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Radioactive Waste

Defence written question – answered on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons his Department project increases in aerial and liquid discharges of tritium from the defence sector in the UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I will write to the hon. Member.

Substantive answer from Peter Luff to Paul Flynn:

In my answer of 22 March (Official Report, column 947W), I undertook to write to you to respond to your Parliamentary Question asking for the reasons for projected increases in aerial and liquid discharges of tritium from the defence sector in the UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges. I am very sorry for the delay in providing you with a substantive response; the effort to research the answer to your question proved to be very time consuming.

Aerial tritium discharges result almost entirely from the nuclear weapons programme. The predictions for 2006 onwards were based on empirical information provided by the Atomic Weapons Establishment to the Environment Agency (EA) in support of an application for a new authorisation for the disposal of radioactive waste. These predicted figures included an allowance for operational headroom over the maximum reported discharge in the previous five years of approximately 1-5 times, hence the apparent rise in future discharge figures. Even at these levels, the discharges will be significantly lower than EA limits and actual discharge levels are expected to be considerably lower.

Liquid tritium discharges arise from the nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion programmes, as well as some historic contamination. In all cases, liquid discharge . projections are based on the minimum recordable level of tritium in analysed samples so the values given are the maximum that could reasonably be expected. Again, the actual discharge levels are likely to be significantly less.

I hope this response provides the explanation that you sought.

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