HC Deb 25 July 1991 vol 195 c747W
Mr. Marland

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the number of occasions in the last 10 years when radioactive sources escaped from the official control regime in the United Kingdom; whether these were reported separately as containing high, medium and low levels of activity, how many mislaid sources reached the metals reclamation industry; and how many prosecutions were instigated.

Mr. Baldry

Any person wishing to keep or use radioactive material in England and Wales must be registered by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960. Control is exercised by the imposition of strict limits and conditions contained in certificates of registration issued by HMIP following careful consideration of the relevant circumstances. One of these conditions requires the user to inform the police and the chief inspector of HMIP without delay if he believes the registered source has been lost or stolen and to take all practical steps to recover the source. All registered users are subject to inspection to ensure that the limns and conditions in certificates are being complied with.

As an indication of the importance attached to the proper regulation of radioactive substances, the Government have recently increased the maximum penalties for offences under the Radioactive Substances Act to include an unlimited fine and imprisonment for five years on indictment.

A small number of lost or stolen sources are notified to HMIP each year and reports on these cases will contain details of the levels of activity involved. All cases are thoroughly investigated by HMIP, which is aware of only one incident where a lost source may have entered the metals reclamation industry. In this case HMIP is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding a quantity of pelletised steel dust contaminated with radioactivity which was shipped from Ireland to Avonmouth in September 1990.

There have been two prosecutions involving lost or stolen sources in the past 10 years. I am satisfied that the Radioactive Substances Act continues to provide a robust control over the use of radioactive materials in this country.

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