HC Deb 06 November 1995 vol 265 cc587-8W
Mr. Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment has been made since 1965 by the Meteorological Office of the fallout pattern of radioactive debris arising from the French atmospheric weapon tests conducted in the Algerian Sahara desert between 1960 and 1966; and if he will make a statement on what(a) public protection and (b) information measures have been taken since 1965 in the United Kingdom. [40258]

Mr. Arbuthnot

The Meteorological Office makes no assessment of fallout patterns of radioactive debris. It does, however, provide essential meteorological data and forecasts to the other Government Departments with responsibility for public protection and information measures.

AEA Technology, formerly a division of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, has measured the deposition and air concentration of long-lived radioactive material produced as a result of weapons tests in the atmosphere since the late 1950s. Annual reports have been published.

In the event of an accident involving defence nuclear material in the UK, the Ministry of Defence nuclear accident response organisation would work in conjunction with the appropriate civil agencies to ensure an effective response to safeguard the public. Where appropriate, the information necessary to deal with such an event has been issued by the MOD under the provisions of the Public Information for Radiation Emergencies Regulations 1992.

Public safety schemes exist in respect of all UK berths used by nuclear powered submarines, and guidance on appropriate protective measures in the event of an accident during the transportation of nuclear weapons has been issued to local authorities and the emergency services.

A national response plan, which is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, was put in place in 1988 to deal with the possible impact on the UK from overseas nuclear accidents or major radioactive release overseas, of whatever origin.