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Nuclear Incidents

Volume 115: debated on Thursday 30 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about the arrangements for reporting nuclear incidents; and whether all such incidents can be published.

During a debate on nuclear matters on 13 May last year, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), said that the Government would consider the existing reporting arrangements to see whether changes were desirable.

I am now able to announce new procedures which will extend the present arrangements, and will provide for the publication by the nuclear industry of reports of all occurrences, however minor.

Arrangements hitherto have required all incidents having significance, or potential significance, for the health and safety of the work force or the general public which are reported to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to be reported promptly to interested Departments and their Ministers. All such reports are published quarterly by the Health and Safety Executive. These formal reporting arrangements were explained to the House by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore) on 26 July 1982. They are now being broadened, among other things, to require confirmed or expected breaches of discharge authorisations issued under the Radioactive Substances Act 1969 to be included in the formal reporting arrangements and to be reported directly to interested Departments and their Ministers. I am placing a note on the revised reporting criteria in the Library of the House.

Nuclear operators are required to record in a site log or register all incidents, whether formally reportable or not, which occur at nuclear sites. Many such occurrences are already reported to Departments and are the subject of public statements. In future, nuclear operators will publish details of all such occurrences which are recorded in site logs, generally in weekly or fortnightly site newsletters. These local newsletters will be circulated to members of local liaison committees, to local Members of Parliament, to local news media and to interested Departments. Arrangements will also be made for copies to be placed in the Library of the House.

These arrangements will ensure that the fullest possible information is made available at all times to the House and to the public about occurrences, however insignificant, at nuclear sites.