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Radioactive Materials: Theft

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether any radioactive materials have been stolen or lost in the United Kingdom since 1993. (172975)

I have been asked to reply.

Across the UK, the largest amounts of radioactive materials are handled on civil nuclear sites overseen by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Smaller amounts of radioactive materials, handled at universities and hospitals for example, are regulated individually by the UK environment agencies.

Since 1993, the HSE has not recorded any thefts or losses of radioactive material in the UK.

Since 1999, the Environment Agency has recorded no thefts of radioactive materials regulated under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 in England or Wales. From premises that the Environment Agency regulates in England, there were nine cases involving losses of radioactive sources. These have included losses of clinical ‘marker’ substances and small sealed sources used in manufacturing processes. In each case the Environment Agency took enforcement action. There are no recorded cases involving a loss in Wales.

Small numbers of thefts and losses have occurred while radioactive materials have been transported in the UK and the Department for Transport (DFT) investigates such events and takes regulatory action as appropriate. Information is available in reports published by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) on behalf of DFT. All HPA reports have been placed in the House of Commons Library and copies of these reports since 2001 are available on the DFT website.

The Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) use of radioactive materials is covered by the ionising radiations regulations that require the reporting of losses and thefts. Since 1993, the MOD has reported various lost items to the civil authorities, mainly low activity gaseous tritium light devices (compasses, sights, route markers or illumination devices) lost on exercise. There has also been one known theft of such devices.