To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on An Taisce’s legal challenge to a nuclear plant being built on the Bristol Channel in the UK; if his Department has had any consultation with the UK government in relation to this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)
While not having a nuclear power industry, it is Ireland’s position that, where a State chooses to develop a nuclear power industry, this should be done in accordance with the highest international standards with respect to safety and environmental protection. Ireland’s priority is the safety of the Irish people and the protection of our environment, including the shared marine environment of the Irish Sea.
The UK published its draft Energy National Policy Statement in November 2009, which signalled its intention to construct ten new nuclear power stations at sites judged as potentially suitable. This was subsequently revised in October 2010 when the number of planned stations was reduced to eight, following the dropping of two sites originally proposed for Cumbria, near the existing Sellafield facility.
Since the original announcement in 2009, Ireland has written twice at Ministerial level to the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change outlining concerns about potential environmental impacts in Ireland and in the Irish Sea. The key issues of concern include the assessments by the UK of effects on the environment, management of radioactive waste, and the rationale underpinning the proposed justification decision for new nuclear facilities. This engagement at Ministerial level has been supported and informed by a continuing dialogue at official level where Irish officials engage, and raise concerns where appropriate, with UK counterparts directly engaged in the development and implementation of the plans.
I note the legal proceedings being brought by An Taisce in relation to Hinkley Point and I respect the rights of An Taisce, as an independent body, to take such a course of action. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII), in accordance with its statutory advisory role to the Government, was requested by my Department to complete an assessment of the potential radiological impacts on Ireland from the programme of new nuclear power plants in the UK, including the plant at Hinkley Point. This assessment will consider both routine operations and a range of postulated accident scenarios at the plants. I understand that the Report will be completed imminently, and will be made publicly available. I am advised that the RPII will then provide briefings for interested parties. I will consider the position having read the RPII report.
Finally, under the EURATOM Treaty the UK was required to satisfy the European Commission that the development at Hinkley Point would not be likely to result in radioactive contamination of the water, soil or airspace of another Member State. In that context, a Commission opinion, issued in February 2012, considered that under normal operating conditions, the discharges of liquid and gaseous radioactive effluents are not likely to cause an exposure of the population in another Member State that is significant from the point of view of health.