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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 9 January 1990

ENERGY

Plutonium

Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he has any plans to offer for full safeguards to the International Atomic Energy Agency and Euratom Safeguards Authorities all plutonium created in British Nuclear Fuels' Calder Hall and Chapelcross reactors, arising from periods when the reactors were operating on civil production cycles.

Mr. Baldry : No. These are non-safeguarded facilities.

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what amount of plutonium created in civil reactors in the United Kingdom is currently allocated to the ownership of the European Community under article 86 of the Euratom treaty ; and what amount of civil plutonium will be allocated to the European Community with the creation of Nuclear Electric.

Mr. Baldry : In accordance with article 86 of the Euratom treaty, all special fissile materials produced in civil reactors in the United Kingdom are the property of the Community. However, under article 87, member states or operators retain unlimited right of use and consumption. The position will not change with the creation of Nuclear Electric.

Coal (Properties)

Mr. Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will supply a full list of the land and properties by coal field area currently under the ownership of British Coal.

Mr. Baldry : My Department does not have this information. This is a matter for the British Coal corporation.

Mr. Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will provide a full list of land and properties currently owned by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.

Mr. Baldry : Details of land and property owned are a matter for the organisation's directors.

Mr. Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will provide a full list of all producing coal mines in the United Kingdom and the numbers of persons employed in each case.

Mr. Baldry : This is a matter for the British Coal corporation.

Nuclear Reactors

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list the nuclear reactors in Britain (a) with and (b) without secondary containment.


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Mr. Wakeham : All nuclear reactors in the United Kingdom are provided with defence in depth against the release of radioactivity by means of a series of barriers which differ according to the design characteristics of the particular reactor type. The term "secondary containment" usually refers to an outer, sealed, low-leakage building which houses the reactor core and primary coolant circuits. The need for such containment depends on the operating characteristics of the reactor and the coolant activity levels. The steam-generating heavy water reactor at Winfrith, and the prototype fast reactor at Dounreay have "secondary containment" buildings, and these will also be provided for the pressurised water reactor under construction at Sizewell. The operational characteristics of Magnox, advanced gas-cooled reactors, and small research reactors are such that "secondary containment" buildings are not needed to ensure their safety.

Nuclear Accidents

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what specialist equipment, including personal dosimeters, radial survey meters and decontamination meters are available for ambulance staff at Sellafield, Wylfa, Trawsfynydd, Oldbury, Berkeley, Hinkley Point, Winfrith, Dungeness, Bradwell, Sizewell and Hartlepool, respectively ; and in each case what training staff have received ;

(2) what studies have been made of the problems of evacuating all low- mobility groups in the event of a worst case atomic accident at (a) Sellafield, (b) Wylfa, (c) Trawsfynydd, (d) Oldbury, (e) Berkeley, (f) Hinkley Point, (g) Winfrith, (h) Dungeness, (i) Bradwell, (j) Sizewell and (h) Hartlepool ; and giving for each study the geographical area covered ;

(3) what training has been given to ambulance staff to deal with a major accident at each of the nuclear installations at Sellafield, Wylfa, Trawsfynydd, Oldbury, Berkeley, Hinkley Point, Winfrith, Dungeness, Bradwell, Sizewell and Hartlepool ;

(4) whether ambulance staff have participated in the exercise of the local emergency plans at Sellafield, Wylfa, Trawsfynydd, Oldbury, Berkeley, Hinkley Point, Winfrith, Dungeness, Bradwell, Sizewell and Hartlepool ; and in each case which units participated.

Mr. Wakeham : Health authorities, which manage the ambulance service locally, are required by circulars HC(85)24 and HC(89)8 in England and WHC(85)34 in Wales, to ensure that all ambulance staff are made aware of the contingency plans at civil nuclear sites and how they fit in with health authorities' major accident plans, and that they receive appropriate precautionary training.

National Health Service ambulance services have participated in exercises at Wylfa, Trawsfynydd, Oldbury, Berkeley, Hinkley Point, Dungeness, Bradwell, Sizewell and Hartlepool, and have been alerted by the police to their possible involvement during exercises at Sellafield and Winfrith. Site emergency plans provide that National Health Service ambulance service personnel should be under the direct supervision of qualified staff in all areas where they are required to enter contaminated areas, and that the necessary dosimeters and professional health physics assistance and decontamination equipment be provided to any such visiting service by site management.


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The need to include the special requirements of low-mobility groups in the arrangements for evacuation of the public is recognised. Action at the scene by the various emergency services and local authorities would be co-ordinated by the police.

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what studies his Department has made of evacuation procedures and other aspects of the Chernobyl disaster ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wakeham : Following the Chernobyl accident a Government working group was established to review nuclear emergency planning. This culminated in the Prime Minister's statement to Parliament on 18 December 1986 at columns 612-13. This was followed by a further statement by the Prime Minister on 12 December 1988 at column 391.

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when the Central Electricity Generating Board last made a safety assessment of a nuclear reactor of a type akin to that at Chernobyl.

Mr. Wakeham : No such safety assessment has been made ; the Central Electricity Generating Board has not sought a licence for a reactor with characteristics similar to that at Chernobyl.

Licences

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what regulations he plans to make under section 6(3) of the Electricity Act 1989 on how applications for licences to generate, transmit or supply electricity are to be made.

Mr. Wakeham : Draft regulations and application forms have now been prepared. My Department and the Scottish Office are seeking the views of the electricity industry, including independent generators and suppliers, on these drafts. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I intend that the regulations will be laid before Parliament as soon as possible, to give those concerned ample time to submit applications before the licensing regime provided for in section 6 of the Act comes into effect at the end of March 1990. At the same time, an order will be laid under section 5(1) of the Act as to the classes of person who will be exempt from the licensing requirement, taking into account the consultation which my Department has recently undertaken.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Rhizomania

Mr. Colvin : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further measures he intends to take to stop the spread of rhizomania in sugar beet ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry : Until this year there had been only one outbreak of rhizomania in this country and we applied restrictions to the farm concerned to isolate the infection and prevent it from spreading. Immediate measures included destruction of the infected crop and restrictions on movements on and off the farm. Longer-term measures


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involve restrictions on the pattern of farming. This year there have been two further outbreaks and we are applying similar measures. We are currently considering the precise extent of the longer-term restrictions in consultation with the farmers concerned.

To prevent the introduction of rhizomania to this country we operate a range of statutory controls on imports. These include restrictions on imports of beet seeds and plants, a requirement that imported seed potatoes must come from rhizomania-free areas, a strict limitation on the amount of soil attached to imported vegetables and regulation of the disposal of waste soil following the commercial processing of the vegetables. We keep this range of measures under careful review, but I do not consider that any additional restrictions are justified at present.

Inshore Fishing

Mr. Colvin : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will take steps to devolve central control of the inshore fishing industry of England and Wales to a regional fisheries management organisation which would co-ordinate the work of his Ministry's fisheries inspectorate and provide the contract and administrative body for the sea fisheries committees ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : I have no plans to create such a regional fisheries management body, but I am looking at alternative quota management measures.

Spongiform Encephalopathies

Mr. Burns : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action the Government are taking on the Tyrrell committee report on research into spongiform encephalopathies.

Mr. Gummer : Dr. Tyrrell of the medical research council was asked by my predecessor and the Secretary of State for Health to chair a research consultative committee of scientific experts to advise on the research work in progress, and additional work required into the disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and to set out the priorities for further work. Copies of the Committee's interim report have been placed on the Library of the House. The report recommends a comprehensive programme of research on the epidemiology, transmissibility and diagnosis of BSE with the aim of extending scientific knowledge about this new disease so that animal and human health can continue to be protected and the disease eventually eradicated.

The Government have considered the report very carefully and accept the recommendations of the committee. A number of the projects are covered by the substantial programme of research that is already in progress, representing spending of some £1.3 million in the current financial year. Preparatory work is in hand on the other projects which the Tyrrell committee recommended as urgent and of high priority. This represents additional funding from my Department's votes of some £2.2 million in 1990-92 and 1991-91, and £1.7 million in 1992-93. The Secretary of State for Health is setting in hand the high priority research that is within his Department's responsibility and the Secretary of State for Education and Science is considering the advice of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils on what additional allocation


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would be appropriate from the science budget to the agricultural and food research council in support of its proposed programme of research, including research into slow viruses.

The undertaking of such a large-scale programme of research into BSE demonstrates the Government's determination to deal with this disease.

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Environmental Research

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on research sponsored by the research councils into environmental matters.

Mr. Jackson : All the research sponsored by the natural environment research council is concerned in some way with environmental matters. In addition all the other four research councils support work that is concerned with the environment. Details of research into environmental matters can be found in each of the research councils' most recent annual reports, copies of which have been deposited in the Library over the last two months.

Local Management of Schools

Mr. Fatchett : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will list (a) those local education authorities which have had their system of local management of schools approved by his Department and (b) those local education authorities whose schemes have been refused.

Mrs. Rumbold : The following local education authorities have had their schemes for the local management of schools formally approved for introduction in April 1990 or are being consulted about proposed modifications prior to approval :

Avon

Barking

Barnet

Barnsley

Bedfordshire

Birmingham

Bolton

Bromley

Buckinghamshire

Bury

Calderdale

Cambridgeshire

Cheshire

Cumbria

Derbyshire

Lancashire

Lincolnshire

Liverpool

Merton

Newcastle

Norfolk

Northamptonshire

Northumberland

Oxfordshire

Richmond

Rochdale

Rotherham

Sandwell

Devon

Doncaster


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Dudley

Durham

East Sussex

Essex

Gateshead

Gloucestershire

Hampshire

Harrow

Havering

Humberside

Isle of Wight

Kent

Kingston

Salford

Sheffield

Shropshire

Solihull

South Tyneside

Staffordshire

Stockport

Suffolk

Sunderland

Surrey

Sutton

Trafford

Wakefield

Warwickshire

Westminster

West Sussex

Wiltshire

We have indicated to two authorities--Leicestershire and Hereford and Worcester--that their schemes cannot be approved in their present form and that formal implementation will therefore be deferred until April 1991.


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