HC Deb 09 February 1976 vol 905 c27W
Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations he has made to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and to the International Atomic Energy Agency about the impact on the atmosphere of Soviet plans to explode large numbers of nuclear devices in Central Asia in connection with canal building schemes;

(2) what steps are being taken to monitor the effects on the atmosphere of Soviet nuclear bombs exploded in connection with earth moving projects north of the Caspian Sea; what information he has received from British or international agencies about the number of such explosions already recorded and the number planned to take place over the next three years; and what consequent change, if any, he expects in the levels of atmospheric radioactivity.

Mr. Hattersley

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has published a report by Soviet experts on the results of the first row-charge cratering nuclear explosion experiment conducted in the River Pechora area. A translation is available from HMSO (AWRE Trans 69 of May 1975).

We are not aware of any increase in atmospheric radioactivity outside the Soviet Union as a result of these explosions. The Soviet Union has made no official announcement of plans for further explosions of this type. We would, however, expect such explosions to continue to be designed in compliance with Article I(i)(b) of the 1963 Test Ban Treaty.

We are determined that the complex legal, safety and economic issues raised by PNE should be thoroughly examined in the IAEA's Ad Hoc Advisory Group on PNE, which was set up in June 1975, following a British initiative, to study these problems.