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Shipping: Radioactive Materials

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 17 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the required response time is in the event of an (a) incident and (b) terrorist attack involving a transport ship carrying plutonium-based MOX fuel in European Union waters. (137554)

Ships carrying MOX fuel are required to have a shipboard emergency plan which would be activated immediately in the event that an incident occurred. Emergency support is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

An immediate response to a terrorist attack would be provided by the onboard escort team, comprising authorised firearms officers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether alcohol consumption is permitted on the vessels used by PNTL and NDA to transport plutonium-based MOX fuels from Sellafield to (a) other EU Members States and (b) Japan. (137556)

All crew members on board PNTL and NDA vessels are limited, regardless of destination, to an alcohol level of half the UK legal limit for driving. This is more restrictive than the legal limits for alcohol for professional mariners.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what account is taken of whether a ship in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority nuclear transport fleet possesses the best available technology when decisions are being taken on which ship will undertake shipments of MOX plutonium-based nuclear fuel in European Union waters. (137658)

Ships used to transport MOX fuel are classified as INF class 2 or 3. These ships are designed and built to the highest standards and are certified according to national and international agreements.

The choice of particular ship is a matter for the operator.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the merits of requiring an escort for transport ships used to transport plutonium-based MOX fuel in European Union waters. (137659)

All shipments of MOX fuel in UK flagged vessels are escorted by members of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary’s (CNC) Marine Escort Group, comprising authorised firearms officers who have been trained to a high standard by the Royal Navy.

Ships flagged to other nations may also transport MOX fuel. Approval of arrangements for such movements are the responsibility of that State’s competent authorities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what safety tests have been conducted on the type B flasks used for carrying plutonium-based MOX fuel on their ability to withstand explosions. (137660)

Packages for the transport of radioactive material must meet the stringent standards developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Type B packages for the transport of large quantities of radioactive material must undergo tests to demonstrate their ability to survive a severe impact followed by a severe fire.