Dáil Éireann - Volume 584 - 29 April, 2004
Written Answers - Nuclear Safety.
Mr. Morgan Mr. Morgan
26. Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the role the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland will play in monitoring emissions from Sellafield, specifically with regard to the new TPP process to be used at Sellafield; if the RPII has been fully briefed on the TPP process; if the RPII will visit Sellafield to inspect the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12310/04]
Mr. Wall Mr. Wall
54. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will give his views of the recent announcement of new practices by British Nuclear Fuels aimed at reducing, by about 90%, discharges into the Irish Sea; if he will raise with the British authorities the need for international monitoring to ensure that this commitment is honoured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12242/04]
Mr. Gallagher Mr. Gallagher
Mr. Gallagher: I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 54 together.
The new TPP process, a chemical treatment which removes up to 97% of the technetium-99 from one of the waste streams at Sellafield, is something I welcome as the first step towards zero radioactive discharges from Sellafield into the Irish Sea. In so far as international monitoring is concerned, these discharges fall inter alia under the reporting and monitoring requirements of the OSPAR strategy with regard to radioactive substances.
I am informed by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, that the RPII’s extensive marine monitoring programme readily detects technetium-99 and a range of other  radionuclides discharged by Sellafield in seawater and seaweed from coastal locations and in a number of fish and shellfish species from commercial landings. The reduction in technetium-99 discharges from Sellafield will also reduce concentrations in the Irish Sea, but the transit time of about six months to Ireland’s east coast means that this effect is unlikely to be observed until 2005.
Over the past six months the RPII has been in regular contact with the UK Environment Agency and has been briefed on a number of occasions on the outcome of the TPP trials. The RPII will be further strengthening its relationship with the Environment Agency and will also maintain its existing monitoring programme to ensure that the reductions that have been promised do, in fact, materialise.
Access to Sellafield by Irish experts has been sought by the Irish Government on an ongoing basis and I have raised this matter directly with relevant UK Ministers, most recently in my meeting with a number of UK Ministers in December last. Further access for the RPII to Sellafield is also one of a number of issues that have been raised in the context of discussions with the UK following the provisional measures award of the UNCLOS Annex VII tribunal of 24 June 2003. These discussions are ongoing and are confidential to the tribunal and the parties pending outcomes to the process. However, under the terms of the order, there is an obligation on both parties to improve co-operation and co-ordination arrangements and discussions are continuing on this basis.
In welcoming this technical development to reduce discharges, I expect this new situation to be reflected appropriately in the UK statutory annual discharge authorisation for technetium-99 from Sellafield.
Dáil Éireann 584 Written Answers Nuclear Safety.