§ Mr. Sayeed
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the environmental impact of nuclear power generation. 
§ Mr. Meacher
Work is under way within the EU to establish a framework for the assessment of the environmental impact of ionising radiation. The project is due to finish in October 2003. A recent study on behalf of the Environment Agency and English Nature "Impact Assessment of Ionising Radiation in Wildlife", published in July this year, concluded that wildlife is not significantly impacted by exposure to ionising radiation from authorised discharges. The study, however, recommended some specific areas that needed to be investigated further.
Proposals for liquid or aerial discharges of radioactive waste, or the disposal of solid low-level radioactive waste, are subject to authorisation by the appropriate regulator. In examining such proposals the regulators satisfy themselves, among other things, that alternatives, where they exist, are properly evaluated and that the resulting authorisation will result in a low environmental impact and that it is based on the best practicable environmental option.
Last year the Government published for consultation a draft "UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges 2001–02", and draft "Statutory Guidance on the Regulation of Radioactive Discharges into the Environment from Nuclear Licensed Sites". Final versions of both documents will be published shortly. The former is the Government's strategy for complying with the commitments it and other members of OSPAR entered into in 1998 for reducing radioactive discharges into the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic in the period up to 2020. The second is guidance 545W to the Environment Agency about the setting of radioactive discharge limits which will help to ensure compliance with the objectives of the strategy. The Government published in September this year a consultation paper "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely". The purpose of the consultation is to set in train a process for deciding how radioactive waste can best be managed. Nuclear power generation contributes 23 per cent. of the total volume of radioactive waste. Nuclear power contributes about 26 per cent. of the UK's electricity supply and plays an important role in helping the UK to meet its climate change target. In 1998 nuclear power generation was estimated to have reduced UK carbon emissions by between 12 and 24 million tonnes. At present, high and intermediate-level waste from nuclear power generation is safely stored at nuclear licensed sites. Low-level waste is mostly disposed of at BNFL's facility at Drigg in Cumbria.