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Nuclear Installations (Health And Safety)

Volume 977: debated on Tuesday 29 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what body or organisation is responsible for (a) formulating and (b) controlling health and safety standards for workers in establishments involving nuclear energy; what body is responsible for making recommendations about the permissible level of radiation; and on what basis these recommendations are arrived at.

Responsibility for determining, enforcing and developing nuclear health and safety standards for workers in the United Kingdom rests with the Health and Safety Commission and its executive. International recommendations for the protection from manmade radiation are made by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). This is a group of scientists chosen every four years by the International Congress of Radiology on the basis of their individual scientific reputation and independence. The ICRP recommendations are expressions of opinion based on deduction from scientific fact. It is United Kingdom policy to remain well within their limits and for this purpose the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), which has a statutory responsibility to advise those concerned with radiological protection, provides an authoritative point of reference.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will initiate a survey of the safety standards over the whole field of nuclear energy.

The Health and Safety Commision and its executive are responsible for determining and developing nuclear health and safety standards for the nuclear industry. The UKAEA is required to meet equivalent standards at its establishments. The National Radiological Protection Board provides advice to the executive on radiological protection standards. I am advised that all these standards are kept under continuing review.I am satisfied with these arrangements.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the permissible level of radiation for the average person in any one year; and what guidance he issues to those involved in the field of nuclear energy on this matter.

Radiation dose limits in the United Kingdom are set by reference to the recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The two main radiation dose limits are: for radiation workers 5 rems in a year; and for members of the public 0·5 rems in any one year, with the further limitation that an individual should not receive on average during his lifetime a dose greater than 0·1 rem per year.These levels are endorsed in this country by the National Radiological Protection Board, a statutory body set up to provide on, and carry out research into, radiological protection matters.The industrial radiation levels are reflected in the conditions attached to nuclear site licences issued by the Health and Safety Executive. Doses received by members of the public are not individually measured. Population exposure is monitored by statistical methods designed to determine the possible exposure of critical groups—that is groups considered to be most liable to exposure to radiation—within the general population.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what body is responsible for assessing compensation for workers suffering from the effects of radiation; and what opportunities are provided for workers or their families to appeal against such assessments.

When an employee claims compensation against his employer the amount of the financial settlement is a matter for negotiation between the parties. In the absence of an agreed settlement compensation can be determined in the courts on the same basis as other personal injury claims, but where the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 applies it is not necessary for the claimant to establish negligence on the part of the employer. In addition, employees who consider that they are suffering from the effects of radiation arising out of their employment may claim industrial injuries benefits for prescribed disease No. 25. As with all claims for diseases prescribed under the Social Security Act 1975, such claims are determined by the lay and medical independent statutory authorities, namely local insurance officers, local tribunals, medical boards, medical appeal tribunals, and the National Insurance Commissioners, as appropriate. Social Security Act arrangements are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy in how many establishments, and on how many occasions, the permitted level of radiation was exceeded in each year from 1970; and how many workers were involved in each case.

I have been asked to reply to the hon. Member and shall do so as soon as possible.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what body or organisation is responsible for (a) pollution and (b) waste control in establishments involv- ing nuclear energy; and if he is satisfied that sufficient controls and checking procedures exist.

I have been asked to reply.The Secretary of State for the Environment is responsible, together with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, for radioactive waste management policy. One of the main elements of this responsibility is to ensure that the handling, treatment and disposal of wastes is carried out with due regard to environmental considerations. Authorisations for the disposal of radioactive waste from UKAEA and licensed nuclear sites in England are issued under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 jointly by the Secretary of State for the Environment and by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. In Scotland and Wales these authorisations are the sole responsibility of the relevant Secretary of State. The Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Wales, and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, are assisted in the administration of the Act by the Radiochemical Inspectorate, the Fisheries Radiobiological Laboratory and the MAFF Food Sciences Division which have inspection, enforcement and advisory functions in respect of all radioactive waste discharges and disposals. The Secretary of State for Scotland is similarly assisted by Her Majesty's Industrial Pollution Inspectorate. I am satisfied that these controls and regulatory procedures are adequate.