Private Members’ Business
The Business Committee has agreed to allow up to one and a half hours for this debate. The proposer of the motion will have 10 minutes to propose and 10 minutes for the winding-up speech. All other Members will have five minutes. Two amendments have been received and have been published on the Marshalled List. Members who move the amendments will have 10 minutes to propose and five minutes for their winding-up speeches.
Daithí McKay (Sinn Féin)
I beg to move:
That this Assembly expresses concern at the findings of the report on the impact of the Windscale Piles accident at the Sellafield nuclear plant and the implications that this has for the health and well-being of people living on these islands and in Europe; and calls upon the Government to discontinue all operations at the Sellafield nuclear plant.
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Sinn Féin has brought the motion to the Assembly, not only out of concern for the public health of people who live on the east coast in places such as Antrim, Down and Louth but also because it is concerned at the threat that Sellafield poses to the well-being of people who live throughout Ireland, as well as in Britain and western Europe. Sinn Féin will not be supporting either amendment.
The DUP amendment supports nuclear power, which directly contradicts the motion, and the SDLP amendment adds nothing substantive to Sinn Féin’s motion. A motion to the same effect has been passed in the Dáil. Today, the Assembly has an opportunity to send a clear message to the British Government that all the major political institutions on this island want the nuclear plant at Sellafield to be shut down.
Fifty years ago, there was radioactive fallout from a major accident at the Windscale nuclear reactor. New research shows that the incident generated twice as much radioactive material and caused dozens more cancers than was previously thought. At the time, the Windscale fire was the world’s biggest nuclear disaster. The methods used to extinguish the fire could have caused an explosion, but, fortunately, they did not.
Tom Tuohy, who was the deputy general manager on the site, led the team that had to contend with a nightmare that no one at that time had thought possible. He said:
“Mankind had never faced a situation like this”.
However, the Windscale accident was not a one-off. Just two years ago at Sellafield, there was a leakage of highly radioactive nuclear fuel. Approximately 20 tons of uranium and plutonium — enough to make 20 nuclear weapons — dissolved and escaped through a cracked pipe. Nordic parliamentarians recently met the owners of Sellafield and told them that safety procedures at the nuclear plant needed to be tightened up. The British authorities have granted permission to resume reprocessing of nuclear waste at the THORP, which was closed several years ago because of a radioactive leak. The controversial THORP has aroused strong feelings in Nordic and Irish politicians. Ministers with responsibility for the environment from Norway, the Twenty-six Counties, Iceland and Austria have demanded that it not be reopened.
A devastating official inquiry recently found that safety alarms had been routinely ignored, operating instructions flouted and safety equipment left broken at the controversial plant. The inquiry report, one of the most damming ever of a British nuclear installation, condemned the Cumbrian complex for its “alarm-tolerant culture”. It also identified:
“long-standing failings in some key safety arrangements”
“failure to learn from previous events”.
The accident at the THORP was disclosed by ‘The Independent on Sunday’ in 2005 and was the focus of the investigation. Some 83,000 litres of highly radioactive liquid leaked at the plant for at least eight months before the spill was detected.
The daughter of a man who died at the Sellafield reprocessing plant in the 1960s condemned the secretive nature of the British nuclear industry. In 1962, Jean McSorley’s father died from a heart attack at the nuclear plant at the age of 39, and his body was taken for an autopsy without his family’s consent. The body parts of 65 other workers who died at the plant between 1962 and 1991 appear to have been secretly examined for evidence of radiation. Ms McSorley said:
“Openness and transparency and the nuclear industry are mutually exclusive. They are always looking for reasons not to be fully open with the public.”
Indeed, the nuclear industry has never been open with the public.
Sellafield remains a significant threat to people on this island, particularly to those who live in the north-east. Ministers as well as private Members should press the British Government on the issue at every opportunity. Irish people have been living with the consequences of the fire at Sellafield for many years, and there are particularly high rates of cancer and birth defects in County Louth and south Down. Sinn Féin has called on the Irish Government to convene round-table talks on Sellafield. Those invited should include non-governmental organisations, environmentalists, campaign groups and northern European states, particularly Norway, whose representatives have been highly vocal on the issue. Assembly representatives should also be involved in such a process.
An independent group has taken meter readings in the Twenty-six Counties. Recent readings show that the highest levels of nuclear contamination are to be found in areas of County Louth, County Meath and along the north Dublin coast — all are a stone’s throw away from Sellafield. A similar exercise should be carried out in the Six Counties to establish how much nuclear contamination has affected the entire east coast.
Sinn Féin has consistently called for the closure of Sellafield. Reprocessing there must end immediately. It is a discredited plant and remains the most dangerous and unstable nuclear facility in western Europe. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for its immediate closure and calls on the Assembly to back the motion. Go raibh maith agat.
Simon Hamilton (DUP)
I beg to move amendment No 1: Leave out all after first ‘plant’ and insert
‘; notes the improving safety standards within the nuclear power industry; believes that the United Kingdom should have a safe, secure and diverse energy supply that takes account of the need to address the issue of increasing carbon emissions and the need to end dependency on fossil fuels; recognises that nuclear power plays an increasing role in power generation in several EU states; and calls upon the Government to consider carefully a well-regulated nuclear sector, operating to the highest safety standards, as one element of the United Kingdom’s energy supply.’
The general opinion of nuclear power is sometimes clouded by our thoughts or media images of disasters such as Windscale Piles, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and, although they are unrelated, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is undoubtedly concern about what has happened in the nuclear industry in the past, not least in the Windscale Piles accident, which forms part of the original motion. There is warranted concern, especially in the underestimation of the fallout, and in some of the insinuation of cover-up at that time. However, we cannot judge the nuclear industry of the twenty-first century by 1957 standards. Even Chernobyl, which is regularly used as an example in debates of this nature, collapsed when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse and people were barely able to get a loaf of bread in the shops, never mind properly run nuclear power plants.
We should recognise the marked improvement in safety standards in the nuclear industry. Windscale Piles happened when there was little knowledge of reactor physics, and there was a rush to build the facility at that stage. Simon Taylor, a noted academic at Cambridge University, said that if there was any benefit in that accident, it was that it focused minds on safety issues. A safe, secure and varied energy supply will surely be our common objective, and nuclear power can help to achieve those aims.
Great strides have been made in other countries, such as South Africa and China, who are pioneering the development of well-recognised, safer, smaller, pebble-bed reactors.
The security of supply is an important aspect, as it is essential. We are sourcing our oil from volatile regions around the world, such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Europe gets its natural gas from countries such as Russia. We all remember the recent example where Russia literally turned off the taps to the supply in the Ukraine and left the country with nowhere to go. We must avoid that sort of situation. Nuclear energy can perhaps play a part in solving that problem.
A varied energy supply is also important. We need less fossil fuel and more renewable energy, whether that be wind, wave or biomass. Nuclear energy must also play a part.
Another benefit of exploring the possibility of expanding nuclear power is that it creates lower carbon emissions and contains almost no carbon dioxide. Such an expansion would assist the United Kingdom in reaching its targets and in combating climate change. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is an essential element of any energy strategy. We are currently sourcing fossil fuels from volatile regions round the world, but that is a dangerous policy in the longer term. Fossil fuels are a finite resource, and they will run out at some point. Various targets suggest that, even in this century, some of those sources may dry up and disappear. There is the spin off that if we were to reduce fossil fuels, we would reduce pollution. No notable sulphur dioxides, nitrogen dioxides or other particulates are present in nuclear fuel.
It would be unwise in a debate on nuclear power not to pay attention to what other EU states are doing. We have heard mention of attitudes in other countries, but I do not think that that typifies what is going on among our near neighbours in Europe. France generates 78% of its electricity from nuclear sources, and that figure is set to rise. Finland started a nuclear power renaissance in 2002, and other countries in Europe, such as Lithuania, are also exploring that option. There are 300 nuclear reactors in over 30 countries across the world. The amendment in my name and in the name of David Simpson accepts the reality of the situation.
Nuclear power is already being used to produce 20% of the UK’s energy. I imagine that the proposers of the motion and the SDLP amendment want to do away with nuclear energy altogether. If we got rid of Sellafield, what would we replace it with? To get rid of one fifth of the UK’s energy overnight has consequences, not least in the cost of, and dependence on, other sources of energy, some of which are finite or dangerous to the environment.
Although there are alternatives, some of which I have already mentioned, the Northern Ireland grid is currently unable to cope with any further input from renewable sources. Expansion into that sphere is not without its problems. Furthermore, the fact that there is considerable opposition in Northern Ireland and elsewhere to some forms of renewable energy, such as wind or wave power, is sometimes ignored when nuclear power is discussed. Whether it is because someone’s view is obscured, or because birds or seals are affected, some people are opposed to the introduction of those sources of energy. That is a problem that we have to face.
Nuclear power is already used in our energy system, through the Moyle interconnector, and will also be used in the proposed interconnector from the Republic of Ireland to Wales. Both interconnectors will be attached to the mainland UK national grid. The lights in this House could conceivably come from a nuclear power station in the future; the reality is that nuclear power is already part of the system: it cannot be ignored or easily done away with.
Public opinion on the issue is beginning to turn because of those realities. The most recent edition of ‘The Economist’ published an Ipsos MORI poll, which showed that public support for nuclear energy has risen over the past six years to a point at which more Britons are in favour of nuclear power than oppose it. That poll is backed up by other support, sometimes from strange sources. The Royal Society has gone on the record in support of nuclear power, as well as some leading environmentalists. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of the Greenpeace movement, is now on record as saying that he regrets his opposition to nuclear power 20 years ago. James Lovelock, a supporter of an organisation named Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, said that:
“We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear - the one safe, available, energy source - now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.”
We must ask some questions in this debate. Is it desirable to have an energy source that is cost-effective, efficient, low in pollution, produces little or no carbon emissions, is not dependent on overseas imports, and is, possibly, infinite? Surely the answer is yes. We must consider the development of a safe, well-regulated nuclear sector and overcome issues of safety, disposal of waste and health.
The proposer of the motion concentrated on health issues in his speech, but, inevitably, there is a counter-argument. In 1991, the National Cancer Institute in the United States announced that a large-scale study that it had carried out of nearly one million cancer deaths in American counties close to nuclear facilities —
Daithí McKay (Sinn Féin)
I thank the Member for giving way. Given the fact that the Member is more comfortable with the security of nuclear plants than I am, would he have any problem supporting the establishment of a nuclear facility in his constituency?
Simon Hamilton (DUP)
Given that it is a reserved matter, there is little point in having any position, which, perhaps, shows the flaws in having a debate at all. It is not a matter that we can give any opinion on. There are no plans to have a nuclear power plant anywhere in Northern Ireland at this stage. We must recognise that there are counter-arguments to the propaganda that has been put about over the years that nuclear energy is all bad, and there is no other argument to be had. Studies, not only in the United States, but in Britain and Ireland, have shown that there are no particular problems related to health in areas in the vicinity of nuclear power plants. Those studies have been ignored, but I accept that concerns exist that must be overcome in an educated debate about the issues, not least the issue of safety, which has been highlighted already.
Anyone who is an avid fan of the American political TV drama ‘The West Wing’ will remember that a politician who ran for president completely ruined his chances by saying that nuclear power was completely safe. I would not say that it is completely safe, but a well-regulated and safe nuclear sector would bring immense benefits for us all.
I beg to move amendment No 2: Leave out all after “Europe” and insert
“, calls upon the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to make public any data, which it may have available in relation to this matter; and further calls upon the Government to discontinue all operations at the Sellafield nuclear plant within an agreed timescale, acceptable to the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
I thank Mr McKay for proposing the motion. I am disappointed that he does not accept my amendment, which makes the motion much more specific.
The amendment comprises two parts. First, it calls on the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to make available any information that it may have in relation to the Windscale disaster in 1957. Secondly, it seeks an agreed timescale for the closure of the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria — formerly Windscale — which has bedevilled relationships between two sovereign Governments — the Irish and the British — for decades. Moreover, the amendment foresees a role for the Assembly in agreeing such a timescale.
Today’s debate is on health-and-safety matters, not on nuclear power — that debate is for another day. In that case, I do not believe that amendment No 1 is relevant to the debate.
It is said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. The political fallout from Windscale has continued for more than 50 years, thanks mainly to good investigative journalism over those years. The recently published academic research by Professors Garland and Wakefield suggests that the radioactive debris spread by the Sellafield fire in October 1957 may have been twice as widespread as was reported at the time. It may also have caused 240 more cancers across Britain and northern Europe than originally estimated.
Of particular concern at the time was the release of the radioactive isotope of iodine, which is taken up and stored in the thyroid gland and often leads to cancer of that organ. I note that there is no specific health data in the Garland and Wakefield research for Ireland, but that there is considerable information for England and Wales.
It has become increasingly clear that for over 50 years, there has been a cover-up at many levels concerning Windscale, and that has been admitted. It was the worst nuclear disaster in the world up to that point, and was at least as bad as the Three Mile Island incident in 1979, although not as catastrophic as Chernobyl. The international nuclear event scale has eight levels, ranging in seriousness from 0 — the least — to 7; Chernobyl was rated at 7 and Windscale was rated at 5.
In 1957, the world was in the grip of the Cold War and Macmillan was Prime Minister. The United States did not trust the British, and Macmillan gave orders to cover up the disaster. I was 10 years old and living in Warrenpoint at the time of Windscale. Belfast is directly across the Irish Sea and about 60 miles from Windscale. Towns such as Warrenpoint, Newry, Dundalk and, of course, Dublin are within a 100-mile radius of Sellafield across the Irish Sea. People remember a very high level of sickness that autumn. That was ascribed to the Asian flu, but some people still wonder if that was really the cause.
Cancers have had a devastating effect in my family in the decades since 1957. Six of my siblings and I have had cancer, and four of them are dead. However, I accept that there may be genetic or other reasons for those cancers.
Sellafield is owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK and it was previously owned by British Nuclear Fuels Limited. It provides reprocessing facilities, not only for the UK but for other countries. It is no exaggeration to say that Sellafield is the nuclear bin for much of the world. It separates the uranium, plutonium and fission products from spent nuclear fuels. The uranium can then be used in the manufacture of new nuclear fuel, and the plutonium can be used in the manufacture of mixed-oxide fuel.
In 1957, at Windscale, a fire in pile 1 destroyed its graphite core and radioactive material was released into the atmosphere. It beggars belief that the UK Atomic Energy Authority only commenced plans in the 1990s to clean up pile 1. Even now, that job is unfinished and there is no timetable for its completion.
Since 1957, Sellafield has had well-documented appalling safety record. There have been hundreds of safety breaches, including the falsification of data, the release of radioactive substances into the environment, and the contamination of workers and equipment. Consequently, it has been necessary to classify 60% of the buildings on the site as nuclear waste. Every day, the Sellafield reprocessing plants discharge 8 million litres of nuclear waste into the sea — the Irish Sea is the most radioactive in the world. Nuclear waste remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years.
Ireland has been contaminated by radioactive material from Sellafield. On the east coast, measurable amounts of plutonium can be found in seaweed. Most of that is from discharges over the years from Sellafield. Given that THORP and the MOX plant are operational, discharges will increase, not only into the sea, but in gases that are discharged into the air as a result of the burning of radioactive materials. Among other radioactive isotopes, there is more than half a tonne of plutonium in the silt of the Irish Sea. Traces turn up in fish catches and in seaweed off the Irish coast.
Following the events of 9/11, there is also a risk that terrorists could target somewhere such as Sellafield for bombing, releasing energy and toxins. The vulnerability of Sellafield and other nuclear plants is increased by the transportation of radioactive materials on land, air and sea. An attack or a hijacking could net enough material to make a crude nuclear bomb.
After 50 years, I appreciate that medical statistics that might be relevant to the situation may not be available; however, I ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to search his Department’s archives and to place in the public domain any relevant information — particularly data on leukaemia, lymphoma and stillbirths.
Amendment No 2 calls for the United Kingdom Government:
“to discontinue all operations at the Sellafield nuclear plant within an agreed timescale, acceptable to the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
I pay tribute to the constancy and consistency of my SDLP colleagues in South Down — Eddie McGrady, Margaret Ritchie and P J Bradley — who have campaigned against Sellafield for decades, as well as the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, with whose members I have visited Sellafield.
All shades of political opinion in the Republic, and many in Northern Ireland, are opposed to the continued operation of Sellafield. The majority of the population on the island of Ireland is concentrated on the east coast, with the two major conurbations — Belfast and Dublin — accounting for approximately half that population. Any big disaster would have a catastrophic impact on the island of Ireland, and, indeed, on a large part of Britain, which would lead to death and material destruction. Sellafield is a risk with which we should not have to live.
The Irish Government have repeatedly complained to the United Kingdom Government, and it is the policy of all parties in the Dáil that Sellafield should close. Recently, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and, significantly, an Garda Síochána have been permitted access to the Sellafield site. One could ask why the police should be allowed access.
The Norwegian Government have also demanded that the United Kingdom Government close Sellafield, even though Norway is many hundreds more miles than Ireland away from it. They are particularly concerned about the potential effect on their fish stocks. Thanks to the institutions that were set up as a result of the Good Friday Agreement, there has never been greater democratic accountability for all the people of Ireland. We now have representative institutions, although we await the meeting of the British-Irish Council, at which Assembly parties will be represented. I hope that Members can build the widest possible cross-party consensus, and use our democratic clout, the EU institutions and the British and Irish Governments in order to secure a firm timetable for the closure of the disaster that has been Sellafield.
Samuel Gardiner (UUP)
As Ulster Unionist environment spokesperson, I have a natural disposition to support environmentally friendly suggestions. As a resolute human being and a public representative, I also have a duty to react sensibly to certain situations of public concern. I am a committed environmentalist, but, like many environmentalists, I am aware that some people spoil our credibility by citing dubious evidence and making outlandish claims. That does not help the environmental cause; rather it brings it into disrepute.
The incident referred to in the motion occurred in 1957 — that was 50 years ago. Surely no one in the Assembly is seriously suggesting that nuclear safety is of the same standard as it was in those days, when Anthony Eden was Prime Minister, our Queen had been on the throne for only five years, Charles de Gaulle had yet to become president of France, and Eisenhower was still president of the United States.
The nuclear option for our future energy needs is now regarded by many environmentalists as a safe option, when burning fossil fuels is out of date, and power stations, which are belching carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, are contributing to global warming.
New nuclear plants could use generation III+ reactors, which would create less than one tenth of the waste produced by current nuclear generators. Many environmentalists now regard the nuclear option as safer, cheaper, cleaner, and — it must be said — inevitable, given that the United Kingdom is unlikely to be able to put any other viable option in place before our present power stations must be replaced. In fact, if we do not take that option, we are a great deal more likely to face an economic meltdown than a nuclear meltdown.
Of course, we must express concern at the nuclear accident in 1957, but that must be done in the same way as we might express regret at the Holocaust of 1939-45, the Vietnam war or the First World War of 1914-18. It is a fact of history, of times past, not of the present.
Although many environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have rejected the use of nuclear power as a solution to global warning, former leaders of such organisations have come out in support of nuclear power. Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace and chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit, commented in 2005 that nuclear energy — combined with the use of other alternative energy sources, such as wind and hydro — remains the only practical, safe and environmentally friendly means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing energy security, saying also that:
“The time for common sense and scientifically-sound leadership on the nuclear energy issue is now.”
The point to note is that nuclear power is combined with other renewable energy sources.
In truth, a detailed discussion of those options in the relevant Committee would be a far more rational way for the Assembly to proceed rather than debating a motion in the House. The language used by many will, in such circumstances, be erroneous, when what is really needed is cool, rational debate in an atmosphere where scientific evidence is evaluated sensibly and reputable expert opinion is sought.
I can share the hurts and feelings of the past, as Mrs Hanna did. I also lost a mother and two sisters through cancer. Both of my sisters died, one of whom was 50 and the other 53. However, thanks to their Christian faith they are in the Glory today. I support amendment No 1.
Brian Wilson (Green)
I welcome the motion. I have no problem in supporting it, given that opposition to nuclear power and the risks that it poses to human life and our environment is one reason that the Green Party came into power — I am sorry; I mean existence. [Laughter.] We are in power.
We have always been concerned about the activities of Windscale at the Sellafield nuclear plant, owing to its proximity to the Irish coast and to the secrecy with which those activities have been carried out. We are particularly concerned about the activities of the BNFL ship the Atlantic Osprey and the reason that it spends a great deal of time around Beaufort’s Dyke. That raises serious safety issues: a ship that is carrying nuclear fuel is spending so much time in an area in which large quantities of munitions have been dumped.
The Green Party was not surprised to learn that the initial estimates of the radioactive contamination that spewed into the atmosphere from Windscale were grossly underestimated. The Windscale/Sellafield site has been shrouded in a mist of lies, misinformation and outright fraud from the day of its inception. For example, after the Windscale fire in 1957, the men who risked their lives to prevent that fire spreading were made scapegoats by the Government’s inquiry into the cause of the accident.
The name of the site may have been changed to Sellafield, but the Windscale legacy of deception has persisted. In 2000, a damning Nuclear Installations Inspectorate report painted an alarming picture of management incompetence and a culture of complacency at the Sellafield site. The scandal concerned safety procedures in a factory that produced batches of uranium and plutonium. One batch that was bound for Japan was found to have had false records, and that prompted the investigation. Indeed, British Nuclear Fuels later admitted that the records had been deliberately falsified.
We are particularly concerned that earlier this year the nuclear safety authorities in Britain decided to reopen the facility for reprocessing at THORP in Sellafield. That plant is considered to be a nuclear dustbin, taking in nuclear waste from all parts of the world. Even if one supports nuclear power, the waste from the rest of the world should certainly not be taken in at that plant, which is what currently happens.
THORP has been out of operation since April 2005, when a major leak of radioactive material was discovered. My Green Party colleagues and I have spoken to representatives of the Nordic Council, and they share our grave concerns about the prospect of THORP reopening.
I ask the Assembly to support the Nordic Council’s call to the Government to permit a full, independent and international investigation into the safety culture at THORP at Sellafield.
Despite years of campaigning for the closure of the nuclear facilities at Sellafield, the prospect of its closure is distant. Indeed, a new master plan that was drawn up by the west Cumbrian authorities sets out proposals for the further development of nuclear power. Those proposals include the construction of two third-generation, 1·6 gigawatt nuclear reactors and the development of fourth-generation reactors at Sellafield. Discussions have also taken place between Cumbria County Council and the Government about the future storage of highly active radioactive waste, even though, at present, Sellafield already holds 70% of the country’s most dangerous nuclear waste.
The Green Party is opposed to any expansion of nuclear activity. When the joint agreement between the Scottish Green Party and the SNP was drawn up, the first point that was agreed with the new Scottish Administration was that there would be no support for new nuclear power in Scotland.
Nuclear power is not the answer to the energy crisis. It will restrict investment in alternative technologies, and it does not make economic sense. It produces radioactive waste that will create problems for generations for thousands of years to come. Despite improvements in technology, it is not totally safe.
Accidents can happen, and if one does, it will be a disaster.
As many terrorist groups try to obtain nuclear weapons, Sellafield’s security has become an issue. We must look to alternative energy sources. Sellafield serves no useful purpose — it should be shut down.
David Simpson (DUP)
I include myself in that. Yes, my face, too, would be blank, if asked my knowledge of nuclear physics. If a Member were to tell me that he or she had a degree in that subject, I would ask what the heck he or she was doing in the Assembly. [Laughter.]
I welcome the debate. I understand the concerns that have been raised in the motion. Other Members have spoken about timescale, referring to events of 50 years ago. Whatever view we take on this issue, or on that of climate change — and there are a variety of sincerely held views — there is universal agreement that the world is at a crossroads when it comes to the whole issue of energy supply. We need viable and safe alternatives to fossil fuels. That is the bottom line, whether we like it or not.
I am encouraged that we have set a target, under the Northern Ireland renewables obligation (NIRO), to obtain 12% of electricity from renewables by 2012. We must do all that we can to encourage use of renewable energy sources such as wind, water and the sun, and that must be a priority. However, we must be realistic. In February 2003, the Royal Society warned:
“in the short to medium term, it is difficult to see how we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels without the help of nuclear power.”
The previous Secretary of State, Mr Peter Hain, expressed the view that he did not see nuclear energy as being a feasible option for Northern Ireland. That was also the view of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in its 2002 report into its energy inquiry. However, whether we like it or not, we have a duty to take a serious look at the potential that nuclear power offers.
Nuclear power is a frightfully powerful phenomenon. The very use of the word nuclear, given its association with the horrors of nuclear war, is enough to send shivers up anyone’s spine. However, it can be channelled and used in a way in which mankind will benefit. Amendment No 1, which stands in my name and that of my colleague Simon Hamilton, states that we need to:
“consider carefully a well-regulated nuclear sector, operating to the highest safety standards, as one element of the United Kingdom’s energy supply.”
My colleague also mentioned that the grid is nearly at maximum in my constituency. Members who represent that constituency — those who sit opposite, as well as alongside me — will know that, in part of that constituency, we have the third-largest manufacturing base in Northern Ireland. We are running out of electricity; there is not enough electricity to feed the factories. Eventually, some other source will have to be looked at — something that is well regulated and conforms to the highest safety standards — in order that that we can generate electricity for our companies and create employment in future. It is vital that we also consider price.
Following publication of the UK White Paper on energy, ‘Meeting the Energy Challenge’, a consultation paper on nuclear power was issued on 23 May 2007 by the Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, in his former role as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. That Department is now known as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).
That UK-wide consultation concluded on 10 October 2007, and its purpose was to seek views on nuclear power from industry, non-Governmental bodies and any other organisation or public body in the United Kingdom, including the general public. I am glad that Northern Ireland was included in that consultation, which asked whether the private sector should be allowed to build new nuclear power stations, and I await its outcome with interest.
I support the amendment proposed by Carmel Hanna. I ask Sinn Féin to consider the fact that the amendment does not take away from the motion in any way; rather, Carmel’s speech added to it. As Alex Attwood said earlier, amendments of value are often helpful, and Carmel’s amendment was helpful.
The UK Government’s consultation process on the disposal of radioactive waste closes on 2 November 2007. It is important that the Assembly, the Executive, or, at least, the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, or the Committee for the Environment should make a submission on the matter. Such a submission should remind the British Government in no uncertain terms of the nuclear catastrophe of 8 October 1957, which was not made public until 10 October 1957 and was brought under control only on 12 October. Fifty years later, many believe that the contaminated material is still piled up at Windscale — or Sellafield, as the Government renamed it in an effort to make us forget the disaster that has been with us since 1957.
The volume of contaminated material is also a subject of concern. Only the British Government knows how large that pile is, and, given the secrecy that surrounds Windscale, it is unlikely that we will ever be told.
For centuries, the British have intruded in the affairs of countries around the world by putting down what they term as insurgents and by becoming involved in arms issues and decommissioning processes, as we know. Back in the heart of Britain, the biggest decommissioning problem remains in Windscale/Sellafield, right on our doorstep. Since October 1957, that major weapon of mass destruction has remained piled up in Cumbria and successive Governments have failed to address the problem. All we know is that, in 1957, the British Government carried out a massive deception in relation to the catastrophe and covered up its own records on the wind direction in the area at the time of the incident. At the time, reports that were backed up by the Meteorological Office stated that the wind was blowing seawards towards the Isle of Man and beyond to the Dublin area. However in 1974, 17 years after the disaster, a Government agency claimed that the winds at the time came from the northwest, thus blowing the radiation inland. The prime purpose of that announcement was to create the belief that no significant radiation made its way to the Isle of Man or Ireland.
When members of the Low Level Radiation Campaign (LLRC) went to the Meteorological Office in Windscale to find the truth, they found that the original reports detailing the westerly direction of the wind, and its speed, had been tampered with. Record sheets for 1957 had been removed and replaced with new sheets that were slightly different in colour from the sheets of previous and subsequent years. The new pages for 1957 read: “No Record – Mast Dismantled”.
According to the records, the mast reappeared in November 1957, which perhaps says something.
It may be wrong to despair, but I fear that we will never learn the true facts about the catastrophe, or be able to prevent a reoccurrence of the event at Windscale. As individuals we have no chance of discovering the truth, and, as much as we might try, I doubt that the Assembly as a body would fare any better. However, we must continue to try. I pay tribute to my colleague Eddie McGrady MP, as did Carmel Hanna, for his endless efforts to keep the Sellafield debate alive. I am sure that successive British Governments have wished that Eddie McGrady would ease up on the issue, when they should have been admitting failure and warning their people of the constant threat that exists.
As we have heard, the people of Dundalk, many people on the east coast of Ireland and the people of the Isle of Man do not need a Government admission to confirm the facts. The death rate on the Isle of Man soared in the decade following the incident at Windscale, and many mothers in County Louth believe that they know only too well of the consequences of the radiation clouds that descended on their area in 1957 — consequences that they live with to this day.
The motion and the amendment correctly refer to the threat to Europe. I would like to be slightly more parochial and remind Members that the County Down coastline, as Mrs Hanna has said, is only 60 or 70 miles from Cumbria. That is around the same distance as from Stormont to Limavady or Derry, and should another catastrophe occur at Sellafield, that short distance would place us at the heart of the danger zone.
In supporting my colleague Carmel Hanna’s amendment, I believe that everyone present would agree that all information about Sellafield should be made public. It is important that the Assembly and the Governments in the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man agree on a timescale for the closure of Sellafield. The only acceptable action that the Assembly can demand is that the ticking time bomb that is Sellafield is defused and that there is immediate clearance of the contaminated material that is still stored at the plant in Cumbria.
Jim Shannon (DUP)
I support the DUP amendment. There is little doubt that the production of fuel and energy is a risky business. That is a fact. There are massive oil rig fires; coal-mining explosions; the effect of renewable energy sources on the surrounding countryside; and the dangers that are linked to the production of nuclear energy. There are hazards with each and every method of production, and there comes a time when each method must be evaluated to ensure that the benefits do not outweigh the costs of the venture. Perhaps, now is the time for the Assembly to decide on that matter.
At the outset, I want to stress that I am not living in a bubble; nor do I have my head in the sand. I am aware of the dangers of nuclear-energy production. I have read the newspapers and I have listened to those with more scientific understanding. However, that cannot be the only determining factor. My colleague, David Simpson, mentioned nuclear physicists. I suspect that there is probably no one in the Chamber with that particular knowledge.
Barry McElduff (Sinn Féin)
A LeasCheann Comhairle, I have visited Sellafield. Is the Member surprised to learn that inside the plant there is a poster stating that it has been 21 days since the last minor accident? It is as though the poster is exhorting the workers to persevere towards the magic figure of 40 days. Is the Member surprised that such a poster exists inside the Sellafield plant?
Jim Shannon (DUP)
I have visited the Sellafield plant and I have seen the poster. Every business in the country has a book in which it must record accidents that have taken place. That happens everywhere, and it is no different from what staff must do in factories in West Tyrone or South Down. I thank the Member for his intervention. I was a bit worried when I gave him a chance, but it was not that bad.
The benefits of nuclear energy must be taken on board. They far outweigh the risks, which is contrary to what my colleague across the Chamber is saying. The fact is that as much as every Member would prefer all energy to come from green sources — and I mean “green” in the best sense of the word — that would neither harm people or the environment, provision is nowhere near that stage.
Provision of energy from water turbines is being tested in Strangford Lough. That is an example of what can be done. However, the turbines can produce only enough energy for 1,000 homes. There are 20,000 homes in Newtownards and 40,000 in the whole of Strangford. Undoubtedly, the time will come when renewable energy sources can and will provide the necessary energy for the future. However, that is not in the foreseeable future, so other sources, including nuclear power, must be considered.
If nuclear power is dismissed, that leaves us with fossil fuels, which will create a dilemma for us in the near future. The first environmental problem is obvious, and the UK Government have pledged to lessen carbon dioxide emissions. However, were Northern Ireland were to be completely reliant on fossil fuels, that would significantly increase rather than decrease our carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, that is not a viable option.
Another problem is that if Northern Ireland were dependent on fossil fuels, it would be more dependent on other nations. That could be used against us, and the stronger the hold that oil-rich countries would have on us, the more we would be held to ransom.
We cannot always rely on the Middle East if we are to do without nuclear energy. If we rely only on fossil fuels and renewable energy we will undoubtedly pay the price on the world stage. That is something that we should not even contemplate. I am conscious of the time, Mr speaker is in charge of proceedings of the House of Commons in..." class="glossary">Deputy Speaker.
There are problems associated with nuclear energy production; however, those, and safety issues, must be taken in context. For example, when someone goes to the dentist, his or her teeth might be X-rayed. In hospital, there is a probability that he or she will be X-rayed. The microwave in a kitchen is another example. All of those factors contribute. Nuclear facilities account for only 0.4% of total exposure. We must consider all the issues involved in nuclear energy production. We must not ignore the safety issues, but we must learn from them. Windscale and Chernobyl were awful disasters. However, the lessons on safety have been learned, and safety is paramount.
In a perfect world we could do without nuclear energy and use only renewable energy. However, we are not yet in that perfect world — far from it. For that reason, the benefits far outweigh the risks. I support the DUP’s amendment. I urge the Members on the Benches opposite to me to do the same.
Willie Clarke (Sinn Féin)
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. It is foolish to dismiss the relentless quest for nuclear power that seems to drive current British Government policy. It is presented as a panacea that will address future energy shortages and — somewhat perversely — is marketed as a clean, green alternative to the burning of fossil fuels, and as a way of meeting EU directives on pollution. Therefore, it is ironic that support for nuclear-generated energy is gaining momentum in Britain and the EU on the 50th anniversary of the serious fire that occurred at Windscale nuclear power plant, now better known as Sellafield.
A recent report into that incident found that at least twice as much radioactive material was released into our atmosphere than was initially thought. People living in south Down and on the east coast of Ireland have had to live with the consequences ever since. Nuclear power can never be a viable option. The devastation caused 21 years ago at Chernobyl, and its after-effects which will be felt for many more years, should be enough to make us all stop in our tracks and think again. Sinn Féin is favour of a nuclear-free Ireland. We should seek to decommission existing nuclear facilities, not build more of them.
Willie Clarke (Sinn Féin)
Thank you for that contribution. Sinn Féin favours a shift towards efficient and cost-effective renewable energy, with particular emphasis on solar and wind power. Major investment should be directed towards hydrogen technology. There are growing concerns that there is, currently, an attempt to repackage nuclear energy and to present it as a safe, green alternative. It is anything but that. Anyone who has examined the safety record of the Cumbria-based Sellafield nuclear processing plant will be horrified by what the British Government proposes. Communities up and down the eastern Irish seaboard will be concerned about the re-opening of that debate, considering that the majority of Britain’s current nuclear facilities are sited a few short miles from the Irish coastline — a few short miles from my home in south Down.
Sellafield remains the most unsafe nuclear site in western Europe. Its history has been characterised by a catalogue of errors, safety lapses and failure to comply with EU inspections. Sinn Féin will continue to build alliances to force the closure of the Sellafield facility and to promote a clean, green alternative to nuclear power. Public opinion is the key to closing Sellafield and ensuring the entire shutdown of the British nuclear industry. By adopting the motion we will send a clear message to the British Government that there are viable and safe alternatives to nuclear energy.
However, British public opinion must be brought to a point at which it demands such measures from its Government. The time for ignoring the dangers of Sellafield and other installations must be brought to an end. In whatever we do, it is important that we are mindful of the fact that influencing British public opinion is essential to undermining the efforts of British Nuclear Fuels plc to present nuclear energy as an acceptable alternative to renewable energy. Nuclear power stations are expensive, difficult to build and maintain and are a threat to public health, as well as being considered key legitimate targets for extremists.
Nuclear energy has been used in England, Scotland and Wales for more than 50 years, and there is still no agreed plan for the disposal of highly dangerous nuclear waste that poses a massive health risk.
Energy policy, North and South, must focus on developing efficient and renewable energy sources. Shifting policy from the inefficient use of fossil and nuclear fuels towards energy efficiency and renewable energy sources is imperative if runaway climate change is to be addressed. The nuclear industry spin machine has put a lot of effort into promoting nuclear energy. However, regardless of how effective their lobbying has been, the fact remains that nuclear energy production is not safe, secure, financially viable or reliable. We must get that message to the public loud and clear. People are rightly fearful of the dangers posed by nuclear power; I urge Members from every political party to support the motion. Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle.
George Robinson (DUP)
Once again, the Assembly is debating a topic in which it may have a genuine interest but over which it has no jurisdiction — it is a reserved matter. Therefore, while the topic is extremely important, I wonder whether our time would not have been better spent debating an area of policy for which we do have direct responsibility. Having read the motion and considered its implications, I suspect that it is nothing more than an attempt to provide a big stick with which to beat the British Government.
There is much disagreement about whether, 50 years ago, Northern Ireland and the South were touched by the cloud from the fire in pile 1. As recently as this month, reports in the South’s press mentioned that disagreement. Indeed, they went further and stated that a cloud of pollutants may just have touched the east coast, and that if it had been affected, it would have been affected very slightly. A 2005 study went further by stating that no radioactive materials reached the east or the north-east coast. Most Members will take from those statements that the accident 50 years ago is unlikely to have had the health effects implied in the motion.
There has been mention of raised levels of cancer in isolated pockets, but if the levels are as high as has been implied, the statistical evidence would be much greater. However, that is not to take away from the distress that has been experienced by the families who have suffered.
There is a further concern, no doubt regarding water pollution, especially the effect of pollution on the Irish Sea. A UK Marine SACs (special area of conservation) Project report on radioactive substances stated that seaborne pollutant levels around Sellafield were below the level that would be expected, and that there was no conclusive proof that any pollutants had damaged the environment. However, that does not mean that there should be any relaxation in the monitoring and testing of seawater to ensure continued safety. Only by requesting constant independent monitoring and research can we be sure that pollution levels are kept to an absolute minimum. It is worth noting that in June a significant milestone in the decommissioning progress of the Windscale site was reached, with the removal of the 42 isotope cartridges from pile 2. That, along with other moves, will help reduce the levels of pollutants in the sea, which are already at a lower level than expected. That is very welcome progress. I support the amendment.
I will briefly outline some of the comments that were made in the debate. Simon Hamilton moved the amendment and made a good argument for nuclear power. That is fine, but I did not come to the Chamber today to debate nuclear power — I came to debate Sellafield and Windscale. I would be quite happy to discuss nuclear power on another occasion, if Mr George Robinson would not consider it too much of a waste of our time. The issue should be discussed. However, I came to discuss Windscale and Sellafield because of the new report, and because of the scientific data that has continuously been coming on stream for the last 50 years.
Sam Gardiner questioned the facts that I presented. I cannot remember the exact words that he used, but anything that I said is based on scientific fact. I know that it happened 50 years ago, but Members should talk to experts about contamination in the Irish Sea from radioactivity because that is still happening. I hope that I did not go on too much about hurt and pain — I was talking about the fallout from cancer and leukaemia.
Unsurprisingly, Brian Wilson of the Green Party said that he supports the closure of Sellafield and is against nuclear power. David Simpson made a good argument for nuclear power, and there may be a debate on that in the future. My colleague from South Down P J Bradley obviously feels strongly that there is evidence that Sellafield should close. Jim Shannon always makes interesting comments, hedging his bets both ways. He said that the production of fuel and energy is a risky business, which impacts on wildlife — before comparing it to my microwave oven. If it is so risky, perhaps it should be taken really seriously. It is a serious issue, which I take very seriously.
Willie Clarke, one of the proposers of the motion, was obviously strong in his support of the closure of Sellafield. George Robinson suggested that we should not waste our time on debates such as this. I hope that the Assembly continues to debate serious health-and-safety issues, otherwise there is no point in our being here.
Even if Members cannot support the motion or amendment No 2, they should at least think about Sellafield and what happened there. Go and visit the site and ask about the contamination of the Irish Sea. It is important to keep an open mind on this matter. I am happy to have a debate on nuclear power, but today’s debate was on the closure of Sellafield, which I want to happen in the near future. There must be an agreed timescale between the British Government and Irish Government for the closure of Sellafield, as well as a serious investigation of the health implications that still exist for those who live within a radius of 100 miles.
Robin Newton (DUP)
The comments of my colleague David Simpson in the early part of the debate were very telling: who in this Chamber actually understands nuclear physics? I regret the implications of Carmel Hanna’s comments because the motion represents an old and backward-looking argument. If we are debating Sellafield and Windscale, why are we not looking forward to the future of energy production? David Simpson pointed out that, in his constituency — never mind the whole of the United Kingdom —an energy crisis is approaching, which must be addressed.
Robin Newton (DUP)
No; I have only five minutes. The Sinn Féin proposer of the motion used glib phrases about the concerns that exist throughout continental Europe about nuclear power, when roughly 70% of energy in France is derived from nuclear fuel. There is no reason why we cannot all express our concerns about nuclear fuel, and we should do. However, concerns should also be expressed about the risks involved in all forms of energy generation. Whether those are risks to the individual or to the environment, there are always risks.
It is also telling that Carmel thought that Simon Hamilton and David Simpson made a good argument. However, that is not an argument that she is willing to take on board, because she did not want to discuss nuclear fuel. Simon Hamilton highlighted the fact that nuclear fuel is inexpensive; that the energy is derived from the most concentrated source; that the waste is more compact; that it is easy to transport; and that it has no greenhouse or acid-rain effects.
Sam Gardiner, in his contribution, quite rightly pointed out the environmental advantages of nuclear fuel and called for a rational debate on the subject. That would be extremely welcome.
I have sympathy for the point that Carmel Hanna raised about health concerns, as there are concerns from various sources. She referred to her own family, and I am sure that there are no Members whose families have not suffered. Carmel Hanna was willing to admit that other sources may have caused those health problems.
Robin Newton (DUP)
I agree with the Member, and I pay tribute to her on that point.
I am not sure what Brian Wilson was saying. He said that an alternative to nuclear power should be considered, but he did not say what that alternative should be.
Barry McElduff said that he went to the Sellafield plant to have a look around. He saw a poster saying that it had been 21 days since there had been a minor accident. I am not sure what point he was making, but it is common in industry to post the health and safety record so that people can see it — the greater the number of days without an accident, the better.
Danny Kennedy said that Newry and Mourne was a nuclear-free zone; I did not realise that, so at least I have learned something from the debate. It is good to know that the councillors in that area have voted to keep the area nuclear free.
Willie Clarke’s contribution was all about bashing the Brits. He had no argument at all, and his comments were quite spurious. A report in ‘The Economist’ says that more Britons support nuclear power than oppose it.
Nuclear energy is here to stay and must continue to be monitored as professionally as possible. Although it is not a devolved matter, the House should consider ways of ensuring that it continues on everyone’s behalf. To call for power station closures is to be like the fantasy character of old Spanish literature, Don Quixote, who attacks windmills because he believes them to be ferocious giants. Such a call is just as much of a waste of time.
Mickey Brady (Sinn Féin)
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. The subject that has been discussed is an emotive one. As someone who represents a constituency on the east coast, it has a personal resonance. George Robinson said that, possibly, the accident in 1957 at Windscale touched the east coast slightly. If Mr Robinson had taken the time to read the statistics he might have thought differently. For instance, within two years of that accident, 28 babies in the Dundalk Bay area were born with Down’s syndrome. That was way above the national average.
In the Newry and Mourne area, a study done by the Mayo clinic around 20 years ago indicates that the incidents of multiple sclerosis in our area is one of the highest in the world. As someone whose brother died from MS, I can empathise with that. Congenital health defects, such as Friedreich’s ataxia, Prader-Willi syndrome and Pierre Robin syndrome, which is an extremely rare congenital condition, are all found in our area.
Therefore, although the incidence of such illnesses may be dismissed as insignificant, the people who are directly affected do not consider that to be the case.
The high rates of cancer, which continue to grow, have been mentioned. Twenty years ago breast cancer affected about one in nine woman in my area; it now affects one in four. There seems to be a cavalier attitude towards nuclear power, as was most recently illustrated in America when live nuclear warheads were flown across the USA at the behest of the United States Air Force.
Simon Hamilton said that safety is built in to the nuclear power system. However, that does not necessarily mean that it is safe. On the contrary; there is no proof that it is particularly safe. The health-and-safety rules at Sellafield have been mentioned, and Barry McElduff referred to the poster there that told of the last accident being 21 days before his visit — I wonder whether the poster in Chernobyl stated that disaster was imminent.
The political fallout since 1957, which Mrs Hanna mentioned, has continued. Investigative journalism has targeted the industry. A recurrent theme of Members’ contributions was the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the nuclear industry. If Windscale or Sellafield — or whatever they want to call it — is so safe, why was it not built in the south of England instead of on the Cumbrian coast? I have represented at tribunals people who have particular medical problems. All but one of the approximately 40 people suffering from ME who I represented comes from Kilkeel, Rostrevor or Warrenpoint, which are all located along the same stretch of coast. As the crow flies, Sellafield is about 67 miles from Warrenpoint and Carlingford Lough. That is another example of the impact of the Sellafield accident.
Mr Gardiner talked about being a committed environmentalist, and he referred to the “dubious evidence” concerning the 1957 incident. He spoke about the improving standards in nuclear plants. I wonder what “dubious evidence” he has to show that that is the case. He talked about economic, rather than nuclear, meltdown. He referred to the First World War, the Holocaust, and the Vietnam War: those are all man-made disasters, as is nuclear power.
One of my relatives was a prisoner of war in Nagasaki when the second American bomb was dropped. Mr Simpson said that nuclear power is “of benefit to mankind.” If Mr Simpson had spoken to my relative, he would have found that he disagreed. He lived into his eighties and suffered mental-health problems as a direct result of the bomb.
Mr Simpson also talked about nuclear physics. However, one does not need to be a mechanic to know how a car works. Everyone can attest to the dangers of nuclear power and the results of nuclear accidents. It has been portrayed today as a safe form of energy. I totally disagree, and I support the motion. Go raibh maith agaibh.
Question put, That amendment No 1 be made.
Mr Armstrong, Mr Beggs, Mr Bresland, Lord Browne, Mr Buchanan, Mr T Clarke, Mr Craig, Mr Cree, Mr Dodds, Mr Easton, Mr Elliott, Sir Reg Empey, Mrs Foster, Mr Gardiner, Mr Hamilton, Mr McCausland, Mr I McCrea, Dr W McCrea, Miss McIlveen, Mr McQuillan, Lord Morrow, Mr Moutray, Mr Newton, Mr Paisley Jnr, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, Mr Poots, Mr G Robinson, Mrs I Robinson, Mr P Robinson, Mr Ross, Mr Shannon, Mr Simpson, Mr Spratt, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr S Wilson.
Tellers for the Ayes: Mr McQuillan and Mr G Robinson.
Ms Anderson, Mr Attwood, Mr Boylan, Mrs M Bradley, Mr P J Bradley, Mr Brady, Mr Brolly, Mr Burns, Mr Butler, Mr W Clarke, Mr Durkan, Mr Ford, Mr Gallagher, Ms Gildernew, Mrs Hanna, Mrs D Kelly, Mr A Maginness, Mr P Maskey, Ms J McCann, Mr McCartney, Dr McDonnell, Mr McElduff, Mrs McGill, Mr McGlone, Mr M McGuinness, Mr McHugh, Mr McKay, Mr McLaughlin, Mr Molloy, Mr Murphy, Mr Neeson, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O’Dowd, Mrs O’Neill, Mr P Ramsey, Ms S Ramsey, Ms Ritchie, Ms Ruane, Mr B Wilson.
Tellers for the Noes: Mr Brady and Mr McKay.
Question accordingly negatived.
Question put, That amendment No 2 be made.
The Assembly divided: Ayes 39; Noes 37.
Ms Anderson, Mr Attwood, Mr Boylan, Mrs M Bradley, Mr P J Bradley, Mr Brady, Mr Brolly, Mr Burns, Mr Butler, Mr W Clarke, Mr Durkan, Mr Ford, Mr Gallagher, Ms Gildernew, Mrs Hanna, Mrs D Kelly, Mr A Maginness, Mr P Maskey, Ms J McCann, Mr McCartney, Dr McDonnell, Mr McElduff, Mrs McGill, Mr McGlone, Mr M McGuinness, Mr McHugh, Mr McKay, Mr McLaughlin, Mr Molloy, Mr Murphy, Mr Neeson, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O’Dowd, Mrs O’Neill, Mr P Ramsey, Ms S Ramsey, Ms Ritchie, Ms Ruane, Mr B Wilson.
Tellers for the Ayes: Mr P J Bradley and Mr A Maginness.
Mr Armstrong, Mr Beggs, Mr Bresland, Lord Browne, Mr Buchanan, Mr T Clarke, Mr Craig, Mr Cree, Mr Dodds, Mr Easton, Mr Elliott, Sir Reg Empey, Mrs Foster, Mr Gardiner, Mr Hamilton, Mr McCallister, Mr McCausland, Mr I McCrea, Dr W McCrea, Miss McIlveen, Mr McQuillan, Lord Morrow, Mr Moutray, Mr Newton, Mr Paisley Jnr, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, Mr Poots, Mr G Robinson, Mrs I Robinson, Mr P Robinson, Mr Ross, Mr Shannon, Mr Simpson, Mr Spratt, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr S Wilson.
Tellers for the Noes: Mr McQuillan and Mr G Robinson
Question accordingly agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That this Assembly expresses concern at the findings of the report on the impact of the Windscale Piles accident at the Sellafield nuclear plant and the implications that this has for the health and well-being of people living on these islands and in Europe; calls upon the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to make public any data which it may have available in relation to this matter; and further calls upon the Government to discontinue all operations at the Sellafield nuclear plant within an agreed timescale, acceptable to the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.