Dáil debates

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

3:00 pm

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)

The recent submission by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the British energy review consultation process affirms the Government's position on general nuclear power and, in particular, UK nuclear policies.

The Government's concerns over the current and future UK policy on nuclear energy relate to the potential impact on the environment and health of Irish citizens. In particular our issues relate to the Sellafield nuclear plant where there are ongoing safety concerns, the potential for a serious accident or incident and the ongoing radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea, all of which remain to be resolved.

The Government would have favoured an extensive review of the EURATOM treaty in the EU constitution discussions, leading to a significant updating of its provisions. It has made clear that this continues to be its position. It is important, however, not to lose sight that EURATOM does good work in health and safety areas. In the absence of consensus among member states to update the EURATOM treaty, the Government's policy is to steer EURATOM's activities towards nuclear safety and radiological protection. EURATOM is active in both areas. For example, EURATOM Directive 96/29 lays down basic safety standards for the protection of workers and members of the public from the dangers of ionizing radiation. It represents major legislation in radiological protection.

Membership of the EU obliges Ireland to make its contribution to the EU budget. There is no separate contribution from Ireland towards the budget of EURATOM. Accession to the European Union has been of such major benefit to Ireland that I do not see any public appetite to withdraw. Membership of the EU does not come with À la carte options.

Following the recent European Court of Justice decision regarding jurisdiction on the matter of the legal dispute between Ireland and the United Kingdom concerning the commissioning and operation of the MOX plant at Sellafield, I expect a more active and visible role by the Commission in this area. I have made it clear to three EU Commissioners — Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for Environment, Franco Frattini, Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security and Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Energy — that having taken Ireland to the European Court of Justice on the matter, I expect the Commission to show the same enthusiasm to pursue the UK on it.

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