experiment to test the effects of such pollutants on the marine environment and local communities.
I understand that in 1958 John Dunster, chief designer of the discharge programme and present day head of the National Radiological Protection Board — which is an independent Government watchdog in England — admitted the experimental nature of the discharges. He was reported to have said that meaningful results from the experiment could not be obtained if the discharges were minimised. Any man who would make a statement of that kind should be locked up in jail. That he would endanger the lives of his fellow citizens for the purpose of carrying out a dangerous experiment over which he had not full or adequate control is disgraceful. It has resulted in minute examination since then. That man has a lot on his conscience.
There is talk of several deaths — I do not wish to put a figure on them — which have resulted in critical groups along the Cumbrian coastline. We know that this discharge has resulted in contamination of the Irish Sea. I understand that they have disposed of a quarter tonne of plutonium, which is a known highly carciogenic material, into the sediments. We do not know officially from our own resources what quantity of plutonium or any other radioactive material is present in the sediment or in the waters of the Irish Sea, resulting from the activities of this British reprocessing plant. I hope our membership of the commission under the Paris Convention will enable us to bring our feelings in this matter to bear on the British authorities and on any other  Government who have similar plants that are making discharges of this kind.
I welcome the motion and I assure the Minister of the very fullest support of all the Members on the Fianna Fáil benches. We urge the Minister and his officials to make the fullest possible use of all the terms and articles of the convention. In that way future generations will be grateful to us for having acted properly. I hope our action is not too late.
Mrs. A. Doyle: I heartily welcome the motion before us this morning. I would like to congratulate the many environmental groups who have stirred all our consciences in this area and particularly have brought to the attention of the public in general the problem which was before us and which many of us had ignored for far too long. I am thinking particularly of Hope, the West Cork Environmental Group, the Dublin Clean Seas Committee, An Taisce, Green Peace and many others. I have no doubt that our children and many generations to come will thank them for having brought the problem to the attention of the authorities on both sides of the Irish Sea and many others further afield. Under the Constitution we need, as the Minister pointed out, Dáil approval to ratify the Paris Convention because of the finance required. The Minister said that it will cost the State £4,200, which is a negligible amount of money. We are perhaps doing today one of the most important things we have done in months.
The Paris Convention requires that contracting parties prevent pollution of the sea by certain persistent and toxic substances including — this is most important to us today — radioactive waste, by prohibiting or regulating their discharge through pipelines, water courses or from man-made structures at sea. It applies to the north east Atlantic, including the Irish Sea, and complements the Oslo and London Conventions ratified by Ireland in 1982, which deal with dumping at sea from ships and aircraft.
I ask the Minister to look at that again and to consider the implications of it. Those concerned throughout the world want — technology allows this for the last ten years — radioactive wastes to be at zero level of discharge from these reprocessing plants. When the technology is available and the cost is minimal, particularly if incorporated into these plants at design stage, we should insist that these findings be binding. Let us as a small nation in Europe stand up and be counted on this particular issue. That was only one statement which disappointed me very much in an otherwise excellent speech by the Minister.
We have known for some that the outcome of the London convention was not binding. The nations concerned, those guilty of ongoing discharges, are going ahead. In fact, they have increased the discharges in some cases. Let us stand up and be counted in relation to this and insist that the findings of these conventions are binding for all our sakes and for the sake of future generations. In order to ratify the convention contracting parties must have all the legal powers to implement it. In our case the Local Government Water Pollution Act, 1977, conferred virtually all the necessary control powers, the exceptions being discharges from offshore platforms which are subject to control under the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, and disposal of radioactive waste which is subject to licence under the Nuclear Energy (General Control of Fissile Fuels, Radioactive Substances and Irradiating Apparatus) Order, 1977. The person who thought of that name for it was not very considerate.
The Local Government Water Pollution Act along with many other Acts which have been passed in the last five to six years, which pertain to the Department of the Environment, failed to confer  on local authorities additional finance to implement these Acts. As a result they have been less effective than they might otherwise have been. The Minister gave us the figures. There were approximately 14 licences to discharge through water courses issued in 1979 by local authorities. This had risen to well over 1,000 last year. I know from my limited experience of Wexford local authority that if sufficient capital had been available far more progress could have been made in this area.
It will not be too long before the Book of Estimates is prepared and next year's budget is before us, so we could look to this area to see if there is any way, even accepting the position of limited resources, that local authorities can be made fully efficient in an area which is vital to all of us. It is vital to us in Ireland because, as has been pointed out, we are an island nation. The contribution to the economy of our fishing industry needs no underlining from me, or indeed the tremendous environmental value of our beaches and our coastline from the tourist point of view and from our own people's point of view. The enjoyment experienced by both is immense. I ask that this particular Act and indeed any others which local authorities are obliged to take on board recently, are given the financial structure they need to be implemented fully.
In the last two years over 50 local authorities have passed motions condemning the dumping at sea of radioactive wastes. We are very concerned as a nation about what has been going on in this area so I am delighted that we are here this morning ratifying the Paris Convention. We are consistent in the stand we have taken all along in relation to the London Convention and the Oslo one before it. I pointed out that the cost to us is minimal plus the minimal cost of attendance at any relevant meetings. Membership is an important international gesture in the pollution control area. It is now official and it is a frightening thing to have to stand up and say that the Irish Sea is the most radioactive sea in the world today. Dublin is only 100 miles from Sellafield, or Windscale as it  is better know to all of us. When you put those two sentences side by side is it any wonder all of us should be concerned about the ongoing discharges from Windscale?
The burden of the proof that these radioactive discharges do not and will not cause harm rests with the discharging or dumping authorities and not with the people or nations they may be putting at risk. The Irish Nuclear Energy Board endorsed the dumping programmes in the Atlantic on the basis that no proven damage to marine or human life had been ascertained. I do not accept that that is good enough. It should be the other way around. Until it has been proven beyond doubt that no harm or damage is being done these discharges must be stopped immediately.
I mentioned that technology is available for zero discharge of liquid radioactive wastes. This has been the case for some time in Hanford in the US and Marcoule in France. A new method of dealing with the waste is necessary. It involves flocculation plants and ion exchange plants and various other systems which are not overly expensive in the context of this industry.
What is continuing at Sellafield and Cap de la Hague is indefensible. Nuclear fuel re-processing accounts for 90 per cent of all radiation doses experienced by the public as a result of the nuclear fuel cycle, from both civil and military sources. Windscale is the European Community's major source of man-made radioactive contamination in the environment. The only other plant comparable in terms of radiation doses to the public is the French re-processing plant at Cap de la Hague. The latter contributes 8 per cent of the European Community's nuclear fuel cycle radiation dose. It is evident from much published data that the technology has been available for over a decade to allow zero discharge from these plants. I urge the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Energy to put all the pressure they can on our European partners, but particularly on the British authorities, to see that as soon as possible there is a cessation of discharges from Sellafield. None  of us can be satisfied with what is going on; neither can we be justified to future generations if we renege on our responsibility now in this most important area.
Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention are of particular importance. The others must not be underestimated but because of the topical importance of radioactive nuclear discharges these two articles bear more emphasis than the others. We have not the same clear indication as to how these discharges affect man and the animal kingdom in general. Other toxins which are dealt with under Annexes 1 and 2 of the Convention are more clearly understood by scientists and we can leave it to them to handle those issues. I do not think even the technocrats really know the possible dangers from excessive radioactive discharges into our seas. Neither the West German nor the USSR Governments permit discharges of radioactive material from re-processing plants to water. They do, however, to compensate for this, allow greater discharges to the atmosphere. Discharges on the scale permitted in the United Kingdom are unheard of in any other developed country.
Radioactive discharges can be broadly lumped into two groups. The first and most serious are the alpha emitters, mainly plutonium and americium. The guidelines and standards are laid down, as well as the so-called safety limits which I question. I do not think anybody knows sufficient to call anything a safety limit in dealing with this issue. They are laid down and itemised for the different isotopes and discharges involved.
There is one aspect which bothers me considerably and we are being fooled as a result of it. We are being very dishonest if we do not point it out and request that it stops immediately. One alpha emitter, plutonium 239, has an isotope, plutonium 214, which is a beta emitter of less serious consequence. This beta emitter is discharged from Windscale into the Irish Sea under the very much more generous permitted limits for beta emitters. However, it decays to an alpha emitting americium 214 which slips through the regulations because, as it is discharged  when its parent element is a beta emitter, it does not count in the alpha emitter category. This is a very serious aspect. It is possible that far more alpha emitters are being discharged into the Irish Sea than is being admitted because they are being discharged as beta emitters with their parent element. I would ask that this aspect be investigated immediately because the figures we are given may not indicate the facts.
There is no doubt that the vast bulk of the alpha emitters are absorbed into the silt on the sea bed within days of discharge. The eastern coast of the Irish Sea bears the brunt of this and the silt there is seriously polluted. At present our Irish coastline is not polluted and there is no immediate danger but when we have no control over what is happening and are not prepared to request that these conventions be binding on all parties to them, what will the future hold? Almost all the alpha emitters from Sellafield are held on the eastern floor of the sea, so the danger to our coastline is not immediate. However, the eastern floor of the Irish Sea is irreversibly polluted and no practical steps can be taken to undo the harm. We should put pressure on an increasingly expensive and unpopular industry to halt further discharges to limit the consequences of a disaster. We must insist that there be zero liquid radioactive discharges from Sellafield and, if we have any influence on the French Government, at Cap de la Hague also. We should point out to them the situation in Hanford and Marcoule where they have managed to achieve this, with tremendous benefits to their environment and population. There is no technological reason why it cannot be done at Sellafield and at Cap de la Hague.
The people most at risk from Windscale are those who live on the Cumbrian coast. The risk to Irish people, north and south, is very much less but no one ever tries to pretend that Ireland benefits from British nuclear power. The risk is incurred for zero benefit. There should be no risk to the Irish nation when we are not incurring any benefit. Let us be seen to be doing all we can to halt these discharges  from Sellafield. They are no longer necessary and cannot be justified. We must insist that they cease forthwith.
I am very heartened by the line our Government have taken in relation to both the Oslo and the London Conventions. At the latter convention the items which gave rise to most interest were those relating to the dumping of radioactive waste at sea. Proposals were submitted by the delegations from Kiribati and Nauru, two Pacific island nations, to amend Annexes 1 and 2 of the convention which, if adopted, would have the effect of prohibiting the dumping of all types of radioactive waste at sea immediately for each country accepting the amended convention. Many countries did not accept it or were not bound by it.
The five Nordic countries submitted a draft amendment to the latter proposal, the effect of which would be to prohibit the dumping of all types of radioactive waste at sea with effect from 1 January 1990. In the meantime the level of dumping would have to be restricted and would be subject to very strict control.
The Spanish delegation submitted a draft resolution calling for the suspension of dumping at sea pending the completion of research to ascertain all its implications. Our delegation stated that they were opposed in principle to the dumping of radioactive waste and indicated support for the Nordic proposal. Following some informal negotiation it was agreed that the scientific basis for the Pacific Islands proposal should be reviewed by an expert group. In view of this the Nordic proposal was withdrawn.
The Spanish delegation then introduced a revised draft resolution which in effect stated that, as the meeting had decided to refer the Pacific Islands' proposal to an expert group, all dumping at sea of radioactive material should be suspended pending the presentation——
Mrs. A. Doyle: It is a personal letter to me. I am interspersing quotations with my comments. The resolution I have  been speaking about was carried by 19 votes to six with five abstensions, Ireland supporting the resolution. We are all very heartened about the stand we have taken on these resolutions. As a final word, I request the Minister to ask all parties to these conventions to insist that the resolutions be binding.
Mr. Daly: I do not think it is necessary for me to repeat the importance of protecting our environment, our fishing industry and the amenities of the seas around us. These should all be developed for future benefits. Neither is it necessary to go into detail about the value and importance of any action we may have to take against any breaches that may occur.
I support the motion, as I do any effort that we will decide to make to ensure the protection of our marine environment from the hazards of pollution from the dumping of waste in the seas around us. The Paris Convention was a very important step but in my opinion the procedure is slow moving. We must not be slow as an island State to give a dynamic lead in the efforts to protect the ever-changing circumstances in the seas.
I, like other speakers, will endeavour to bring home to the Government the urgent need to take our own measures and to adopt a dynamic approach to this matter in the various conventions and discussions which go on. As I have said, as an island nation we must give a lead and develop our own clear-cut policies to deal with these issues. We must adopt a leading role in this very good cause. The conventions constitute a further step in efforts to control and to monitor the pollution taking place around us and we must use these conventions to the fullest possible extent.
In the Paris Convention and in most of the other conventions the emphasis seems to be on reduction of the levels of pollution rather than on direct action to prevent it. Running throughout the Minister's speech today are references to attempts to minimise pollution, to reduce the effects of the dumping of wastes, without much reference to eliminating the causes. In many cases the only way  to end pollution is to close down the plants causing it. Windscale has been the subject of discussion in the House. Deputies spoke at length about the damage already done by Windscale and I am glad the Minister acknowledged the wholesale pollution caused by the release of radioactive liquid waste last year, so much so that the beaches had to be closed down. That means that at that time the Windscale plant should have been closed down.
If this type of pollution is continued, Windscale inevitably will have to be closed down because if we are not prepared to take a firm line of action with the British authorities the danger and the hazard will continue. We must be clear-cut in our determination to prevent hazards of this nature developing and to put an end to their cause, and if the only way to deal with it is to close down Windscale, even temporarily, it must be done. As I have said, we have to face up to this resolutely by representations, discussions and involvement.
The conventions require contracting states to establish certain committees. I wish to compliment our own Water Pollution Advisory Council for the work they have been doing. I support Deputy Molloy about the need for committees whose members would have detailed scientific knowledge to deal with the various problems arising from waste dumping. The fishing industry should be involved. However, there is a need for co-operation between our councils and expert people in the UK. There is a need to establish Government-to-Government contacts between Ireland and the UK, between Ministers from here and the UK. Such arrangements should be established as soon as possible so that the harmful effects from Windscale can be eliminated as soon as possible and a repetition avoided.
The Minister spoke of a difficulty. An inter-departmental committee has been established representing the Environment, Fisheries and Communications. We must go still further and in order to form some clear-cut Government policy a special Minister should be appointed. In this way alone can we get any co-ordinated  action. Such a Minister would be able to establish communications with his counterpart in the UK so that we could have regular exchanges of views, above all on monitoring. At present our main problem is Windscale.
Deputy Molloy referred to the valuable work being done by local authorities and the various councils dealing with this matter. He expressed reservations in regard to some of these conventions. I, too, have some reservations about the effectiveness of that type of procedure. I know there has been some communication between the local authority and the fisheries boards, the regional boards and the central board, who have responsibility. How can anybody tell me that a body like a local authority can have any influence or, indeed, jurisdiction, over the activities, for instance, of an offshore oil rig in the Porcupine, operating 200 miles off the Clare coastline, the Kerry coastline, the Galway coastline? What authority, can the Minister tell me, would have control over discharges from, or activities on, an offshore oil rig operating 90 miles out from the Shannon Estuary on the Porcupine Bank in the oil exploration there? Control is necessary and essential there in that type of operation organised by the Clare authority, by the Galway authority, by the Kerry authority and is there not a need that this should be clearly defined because we all know now that there is offshore activity taking place off the Porcupine, in the Celtic Sea and, without going into the involvement of offshore activities in the Celtic Sea area, does not a similar situation arise there? I would have very grave reservations about the effectiveness of the control under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts especially since I can see they would not have the kind of jurisdiction or authority or, indeed, the manpower and resources to deal with the activities of the offshore oil rigs or any other offshore oil exploration or whatever may take place in the next 100 years.
As well as that, if it should come to pass, as hopefully it will come to pass, that there is a major oil find either in the Porcupine or the Celtic Sea how will that situation be monitored? How will it be  controlled? Which local authorities or who will have the responsibility in these specific areas to deal with specific cases which may arise? For instance, if there is an oil find in the Porcupine in two or three years time and there is some major oil spillage who controls or monitors that situation? Who will take action to deal with breaches of these conventions on behalf of the State? These are very important areas which will certainly become more important as offshore oil development and exploration continue and as hopefully we see some useful oil or gas find in the Porcupine or the Celtic Sea within the next 100 years. It is important we should be clear about what we are doing in these motions and in any legislation we pass. We must know where exactly responsibility lies. We must know exactly who will enforce the regulations. We must know exactly how these will be dealt with.
There are a few other points which other speakers have already raised. I notice that the contribution which the State will make in 1984 is about £4,200. I do not know what one can do in this area for £4,200 in 1984 but apparently that is the contribution which will be made for the establishment of the commission and if we can measure priorities from the point of view of the amount of money being contributed by the State in 1984, as I said, it is a very small amount and I doubt that anything worthwhile could be done with that type of expenditure in that situation. I should like to hear more about this from the Minister. I should like to hear from him how he visualises the budget. Presumably there will be contributions from the other member states. Will the proportion be similar? What will be the total budget? Could the Minister give us more information? Each state, the Minister says, will contribute 2.5 per cent towards the balance proportionate to the budget. Now 2.5 per cent of what? I am not too clear about this. Perhaps the Minister will give us more details later on.
I am glad to see this convention covers the area east of Greenland because the area around Greenland has very important bearing on our salmon stocks. Most  people recognise that a great number of Irish salmon feed off Greenland and people will be concerned to ensure that the area around Greenland is very carefully monitored and that any necessary action will be taken to deal with particular problems that might arise in that area. Radioactive discharges should be further considered. Two or three references have been made to what will happen next month. I believe there is a need here to have a more dynamic approach and a more up-to-date and positive attitude in this whole area. There is an urgent need for us to provide our own marine research facilities. I am aware that the National Board for Science and Technology have been engaged in some work, especially through their activities in the operation of Lough Beltra, but I do not think we have here the necessary research facilities to enable us to monitor the situation, especially the situation in our own economic zone which now extends 200 miles out into the Atlantic. Even from the point of view of the exploitation of the huge resources in that economic zone, as well as the need to monitor new fish species or new marine values used in that area, we need to have such facilities as will enable us to have an up-to-date picture of what the whole pollution situation is in that whole economic zone over which we have jurisdiction. This is a zone which hopefully we will be able to exploit fully in the future. Over the last 100 years hundreds of research vessels have operated within our economic zone and while we can, if we wish, get some information from these research vessels — I know some foreign research vessels have been carrying our research into pollution levels in our economic zone — nevertheless we need as soon as possible a modern sophisticated research vessel which will do our own fisheries research, marine research and pollution research. It is essential this should be done as soon as possible. We have been talking about it for so long. We know there is huge potential and it is essential that we immediately set about — with the assistance of the National Board for Science and Technology who are involved in this area already and have had the benefit of Lough Beltra, which is  not really designed specifically for marine research — equipping ourselves with this type of research vessel to go out and be fully involved in the monitoring and control of pollution levels within our own economic zone. We must do this as a matter of urgency.
This is a very useful and important motion. All of us must be concerned about this matter and we must take firm and decisive action to deal with it. In addition, we must recognise there is a huge potential for us in other areas that have not been exploited and that could create hundreds of jobs. While it is not relevant to the motion, it is important to note that in the area of marine research and oceanography there is enormous potential for job creation for many young graduates and for scientists and engineers. We have not exploited that potential but we must do so in the future.
We must not become hysterical or unduly alarmed with regard to pollution but we must be alert and prepared to take any necessary action. As an island nation in the Community we must give a lead in dealing with matters like this. We must not be unduly pessimistic. Up to now, relatively speaking, our environment has not been polluted and we want to keep it that way. We must ensure that we pass on to future generations the heritage we have now.
Mr. Allen: I welcome the motion tabled by the Minister for the Environment and if I make certain criticisms of the Minister and his Department I hope they will be regarded as constructive. This motion is one of the most important motions that has come before the House since I became a Member. It has been put to me in the past that this subject is non-political and it has been said there are no votes in it. However, I believe that in the coming years it will increasingly become an issue and will become more political. I am delighted the Minister has taken steps to have the Paris Convention ratified by this House.
I was surprised at the criticisms made by Deputy Molloy, who is not now in the House, with regard to the delay in ratifying  the convention as the commission has been in existence since the early seventies. I wish to place on record — I do not wish this to appear too political — the advances made and the changes in attitudes that have occurred in the past 12 months. Up to a short time ago we had little or no policy with regard to nuclear dumping but now we have a vigorous and vital role to play in the London Convention dealing with dumping at sea. As Deputy Avril Doyle said, we were very active in support of the Spanish resolution there which asked for the cessation of dumping at sea. Two years ago that would have been unheard of and in the light of this development the criticisms voiced by Deputy Molloy were unfair. Ironically, they came from a former Minister for the Environment.
I wish to compliment the many environmental groups who lobbied us and who were very positive in their approach. They asked us to take up issues with which many of us initially were unfamiliar but they worked hard to make sure we were briefed on the subject. At all times they adopted a very balanced approach. Deputy Doyle mentioned the names of a number of the groups and I will not repeat them. I should like to compliment some of the correspondents of the newspapers who produced well-researched articles. There were also dangerous comments from certain people who tried to turn this whole matter into one big scare story but on the whole the correspondents did valuable work in making this matter an issue of concern to the public.
I was delighted to be part of an all-party ad hoc group in this House who met the various environmental groups. Some months ago we met Greenpeace and we have been in contact with British Nuclear Fuels about the procedures they adopt. As a result of our concern and our queries, we are now treated as a serious body. British Nuclear Fuels have invited our group to visit the Sellafield plant, not to indoctrinate us but to inform us of their views. We will listen to their views and draw our own conclusions. It is an example of how a group of backbenchers can nudge and push people into making a matter like this a serious issue. It is a  great pleasure to us to see this motion before the House and I hope I do not sound too self-laudatory in saying that.
One comment made during the debate was that the nuclear station at Sellafield should be closed. That is not realistic. We have to take it step by step and the first step has been taken today in ratifying the convention.
Mr. Allen: That is a different matter. If you aim for the sky you get nowhere. We have taken the first step in a programme to push governments and people into taking responsible actions. This is a new approach. As a nation we have the reputation of being careless and slipshod in our attitude towards the environment and a walk around the streets of Dublin, Cork or the larger towns will confirm this. I have met a number of foreign industrialists who have been discouraged by such evidence of our attitude. Even at the basic level, our form of approach towards people who litter the streets is the wrong one. Instead of handing out fines, the litter wardens should be in the schools educating our children about the problem of litter.
We seem to be unable to tackle environmental pollution in an effective way. We do not have a national environmental protection policy and we have little strategy to deal with problems caused by industrial development. At the moment we tend to react to crises without having any clear objective. All the major problems seem to arise from what I term departmentalised thinking in relation to environmental protection and the Minister's speech is an example of that. In the course of that speech he said:
In the case of the Sellafield discharges it is therefore appropriate that the Minister for Energy, who has specific statutory functions in relation to nuclear matters, should take the lead role but it is, of course, essential that the interests of other Departments, including Environment, Health, Fisheries and Communications are taken into account. Accordingly, inter-departmental  consultative arrangements, involving also the Nuclear Energy Board, have been established and these have permitted full input of environmental considerations in the determination of national policy on this issue.
That is the wrong approach as we require a nuclear energy protection agency here similar to that in the United States. It has been a long-term ambition of mine to see such an agency operating here. In raising the question of nuclear dumping over the last 18 months, various Ministers have answered questions on the subject and many Members were running around in circles trying to get information. I question the efficiency at departmental levels in their approach to this matter. It would be far better to centralise information under one agency. There are local authorities dealing with these matters as well as Government Departments and they appoint their own specialists to interpret the rules and regulations coming within the sphere of their own interests without getting involved in the overall situation and with very little liaison.
The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States does an excellent job in providing specialist advice and in taking corrective action and which also is involved in long-term planning, which is very important. I have been advocating this proposal since I became a Member of this House and I hope that we will have such an agency which will cover all aspects of environmental protection. We should be planning and thinking of the environment and its management for the future. Economic and social policies cannot be taken in isolation any longer without embracing the environment and its implications for them.
Thankfully as the Water Pollution Act operates at present no company can set up a business without going through a select and difficult screening system with organisations like the IDA, An Foras Forbartha, the IIRS and local authorities. At least in that area the public can be assured that there is a professional approach and I hope it extends to all areas of the environment. The most dramatic  examples of pollution in recent times have been in water and, from reading reports of the Water Pollution Advisory Council, it is clear they have made a detailed study of the problem and that local authorities are reviewing and updating their plans for dealing with emergencies such as that in Ballyshannon in recent months. Pollution of this type is caused through carelessness or ignorance. I welcome the recent efforts announced by the Minister to educate people in the agricultural industry to the need for greater care in the use of chemicals and pesticides. At the same time, I urge local authorities to be ruthless with persons caught polluting our waterways. The message has gone out loud and clear from the Minister and people polluting our waterways must be dealt with firmly. The belief has existed for too long that irresponsible acts can be carried out without fear of detection or prosecution.
In recent times, many of our well known fishing and tourist areas have been destroyed and I do not think I am being an alarmist when I say that loss of life could occur as a result of the contamination of our waterways. I am aware that local authorities have financial problems but I do not think they are laying enough emphasis on environmental protection although there are notable exceptions. Local authorities will only react on the strength of public opinion.
Over the last years there has been much debate about the effect of new industries on the environment while, at the same time, our largest home-based industry, agriculture, has developed greatly because of new technology.
I have already referred to the major problems which will face us in our programme for industrial development. No specific problem of pollution can be taken in isolation because they are all interlinked. Our industrial development will be hampered unless we get a more responsible approach to the question of central waste facilities. I am glad to see that the Department have made money available for the development of facilities at Baldonnel, and the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism  announced recently that there would also be facilities in the Cork area. The absence of such sites in the past and the attitude of certain politicians who drummed up unnecessary fears posed serious problems, especially at a time when industrial jobs are badly needed. Sites throughout the country can be identified and developed but only by surveys being taken by the Geological Survey Office and the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards. It is only by such a professional approach that the fears of the public can be allayed. I hope this work will not be undermined by people who do not bother to get details of such facilities and cause unnecessary fears in the minds of the public, as has happened too often in the past.
Our inability in the past to provide proper sites for the disposal of industrial and toxic waste has undermined our ability to deal with other countries in a proper manner in relation to the dumping of nuclear and toxic waste in the seas and oceans. Unfortunately, that is confirmed by the Minister's contribution in relation to the London Convention when he said:
While it does not arise directly under the Paris Convention, I think that I might refer briefly to the general question of dumping at sea of wastes, particularly the dumping of low level nuclear wastes, which is at present permitted under the London Dumping Convention. The Government are opposed in principle to such dumping of nuclear wastes and at the February 1984 meeting of the London convention called on all signatory countries to strongly consider the disposal of any further low level radioactive waste on land. The scientific and technical basis for the proposal made at the 1983 meeting to amend the London Convention to prevent the dumping at sea of low level radioactive waste is at present under review. It is anticipated that the proposal to amend the convention will be considered at the September 1985 consultative meeting when the findings of the review will be taken into account.
We are prepared to consider these findings but will not commit ourselves to accepting that they should be binding. Our attitude will be determined by our concern to ensure the immediate and long term protection of our population and environment.
The reason we are inhibited in our approach to, say, Britain is our inability even at this stage to dispose of our toxic and industrial waste ourselves. I have said so in the House on a number of occasions already and I am somewhat concerned about the Minister's statement here today. Perhaps he will explain in replying why we will not be supporting the concept of the convention being binding. Perhaps I am being over-suspicious, but, until such time as we have properly managed sites to deal with industrial and toxic waste we cannot hope to be successful in dealing with threats of indiscriminate and irresponsible dumping of waste in the seas around us by other countries.
One cannot isolate one mode of dumping from another because atmospheric dumping eventually contaminates our seas; they are all interlinked and interrelated. Therefore, if we are examining the question of dumping at sea we must consider that of atmospheric dumping. Atmospheric pollution has been a source of concern to environmentalists and legislators for some time because of its potential damage to human health and the environment. As we all know, two of the more significant atmospheric pollutants are smoke and sulphur dioxide. These were the subject of an EEC Directive adopted in 1980. In recent times the levels of smoke and sulphur dioxide generally have been such as to meet the requirements of that directive even in large centres of population such as Cork and Dublin, although in the Cork region on certain days the limits have been exceeded, such breaches of the limits being attributable in the main to meteorological factors and severe weather. Unfortunately that increase has been  occasioned by the use of solid fuels for domestic heating. That poses the big political question: should we think about the question of smokeless zones? I do not think the position is sufficiently serious to warrant that consideration at this stage but we must be aware of the ever-increasing problem in our cities. We must ensure that our local authorities have the will and facilities to keep a close eye on the monitoring of the situation. This is an area in which environmental and energy policies will have to be co-ordinated at some future date.
The question of acid rain is causing serious concern all over Europe. However, as far as this country is concerned its present monitoring suggests that there has been a gradual increase in the acidity of rainfall because of atmospheric pollution in this and other countries also. However, those levels are not high and I do not believe there is any cause for much concern at present. At the same time we must keep a close eye on what is happening. We cannot ignore the problem because of the damage that can be caused by acid rain to our lakes, forests and buildings, which potential damage has been well documented in other countries. Strict EEC directives on pollution levels will have serious economic consequences for us because our air pollution legislation has not been implemented. At present we cannot afford the clean air policy necessary to stop the upward trend.
In regard to the disposal of toxic and nuclear wastes at sea and the disposal of nuclear wastes from land-based sources, the major industrial nations such as the United States when faced with such problems have taken the easy way out by deciding to dispose of such waste at sea. Even the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, whom I praised earlier, at present seem to favour the burning of deadly substances at sea. In a recent article I read in Time magazine it appears the United States have already constructed three specially designed vessels for this purpose. The disposal of toxic waste chemicals has taken place also by incineration in the North Sea, which was the subject of discussion  here one evening on the Adjournment debate when we were concerned with the disposal of dioxin which eventually turned up in Paris. Those vessels are owned by a waste management company. At present there are many shades of opinion about the wisdom of incineration disposal at sea. Opponents of this type of disposal — and I will not go into the technicalities of this area in great depth — say that it is not possible to attain the required 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit under seagoing conditions. Their ability to fully incinerate such chemicals is questionable allowing the escape of dangerous chemicals such as dioxins which are highly toxic dangerous ones.
I hope one will not be regarded as scaremongering but those questions must be posed and answered. I should like to know whether our Government have had discussions with the American and European Governments about the operations taking place in the North Sea. If allowed escape into the oceans these chemicals can affect fish and eventually human beings through the food chain. That has been established scientifically. Even in this House we have identified the sources of scientific studies that have taken place proving conclusively that as a result of the dumping of chemicals and nuclear wastes they eventually end up in the food chain. There has also been expressed serious concern about the way in which the whole incineration practice is monitored. General opinion is that the vessels of these companies can sail out of a port, burn dangerous chemicals without any real monitoring of whether the operation is accurate, that there is no monitoring on the part of any government. I may be proved wrong in that respect but I should like some assurances on what our Government have been doing in relation to this because it is a serious problem.
On the question of nuclear dumping it must be clearly said that there have been too many accidents at the Windscale Nuclear Plant, accidents which have been proved beyond doubt, resulting in pollution of sea water and plant life. Many questions have been raised about the effects of this pollution on the health of  the population on both sides of the Irish Sea. For instance, there is a suggested link, not confirmed, between an accident at that nuclear plant and the extraordinary incidence of births of handicapped children on our east coast.
We must accept at this stage that the level of radioactivity in the Irish Sea is not yet so serious as to harm fish consumed here. There is a possibility that dangerous levels could be reached either because of a further accident or because of insufficient knowledge of the problem. We are not just talking about discharges into the sea. We are also talking about possible emissions into the atmosphere in certain circumstances.
Dumping at sea has taken place withour proper research into the possible effects. A number of scientific studies were mentioned in this House which raised serious questions which have not been fully answered at any stage. They are on record at Question Time and on Adjournment Debates. There is sufficient scientific documentation available to pose serious questions about the environmental impact of the dumping of nuclear waste at sea. This has taken place in the Atlantic off the south-west coast of Ireland.
Nuclear dumping, be it in land-based sources or at sea, has raised considerable political interest in recent times. Dumping of nuclear waste is a huge international problem: it is not confined to the east coast or the south-west coast of Ireland. Britain is allowing an operation to continue at Windscale which is not up to international standards. Deputy Doyle went through the scientific evidence available and I will not repeat it. She has raised technical questions which require answers. The operation there is being used for part military and part civilian purposes. It is using the Irish Sea as a dumping area.
Britain has failed to carry out its responsibilities to the international community by establishing land-based dumping sites in Britain, but has preferred to use international waters for dumping purposes. Britain has been guilty on two counts; one is in relation to dumping at sea from ships. Despite the Spanish resolution  passed at the London Convention, Britain continues to dump. Serious medical and environmental questions have been raised on these two types of nuclear waste disposal and no satisfactory answers have been forthcoming.
The cessation by Britain of dumping in the Atlantic off the south-west coast of Ireland did not come about because of pressure from this country or any other country in Europe. Britain was not influenced by the motion passed at the London Convention. This dumping came to a standstill because of pressure by environmental groups and ultimately pressure from the trade union movement in Britain stopped totally the dumping operation.
In the past Britain used the Irish Sea as a dumping ground for its Windscale operation and will continue to do so unless forced to do otherwise. There is a new awareness of the problem. We must pressure everybody concerned to insist that Britain regulates its operation at Windscale and ceases dumping at sea. I am not “Brit bashing” when I say that Britain has treated this country and its European neighbours with utter contempt. We have tolerated this behaviour for far too long.
Of particular interest at this time are the Paris Convention provisions in regard to the pollution of the marine environment through discharges of radioactive wastes. Under Article 5 of the convention, contracting states undertake to adopt measures with the aims of preventing, and, as appropriate, eliminating pollution caused by such substances. In implementing this undertaking, states are required to take full account of the recommendations of the appropriate international organisations and agencies regarding disposal of radioactive substances, including safety limits and monitoring procedures.
I do not know of any penalties which  can be handed out to offending countries. I should like the Minister to let us know what penalties can be handed out to countries who breach Article 5 of the convention. If the penalties are inadequate to force them to stop breaching the article, are there more effective ways to get them to act in a responsible manner? There was a precedent in the South Pacific. When France carried out atmospheric testing of missiles and bombs, the Australian and New Zealand Governments took France to the international court at The Hague. That threatened action forced France to cease its operations in the South Pacific. Do we have to go that far to get Britain to stop these discharges into the Irish Sea? Even with the pending ratification of the convention I am still very concerned about the attitude of Britain. I am concerned that we have not got enough muscle to get the British to behave. Their record in the past has shown that there have been cover-ups of accidents and they continue to act irresponsibly.
A number of us will be visiting the plant in late June and we will be able to see at first hand what is happening there. We will be told the official line, I presume, but we will draw our own conclusions. I ask the Minister to react to the suggestion about a national environment protection agency which would co-ordinate all the groups within the country. Would he consider suggesting to Britain under the terms of the Paris Convention a joint body which would monitor emissions into the Irish Sea while they continue? It will take time to have these discharges stopped. Would it be possible to set up a joint monitoring body with Britain to monitor the discharges into the Irish Sea? Would it be possible to establish a joint monitoring body to look at the dumping of nuclear waste at sea by ships? The problem does not relate to Windscale only. I should like to refer to an article under the heading, “Major N-plant probe by EEC” written by Dan Collins in yesterday's issue of The Cork Examiner. He stated that there are serious questions being asked about the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Cap de  la Hague in France. Bearing in mind the terms of the Paris Convention we should look at the consequences of the discharges from there. We are not too far from that country and we should look at all implications for our nation. I hope the criticisms I made are viewed as constructive and that the Minister will respond to them in the course of his reply.
Mr. Calleary: It is not my intention to delay the House on this issue because, like all Members, I welcome the motion. I give my personal endorsement to it. I agree with most of Deputy Molloy's contribution. It is unfortunate that in the last 12 years various Governments did not ratify this convention. The fact that we are ratifying it now is an indication of the increased awareness by the public of the danger to our marine resources from land-based sources. The Minister's speech, and the convention, can be divided into two sections. There are matters which the Government have control over and there are actions we can take to control the actions of some people. They also deal with the discharges into our seas by people from other countries. It is unfortunate that there is very little we can do about that except to continue to protest and try to prevent the dumping of nuclear waste off places like Cork, as we did recently.
In the last ten years various Governments have taken steps which have generally been successful but there is a danger of complacency. On this issue prevention is a lot better than cure. We are all aware of the damage that can be done to the tourist industry, the environment, the quality of life and the health of our population when pollution occurs but we can do a lot to prevent such happenings. Local authorities and fishery boards should, if possible, undertake a series of inspections to monitor sources of pollution in their areas. I am referring to large septic tanks, council treatment plants and industrial effluent. I accept that local authorities do not have the resources to carry out such work. They were given the powers to deal with such matters but, unfortunately, were not given the finance  to carry out inspections. In regard to industrial effluent it is worth mentioning that the steps taken by Mayo County Council prior to the setting up of the Asahi plant in Killala proved successful. Their work is an example for other local authorities. Many statements were made about what might happen to the bay but the fact that the council commenced monitoring of the bay prior to the industry commencing operations meant that public concern was eased. That monitoring is continuing.
Work should proceed on the selection of dump sites for toxic waste. Selection should be made after consultation. There is little use in consulting people after the choice has been made. The fishery boards and local authorities should take note of unauthorised dumping and differentiate between deliberate and accidental pollution which can occur on occasions from a farm. If one carried out a survey of the fines imposed by courts for such offences one would not see much difference between the penalties for accidental and deliberate pollution. There should be a difference and the cause should be taken into account. I know of farmers who spent thousands of pounds on anti-pollution measures but they were fined by the courts although people who lived close to them and had not taken any precautions got off.
I should now like to refer to the Windscale operation. I wonder why it was necessary after so many years to change the name to Sellafield. Like other Members I watched a very interesting programme on British TV — I am not certain of the channel — and I was astonished at the situation there and the difficulty the TV crew had in getting answers from the British Nuclear Board. That programme proved beyond doubt, if proof was necessary, that the operation at Windscale is dangerous and that as a result of the spillages there was a substantial increase in radioactive levels not only close to the shore but also inland. That tends to suggest that not only is the sea polluted but that a tremendous amount of contamination is being carried into the atmosphere. I have not the technical expertise to judge that programme, but when one  takes into account the experts whom the presenters of this programme got to carry out the research, when one sees the experiments that were carried out on it, one would feel that the programme was a very accurate assessment of the situation in Windscale.
Of course I accept the information which the Minister gives me in relation to the results of our own Nuclear Energy Board's monitoring programme which indicate that the exposure level from the source is less than 1 per cent of the annual whole body dose equivalent limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. However, with all due respect, coming back to a point raised by other Deputies, I feel that that is 1 per cent too high. Particularly a country that prides itself — as Britain does — on its contribution to the world should not deliberately set out to pollute the waters of a friendly neighbouring state.
The Minister, quite rightly, pointed out the difference between the higher concentration of radioactivity in discharges from Sellafield compared to the discharges from other nuclear reprocessing plants. One should keep in mind that not only is British nuclear waste being reprocessed here but the waste from other countries is being processed in Windscale. I make no apology for saying that, unlike Deputy Allen, I agree fully with Deputy Daly that unless the Government are fully satisfied about this — obviously they are anything but satisfied judging by the terms of the Minister's speech — they should demand that Windscale be closed. I am glad to see that the Minister, Deputy Spring, in February asked that the discharges should be discontinued as soon as practicable. I would go further than that and say, in view of the research of the television programme — which was not carried out by RTE — that the Government should ask that Windscale be closed.
The Minister stated that the Sellafield discharges are primarily the responsibility of the Minister for Energy, but something more than just the interest of other  Departments should be taken into account. He said:
That is not strong enough. The Minister should establish a body who will have power, not just a body to have inter-departmental arrangements. That suggests telephone calls and so on. I hope that there is no dispute between the various Departments on this very important issue. It is almost important enough for a Government Ministry and I think a Minister of State should be appointed to co-ordinate and correlate everything related to this very important problem.
I agree fully with the Minister, because many of the people at this convention perhaps themselves will be dumping and at this stage I feel that there should be no more dumping at sea. Nobody knows the effects on concrete, in which these things are encased, of continuous submersion underneath the sea at great depths. There is evidence that in some cases the concrete has deteriorated and there are leaks in the concrete coffins, as they are called, in which the waste is buried. I agree with the Minister that he should not commit himself in advance to accepting findings which might be completely contrary to the views expressed by this country.
The issue of radioactive discharges will be further considered at a meeting next month of the commission established under the convention. Matters to be dealt with include a proposal  from Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark that states should be required to take account of the best available technology at existing and any proposed nuclear reprocessing plants in order to minimise discharges.
What is needed is that under the Paris Convention a completely independent committee of experts should be established to monitor all the effects of the dumping and the existing discharges from existing plants so that countries like Ireland who really have not the expertise would not be under any disadvantage. While some people may say that we cannot afford the cost, my opinion is that we cannot afford not to afford the cost. Future generations will not thank us if we leave behind an environment that is contaminated by what would appear now to be acceptable levels of pollution.
Like most Deputies I do not often have the opportunity of going to films but I made it my business recently to go to the one about the nuclear plant in America. It is suggested that the story is true but in any case it is very frightening. We may take it that film makers dramatise to some extent these sorts of situations but this film portrays a horrific picture of the problems that can arise in relation to nuclear plants. These problems are beyond the expertise of most of us so the only way to deal with them is to have established a body of the type I have suggested. Such a body could be financed in the same way as are the administrative section who put into effect the Paris Convention, that is by way of State contribution as described by the Minister in his speech. Until such time as there is such a body to monitor the situation there will be a lot of anxiety about the problem of nuclear pollution. While we must be guided by the experts it is unfortunate that they are in the employment of people who have vested interests. Therefore, it is a matter for the nations of the world to establish a body who will be neutral and who will be able to provide the best advice possible as to what is feasible and what is in the best interest of the people of the world.
 This motion is very important. It is one that all of us here are agreed on in the main though we may disagree in respect of some details. The Minister has told us that contracting states are required to forestall and, as appropriate, eliminate pollution of the sea by radioactive substances, including waste. I do not think there is any way in which we can eliminate pollution that exists, but we can prevent it from happening again. From now on we can demand that the problems that were associated with Windscale will not be repeated.
In view of the large number of accidents that were associated with Windscale we should seek to have that plant closed. The programme which was made by a British television company in that regard indicated that that plant is not being operated to the best scientific standards. Its closure would prevent any further pollution of the Irish Sea which, as Deputy Molloy has said, has a considerably higher level of pollution than is the case on the west coast, for instance. That situation should be investigated. We must insist either on Sellafield being closed or on proper standards being maintained there.
Mr. L.T. Cosgrave: I join with the other speakers in supporting this motion. Steps taken to deal with this problem from now on will be extremely important especially for us as an island nation. Apart from initiatives we may take ourselves we must put every pressure possible on other countries to adhere to the conventions relating to the prevention of pollution. This will be all the more important in the years ahead because of increased industrialisation and, consequently, increased wastage disposal for which some dumping place will have to be found.
The two aspects that I see in terms of this problem is first what we achieve in relation to the implementation of the conventions by way of requesting other countries who discharge these substances to maintain the highest standards possible. Up to now we have been surrounded by relatively clear waters but we must make every effort to ensure that that  situation continues by way of getting commitments from the other parties to their adhering to the terms of the conventions. There may be some countries involved in those conventions who because of their geographical location or of some other factor are not as concerned as we are about nuclear waste. If nuclear waste is dumped into the Irish Sea there is obviously a risk to the health of our people as a result of fish being contaminated.
However, we must look to the situation at home too. Up to now standards in this regard have been reasonably good but there has been a disimprovement in recent years particularly on the east coast where there is heavy industrialisation. This has caused pollution of the environment at a level that is unsatisfactory. The south and west coasts are probably not affected as seriously by these problems.
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