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Radioactive Waste

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 5 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if his Department is currently assessing the British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. approved design for the transportation of vitrified high-level waste; if compliance with this design is required for transportation by road, rail and ship; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he has any plans to allow the transportation of vitrified high-level radioactive waste flasks (i) through the channel tunnel and (ii) overland by rail from Sellafield to shipping ports including Dover; and if he will make a statement;(3) if it is his policy to agree in advance the overland and sea routes of future exports of vitrified high-level radioactive waste flasks.

Shipments of vitrified high-level waste by any mode of transport will be required to be carried in containers which have been certified by my Department as fully complying with stringent and national and international safety regulations which require safety to be built into the design. Safety does not depend on the choice of route used which is a matter for the carrier.I understand that a package design is currently under development by British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) but that it may be some months before this design is submitted to the Department for assessment and subsequent approval.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps have been taken by the marine directorate to satisfy itself that the type of ship used by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd. to transport vitrified high-level radioactive waste is appropriate to that function; and if he will make a statement.

The ships used by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd. are dedicated to the transport of nuclear materials. They operate under schemes of work approved by the Department, which ensure that crew members benefit from national and international radiation protection standards.The Department has not yet received an application from British Nuclear Fuels plc for the transport of vitrified waste on these ships. Their suitability for carrying this material will be assessed by the marine directorate as part of the Department's approval and certification process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport under what circumstances radioactive material is kept overnight in parked vehicles at Swynnerton, Stoke-on-Trent; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 24 May 1990]: I have been asked to reply.I assume the hon. Gentleman is referring to military vehicles parked at the Army training area at Swynnerton, Staffordshire. As he will appreciate, however, it is the longstanding policy of this and previous Governments neither to confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear materials at particular military locations, or to comment on their methods of transport.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) whether shipments of plutonium nitrate from Dounreay to Workington will cease following the recent decision to abandon fast breeder reactor research at Dounreay; and if he will make a statement;(2) what type of irradiated fuel flask is used for the shipment of plutonium nitrate from Dounreay to Workington; and if he will make a statement;(3) when was the first shipment of plutonium nitrate from Dounreay to Workington.

Shipments of plutonium nitrate are carried in containers to design No. 1763 and have been certified by my Department as fully complying with stringent international safety regulations. The first such shipment took place in June 1981.The decision as to whether such shipments will continue is a matter for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the role of the marine directorate in respect of the transportation of radioactive waste.

The marine directorate enforces the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods) Regulations 1981, as amended, under which the transport of radioactive waste by ships is regulated. The carriage requirements follow the international maritime dangerous goods code published by the International Maritime Organisation which in turn incorporates recommendations issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The radioactive materials transport division represents the Department in this agency.