Dáil Éireann - Volume 677 - 11 March, 2009
Written Answers. - Nuclear Plants.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore Deputy Eamon Gilmore
Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to bring about the closure of the nuclear waste facility at Sellafield, England; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10139/09]
Deputy John Gormley Deputy John Gormley
Deputy John Gormley: Ireland has long been concerned about the risk to this country posed by the large and complex nuclear reprocessing site at Sellafield. The policies and actions of this Government continue to reflect the firm position that Sellafield’s continued operation poses risks of real and legitimate concern to Ireland and that it should be decommissioned and closed in a safe and orderly manner. Since coming into office I have expressed this position at all appropriate opportunities and our concerns in relation to the site have been consistently articulated to the UK Government at political, diplomatic and official levels.
For some years now, the UK and Ireland have developed a process for regular high level exchanges on the matter of Sellafield and its related facilities. These exchanges have embedded the ‘package’ of measures for enhanced co-operation and information exchanges announced by my predecessor in December 2004.
The background to that announcement was that, in 2001, in response to the then imminent commissioning of the MOX fuel manufacturing plant at the Sellafield site, Ireland instituted legal proceedings against the UK under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Pending the hearing of the case, Ireland applied for and received a Provisional Measures Order from the Arbitral Tribunal, which ordered a review by Ireland and the UK of the mechanisms for inter-governmental notification and co-operation. Arising from this, a series of co-operative measures was developed, agreed and put in place.
These measures are valuable from Ireland’s viewpoint and are working well. They represent real and considerable added value to the necessarily co-operative relationship between Ireland and the UK. The measures include the Bi-Lateral Agreement on Early Notification of a  Nuclear Incident; direct access to the UK Radiation Monitoring System (RIMNET); access for the Garda Síochána to Sellafield, significantly improved information exchanges; co-operation on emergency planning with the UK; improved and ongoing contacts at regulator and official level on nuclear issues; and access for the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to Sellafield and other facilities.
This latter measure has resulted in two visits by the RPII to sites in the UK, one to Sellafield and one to the Wylfa Nuclear Power Plant in North Wales. The Reports of the Institute on these visits are available on the RPII website, www.rpii.ie. These visits are extremely useful to Ireland. They enhance the co-operation between technical experts in both countries and provide us with a high level of knowledge of the operation of these UK nuclear facilities which would not otherwise be readily available.
I consider that the co-operation measures are being utilised fully by Ireland and, with the co-operation of the UK, the level of exchange is deepening with each meeting. These all provide objective evidence of real improvements in the quality of the information available to Ireland and enhancement of our understanding of the site. In this way, we are better able to assess the full nature of the risk posed, and ensure that we are well placed to deal with such risk, however remote.
I emphasize, however, that the Government is continuing and will continue to pursue all political, diplomatic and, where necessary and appropriate, legal options to secure the safe and orderly decommissioning of the Sellafield facility. It is my view that the ongoing discussions between the two administrations in relation to Sellafield have resulted in increased recognition by the UK Government of the depth and seriousness of Ireland’s concerns about Sellafield and of the priority that is rightly accorded to the issue by the Irish Government.
Ireland has supported and will continue to support efforts by the European Commission to develop an increased role for itself in the area of safety within the European Nuclear Industry. In this regard, I welcomed the proposal for a Nuclear Safety Directive from the European Commission in November 2008. In Ireland’s view, the transboundary risks and impacts arising from nuclear installations should be fully reflected in the instruments, structures and institutions of the EU.
Dáil Éireann 677 Written Answers. Nuclear Plants.