Stanley seeks debate on secret Sellafield report
Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD, has today challenged Minster Hogan to explain, why a report into Sellafield, that has cost the public €4.8m, is being kept secret.
Deputy Stanley said;
“A report into the threat from Sellafield was commissioned in 2007 as part of an agreement between the British and Irish governments. The report cost €4.8m. Britain will not be making any contribution to the cost. The bill will be covered by the Irish taxpayer, yet the contents of this report are being kept secret from the very people who have paid for it.
“Work on the report commenced in 2008 and an edited executive summary was released in November this year. The report concludes that incidents at the Sellafield site resulting in the release of radioactive material would result in ‘no observable health effects in Ireland’. This totally flies in the face of an earlier damning report from the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO).
“The NAO report says that the cost of decommissioning the plant has spiralled out of control, and some facilities used to store waste have deteriorated. The NAO report states that the treatment facilities and some of the older storage tanks on site “deteriorated so much that their contents pose significant risks to people and the environment.
“Minister Hogan must explain how these two reports are compatible.
“I have written to the Ceann Comhairle today seeking a debate on this report tomorrow and I will be demanding reassurances from Minister Hogan that the government remain committed to seeking the immediate closure of Sellafield.”
Below are a number of Parliamentary Questions on the matter.
Question Nos . 425 , 426 and 427
• To the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:
• To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost in producing the report Risks to Ireland from Incidents at the Sellafield Site and if the British Government covered any of this cost.
• To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the terms of reference for those who drafted the report Risks to Ireland from Incidents at the Sellafield Site.
• To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Government remain opposed to the Sellafield plant and other installations in the UK which pose a risk to our people.
- Brian Stanley.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 4th December, 2012.
Ref No s : 54577/12 , 54578/12 and 54579/12
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)
I propose to take Questions Nos. 425 , 426 and 427 together.
In 2008, a joint confidential technical information exchange project relating to Sellafield and its associated facilities was set up by the Irish and British Governments. The shared objective of the project was to provide an established co-operative process for sharing information and addressing any technical issues arising. This represented a significant advance in addressing Ireland’s longstanding concerns about Sellafield.
The Government engaged a team of independent technical experts that included nuclear physicists, chemists and engineers. The expert team brought specialist knowledge and expertise which is not readily available within the Irish Government system due to the absence of a nuclear power generation or reprocessing industry here. The function of the team was to conduct a comprehensive, objective and scientific assessment of the technical information on Sellafield and its associated facilities made available from the intergovernmental exchange project. The key output is a Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) report of the risks to Ireland and Irish interests from incidents at the Sellafield nuclear site.
The team paid a number of site visits to Sellafield, examined various facilities, accessed extensive documentation, and conducted a number of technical exchanges with operators at the site and with UK regulators which enabled the team to develop reliable, accurate, risk models and calculations. The expert team used additional sources of information such as their own knowledge of operating history and data from similar nuclear facilities around the world to make expert judgments.
On completion of the project, the team produced a 1,000 page main report. A public summary document was released as the team recommended that the full report should not be published because to have such a substantial volume of security-sensitive information in the public domain would serve to increase the risks posed by Sellafield to both the UK and to Ireland. This 4 year project cost €4.8m gross, or €4.0m net of VAT. As the team’s brief was explicitly to assess the risks posed to Ireland from Sellafield, the UK did not meet any of these costs, though the UK would have incurred its own costs through, for example, facilitating the information exchange and hosting site visits.
My Department and others will now study the information in the report in detail and use it in the context of Government policies relating to Sellafield and the nuclear sector more broadly. Ireland must continue to be vigilant in relation to Sellafield as work to decommission the site over the lifetime of the “Sellafield Plan” continues. It is critical from an Irish perspective that the UK decommissioning of the site is undertaken safely and in accordance with best international practice.
The finalisation of this report marks the improved information sharing process that has developed between the Irish and UK Governments since 2008. Particularly given our status as a non-nuclear country, Ireland looks forward to continued timely sharing of key information with the UK authorities in the future on nuclear matters, including Sellafield and the UK nuclear new-build programme.