Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 31 March, 1999
Written Answers. - Nuclear Plants.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
57. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if her attention has been drawn to three recent accidents at the Sellafield plant on 25 February, 11 March and 13 March 1999; if she has received reports from her United Kingdom counterpart on these accidents; the representations, if any, she has made to the UK Government in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9123/99]
Mr. Jacob Mr. Jacob
Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob): I am aware of the three incidents referred to by the Deputy.
The incident on 25 February involved the evacuation of eight occupants of one of the buildings at Sellafield, when a number of Alpha-in-air monitor alarms were triggered by a backflow of airborne radioactivity through the ventilation system from contaminated areas which were being decommissioned. It appears that this backflow related to fire prevention tests which affected the ventilation characteristics of the building. Subsequent monitoring of the workers showed that they had not been contaminated.
The incident on 11 March 1999 related to the spillage of nitric acid at a solvent treatment plant. One BNFL employee was overcome by fumes and two others were treated for acid burns. No radioactive materials were involved in the incident and, therefore, there was no release of radioactivity into the environment.
The most recent incident on 13 March occurred in the course of routine operations at the waste vitrification plant when a maintenance worker came into contact with a hot particle and his finger was irradiated. The level of contamination exceeded the annual dose permitted under the UK Ionising Radiation Regulations, 1985. However, no other workers were affected and  there was no release of radioactivity into the environment.
In keeping with arrangements between the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, NII, and the RPII, on-site incidents which affect workers' safety are notified to the RPII. Only incidents of radiological significance are notifiable directly to my Department. The RPII were informed of the incidents on 11 and 13 March and they in turn informed my Department. The incident on the 25 February was not notified to the RPII but I would point out that no contamination had resulted from the incident.
I have been assured by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland that the incidents were of no radiological safety significance to Ireland. However, such incidents serve to highlight the risks associated with the Sellafield operations and can, understandably, give rise to public concern here in Ireland. My concerns about incidents at Sellafield continue to form part of regular contacts between Irish and UK officials on nuclear safety matters.
Dáil Éireann 503 Written Answers. Nuclear Plants.