HC Deb 24 January 1977 vol 924 cc481-2W
Mr. Hoyle

asked the Secretary of State for Transport why secrecy attaches to the transport of radioactive rods from nuclear power stations; how many of these journeys take place at night; and why.

Mr. Horam

There is no secrecy surrounding the transport of radioactive fuel elements from nuclear power stations. Rail is the predominant mode of transport for the specially constructed flasks carrying these elements, and the consignments are arranged on a routine basis within British Rail's normal freight operations. There is no laid down policy to make these movements during the night, and my information is that most movements occur during the day, but clearly, where longer distances are involved part of the journey may well be during the hours of darkness.

Mr. Hoyle

asked the Secretary of State for Transport how many journeys involving the transport of radioactive rods from nuclear power stations have taken place in 1976 and which nuclear power stations are involved; what precautions are taken against accidents; what danger could arise in the event of an accident; who is responsible for these travels; if any of the trains or transporters have been involved in an accident; what method of transport is used; and if any staff have suffered any health hazards from being involved in the transport of nuclear waste or radioactive rods.

Mr. Horam

In 1976 there were approximately 470 movements of radioactive fuel elements from the nuclear power stations at Bradwell, Berkeley, Hinkley Point "A", Trawsfynydd, Dungeness "A", Sizewell, Oldbury, Wylfa and Hunterston. The specially constructed flasks containing these elements are transported predominantly by rail with short-distance road journeys to the nearest available railhead.

My Department has specialist staff who assess and approve the designs and shipment arrangements of these flasks against internationally agreed standards. These take into account the effects of severe accident conditions, and the standards ensure that safety is a built-in feature of the design. British Rail also has its own conditions of acceptance for carriage and safety procedures for the transport of radio-active materials, which are agreed with the National Radiological Protection Board.

It is the responsibility of the consignor to ensure that the flasks conform to the approved design, are certified as suitable for the transport of fuel elements and that regulatory requirements relating to the individual movements are met.

The Central Electricity Generating Board is responsible for movements from power stations in England and Wales and the South of Scotland Electricity Board for the nuclear power station at Hunterston.

In the event of an accident special emergency arrangements would come into operation. All emergency services are fully aware of these arrangements, which provide for speedy assistance by experts, where required.

My information from CEGB and British Rail is that there were no significant accidents involving trains or transporters carrying fuel elements during 1976, and there is no indication of any staff involved in the transport of nuclear waste or fuel elements having suffered any health hazards from their connection with this category of transport.

Forward to