Dáil Éireann - Volume 616 - 08 March, 2006

Written Answers. - Nuclear Plants.

  32. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action the European Commission has taken over THORP and the B30 storage pond following his meeting with Andris Piebalgs and Franco Frattini on 31 January 2006; and the extent to which the Commission was misled over the THORP Plant. [9412/06]

  112. Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the recent formal warning issued by the European Commission to British Nuclear Group Sellafield, formerly known as BNFL, that its accounting and reporting procedures in place at Sellafield do not meet EURATOM standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9480/06]

  Mr. Roche: I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 112 together.

On 31 January, I met with the EU Commissioner for Energy with responsibility for nuclear energy and protection, Andris Piebalgs, to impress upon the European Commission the strength of Irish Government concerns in relation to the continued operation of the Sellafield nuclear plant. In support of Irish Government concerns, I again drew the attention of the Commissioner to the leak at the THORP plant in 2005, and to the B30 storage pond which is the subject of a directive issued by the Commission to the UK. In response the Commission indicated [652] it had been misled in regard to the THORP plant but did not elaborate further on the issue. The Commission also indicated further legal action was expected in relation to the B30 pond but I am not aware of any further developments to date.

On 15 February 2006 the EU Commission issued a warning to the operators of Sellafield, British Nuclear Group Sellafield Limited, BNG SL, under Article 83(1)(a) of the EURATOM Treaty. That decision resulted from a series of inspections carried out by Commission inspectors at the Sellafield plant. The Commission also requested BNG SL to implement the appropriate remedies within the periods specified in the decision and to ensure the adequate quality of its systems for accounting for nuclear material. I believe this warning was linked to the THORP incident arising out of safeguards issues raised by the leak of the radioactive material.

The purpose of my meeting with Commissioner Piebalgs was to articulate clearly the Irish Government’s view that we expect the Commission to exercise its competence robustly in respect of the continued operations at Sellafield, a situation we believe has not been the case heretofore. In that context, I believe the Commission’s recent actions are a step forward and, in that these actions signal a more proactive approach by the Commission to the serious issues raised by me in relation to Sellafield, I certainly welcome them.