§ Mr. Grimond
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how much radioactive waste from the British Isles has already been dumped in the sea; and what is the policy as regards future dumping.
§ Mr. Shore
Since 1949 some 64,000 tonnes of packages containing solid, low activity radioactive waste from the United Kingdom have been dumped in the sea. Its alpha activity was about 10,500 curies and the beta/gamma activity about 560,000 curies.
The Government's response (Cmnd. 6820) to the Sixth Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution indicated that they were already reviewing the existing arrangements for the control of radioactive waste, of which ocean disposal is one part. The results of this review will be considered by the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and will be announced in a White Paper in due course.
§ Mr. Grimond
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the rules for safety applicable to the dumping of radioactive waste.
§ Mr. Shore
Sea dumping of radioactive waste is subject to the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Waste and Other Matter, 1972 to which the United Kingdom is a contracting party. Under the terms of the convention the International Atomic Energy Agency defines categories of radioactive waste unsuitable for dumping at sea, and recommends the basis for issuing special permits for and operational control of dumping of other radioactive waste. The agency's recommendations are designed to ensure the radiological protection of man and the marine environment during and after dumping operations.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has established a multinational consultation and 768W surveillance mechanism for sea dumping of radioactive waste, under which participating countries are required to inform the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency of their proposed arrangements for each dumping operation and to take account of any subsequent advice. An NEA representative is present throughout dumping operations.
The Radioactive Substances Act 1960, which provides powers for controlling the disposal of radioactive waste, and the Dumping at Sea Act 1974 together impose a system of authorisation and licensing which enables the United Kingdom to meet the conditions of the convention. Authorisations issued under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 for disposal of waste on land and to inland and coastal waters specify the quantities of waste, its activity, the location at which it is to be disposed and the precautions to be taken to ensure that there is no radiological hazard.