Radioactive Discharges

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th March 1988.

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Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford 12:00 am, 16th March 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list all the non-nuclear industrial sites in England and Wales making authorised discharges of radioactive substances and gas to the air.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I am arranging to have placed in the Library of the House a list of all non-nuclear establishments in England and Wales authorised to dispose of radioactive waste under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960. It is not practicable to segregate industrial premises or those solely authorised to make discharges to air.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford

I am grateful to the Minister for that action. Can he confirm that the Smiths Industries factory at Bishop Cleeve, Gloucester and the Capper Pass smelting works at Humberside are on that list? I understand that the latter is authorised to discharge a higher level of alpha emitters than that allowed at Sellafield. Is the Minister concerned that there could be a connection between discharges from the sites that he has listed and childhood leukaemia clusters being found in children in their vicinity? Will he repeal the secrecy clauses in the Radioactive Substances Act so that there can be proper public examination of these issues?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

The answer to the hon. Lady's first question is that both establishments will be on the list that will be placed in the Library. With regard to the second question, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution has cleared Bishops Cleeve. In regard to her third point, the Government intend to follow the presumption that any new powers to be adopted should be in favour of openness. That will mean that there will be a review of the implications of section 13, as outlined implicitly in pollution paper No. 23, which has recently been published.

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran , Beverley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the reassuring information that he has provided to me and my constituency in relation to Capper Pass in north Humberside and the associated cancer cluster problem. Will he let me know when he will be in a position to announce the date when HMIP will begin its investigations of the Capper Pass, as that is in the public interest? The company wants it, my constituents want it and so do I.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

I assure my hon. Friend that HMIP has already started work. I shall provide him in writing with as comprehensive and accurate a timetable as possible when I have received the information from HMIP.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook , Stockton North

The Minister has been most helpful, and we are grateful to him. He will know that the National Radiological Protection Board has amended its recommendations on radiation levels. Will he give the House an assurance today that the criteria on which licences for that type of effluent are granted will be reviewed, in terms of new licences to be issued in future, and in terms of existing licences that control emissions?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

At present, the Government are content with the licence system. The reason for my statement this afternoon is that it is important to provide more information and greater public accountability of the information that is available. To date it has been very difficult for people to contact the Government or local authorities on a case-by-case basis. The fact that some 1,100 establishments will be listed brings to public accountability the full range of all non-nuclear establishments in England and Wales. This will allow hon. Members and the public to follow up each and every case if they so wish.

Photo of Mr Christopher Butler Mr Christopher Butler , Warrington South

Can my hon. Friend say whether I am right in thinking that coal-fired power stations emit substantial amounts of radioactivity to the immediate environment? How does that compare with nuclear-powered generation?

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

As far as I am aware, it would be misleading to say that they emit "substantial" degrees of radiation. As for my hon. Friend's request that I give a comparison, I shall ensure that a comprehensive answer on the scientific data is provided in a letter to him as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Will the Minister make a point at the Dispatch Box of condemning the front page article in The Star newspaper last week, which linked malformed fish in the Irish sea to discharges from Windscale? Is the Minister aware that we are tired, sick and fed up of the national media completely distorting information about discharges from Sellafield? We regard objective criticism as helpful, but we intensely dislike damaging publicity based on inaccurate information and no statistical evidence at all.

Photo of Mr Colin Moynihan Mr Colin Moynihan , Lewisham East

It is a special pleasure to say that I am in total agreement with the strength of opinion expressed by the hon. Gentleman, especially about The Star article, which was grossly misleading and inaccurate.