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Radioactive Waste

Volume 25: debated on Friday 18 June 1982

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he is satisfied that there is adequate monitoring of the effects of dumping radioactive waste in the sea;(2) what investigations have been carried out into the effects of dumping radioactive waste in the sea and the monitoring of this activity; if he will publish these; and if he will make a statement.

Nuclear site operators are required to carry out environmental monitoring as a condition of the discharge authorisations issued under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960. My Department's fisheries radiobiological laboratory undertakes additional check monitoring, the results of which are published in annual reports entitled "Radioactivity In Surface And Coastal Waters of the British Isles". Copies of these reports are in the Library of the House. I am satisfied that these monitoring arrangements are generally adequate. Some difficulties have been experienced in recruiting staff to fill the vacancies in the laboratory that arise from time to time. This has resulted in some tasks, including the actual publication of the reports, falling behind schedule. However, I place considerable importance on the maintenance of high standards in this area and every effort is being made to bring the laboratory up to full strength.As the most recent monitoring report explains, routine environmental monitoring does not provide an effective means of assessing the effects of dumping solid radioactive waste in the Atlantic and a system of modelling is used. There is a continuing programme of national and international research into the potential effects of such dumping operations and the Nuclear Energy Agency publishes regular reviews of the suitability of the Atlantic dumping site. Information on the research carried out by my Department is also published as the opportunity arises, mainly through scientific symposia and in specialist journals. These investigations indicate that the effects of current dumping operations are negligible.