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Volume 227: debated on Monday 28 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he received the inspector's report following public consultation on the draft revised authorisations for the Sellafield site; and if he will make a statement.

I received the inspectorates' report on 21 May. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and I have been giving careful consideration to the report.The inspectorates, in discharging their responsibilities under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960, have addressed in their report the issues raised during the consultation process which relate to the environmental acceptability of radioactive discharges from the Sellafield site. Having carefully considered all the comments made by the respondents to this consultation, the inspectorates have concluded that no points of substance have been raised that should cause them to reconsider the terms of the draft authorisations, save for some minor amendments/corrections. In their judgment, the provisions of the draft authorisations would effectively protect human health, the safety of the food chain, and the environment generally.However a substantial number of the responses raised questions as to the justification for the operation of the thermal oxide reprocessing plant—THORP—and therefore whether that part of the site's total discharges arising from this plant should be allowed. Other respondents expressed their support for THORP. These questions were not dealt with by the inspectorates because of the wider issues raised.In these circumstances, my right hon. Friend and I propose that there should be a further round of consultation in which these questions can be considered. My officials are writing to British Nuclear Fuels plc seeking further information. I shall make their reply available for public comment, together with other material. My right hon. Friend and I do not propose to take final decisions on the exercise of our functions under the Act until after this further consultation.