Written Answers - Nuclear Plants.

Tuesday, 7 December 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 512 No. 3

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  57.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe  Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe   asked the Minister for Public Enterprise  Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke   her views on the fact that safety scares were reported at Sellafield; and the contact, if any, she has made with the British authorities on the matter. [22181/99]

  96.  Mr. Sargent  Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent   asked the Minister for Public Enterprise  Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke   the information given by the British authorities to the RPII in relation to each of more than 30 safety incidents at Sellafield in 1998 and 1999 and over 100 breaches of safety at the atomic weapons establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire in 1999. [25830/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob): Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 96 together.

None of the safety incidents at Sellafield which occurred in 1998 and 1999 has radiological significance for Ireland. They would amount to on-site incidents with possible implications for the safety of workers. Under existing incident notification arrangements between the UK and Ireland, any on-site incidents at UK civil nuclear installations which affect workers' safety are notified to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. This notification would come from the UK's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, or the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and would involve an outline of the incident and the remedial actions that have been taken. The RPII, having considered the material received, would decide if the incident raises safety culture implications which would require further discussion with the NII or if they require further details. In such circumstances, the RPII would follow up the matter with the NII.

I understand that as a consequence of an increase in minor incidents at Sellafield, the NII recently carried out an in depth audit of control and supervision procedures at the site. The report of this audit is expected to be completed early in the new year. I await the completion of this report with interest and will be keeping in touch with the UK Government regarding the findings.

I am aware of a report in the Observer newspaper on 24 October last, that over 100 breaches of safety rules had occurred at the Aldermaston UK Ministry of Defence property in the previous 12 months. The RPII was informed by the NII [677] that it reviewed these breaches and advised the RPII that none have implications for public safety. The NII also advised the RPII that the more serious incidents are followed up by NII inspectors who take appropriate enforcement measures.

While these particular incidents at Sellafield and the Aldermaston facility may not have any radiological safety significance for Ireland, they do, however, serve to highlight the risks associated with such operations and can, understandably, give rise to public concern here in Ireland. Ireland's concerns about safety incidents in the UK nuclear industry will continue to be raised with the UK authorities by my Department and the RPII in their regular contacts with their UK counterparts on nuclear safety matters.

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