Dáil Éireann - Volume 458 - 22 November, 1995
Written Answers. - Nuclear Waste Storage.
Mr. Dempsey Mr. Dempsey
28. Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the policy implications, if any, for his Department of the decision by NIREX Ltd to seek permission to conduct tests as to the suitability of the rock underneath Sellafield for the long-term storage of nuclear waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16018/95]
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry) Michael Lowry
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): It was agreed in the Government's Policy document A Government for Renewal to seek a prohibition on underground nuclear dumps such as the one currently being proposed by UK NIREX Ltd.
UK NIREX Ltd. is a state-owned company charged with providing and operating a deep underground repository for the disposal of low and intermediate level radioactive waste in Britain. After examining a number of locations NIREX decided in 1992 to  focus its further attention on the Sellafield area. On 29 July 1994, after some initial testing, NIREX applied to Cumbria County Council for planning permission to build a Rock Characterisation Facility or “Rock Laboratory” at the site near Sellafield known as Long-lands Farm, Gosforth in Cumbria.
The Rock Characterisation Facility would involve primarily the construction of two shafts, underground hydrogeological galleries, and exploratory drilling from underground with the purpose of testing the area's suitability from a hydrogeological point of view as a site for an underground waste repository.
In December 1994, Cumbria County Council refused NIREX planning permission for the project after considering a number of submissions on the matter, including one from my Department, NIREX exercised its statutory right of appeal under UK legislation against the County Council's decision and the UK's Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr. John Gummer MP then decided to hold a public inquiry.
This inquiry is currently in progress and I will attend the inquiry to object to this new facility. A date of 7 December 1995 has been fixed for this Government's presentation. A comprehensive submission has already been forwarded to the inquiry's secretariat.
This Government opposes any expansion to Sellafield's nuclear-related activities. Although this Rock Characterisation Facility is not a nuclear facility per se, it is my view that if planning permission is granted for this facility it significantly pre-commits NIREX to an eventual repository development which is likely to result in strong pressure to stay with the Sellafield area because of costs incurred in its development of the laboratory.
Dáil Éireann 458 Written Answers. Nuclear Waste Storage.