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Volume 268: debated on Wednesday 20 December 1995

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade what investigations have been conducted in response to Dounreay management's failure to disclose a 1977 explosion in an intermediate-level waste shaft to the COMARE committee. [7289]

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the then Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to a question from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) on 21 June 1995, Official Report, column 316.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will provide details of (a) maintenance procedures at Dounreay and (b) any fires or other accidents occurring during maintenance procedures at Dounreay. [7293]

Maintenance procedures at Dounreay are matters for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. Details of all incidents at Dounreay are contained in site newsletters, copies of which are available in the Library of the House.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to change the requirement that Dounreay workers maintain secrecy regarding materials deposited in a sealed-up intermediate-level waste disposal shaft. [7292]

An inventory of the intermediate level waste disposal shaft at Dounreay was published in the 1988 report of R. M. Consultants Ltd. which was placed in the Library of the House. The inventory has since been updated and was made available at the Dounreay local liaison committee meeting on 28 November 1995.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the average number of fuel rods reprocessed at Dounreay for each year between 1965 and 1990. [7252]

During the period 1965 to 1990, UKAEA reprocessed 9,027 material test reactor fuel elements at Dounreay. The reprocessing plant has not always operated continuously in the past but in discrete campaigns; it would be misleading therefore to quote an annual average. However, for eight of the years in this period the plant reprocessed more than 600 elements in each year. These figures do not include the reprocessing of oxide fuel from the prototype fast reactor.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to privatise the Dounreay facility. [7378]

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what types of public consultation have been undertaken with the Scottish or United Kingdom public to determine the acceptability of processing foreign waste at Dounreay. [7255]

Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at Dounreay is an established industrial process which has been undertaken at Dounreay for more than 30 years. It is carried out subject to nuclear installations inspectorate and Her Majesty's industrial pollution inspectorate regulation. There has been no reason to engage in public consultation about the continuation of such a well-established and well-regulated activity.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what is the minimum cooling period for reprocessing fuel rods enforced by the management of Dounreay; [7277](2) what is the estimated time from shipment of spent nuclear fuel from a foreign country to Dounreay with the return of uranium per the return to sender clause; [7284](3) what steps have been taken to reduce the fire risk at the Dounreay facility especially during maintenance operations; [7279](4) what disposal methods are used to deal with the nitric acid used to wash out contaminated areas of the Dounreay facility prior to maintenance; [7257](5) what process is in place for analysing alpha contamination at Dounreay; [7260](6) what percentage of low-level waste produced as a result of re-processing at Dounreay ends up in the low-level waste dump site at Dounreay; [7285](7) what further checks were made on containment of radiation immediately after the windows and concrete shielding were replaced in the Dounreay facility's D1206 caves; [7280]

(8) what is the current status of the dissolver tank at Dounreay that experienced an incident eight years ago resulting in high levels of neutron radiation in the area; [7258]

(9) what actions were taken at Dounreay to remedy or replace the leaking transportation flasks responsible for contaminating the area around the Caithness complex; [7377]

(10) what action has been taken over the last 10 years to resolve the problems of inadequate containment of radiation in the Dounreay facility's D1206 caves where irradiated fuel rods are dissected; [7379]

(11) what long-term contingency plans there are for the Dounreay intermediate level waste shaft in the event of a breach in the next 100 years. [7290]

These are operational matters for UKAEA. I have asked the chairman to write to the hon. Member.