HC Deb 13 December 1999 vol 341 c33W
Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the firing of depleted uranium shells at the Kirkcudbright range; and if he will estimate the approximate number of shells which landed in the waters of the Solway in the last 15 years. [102452]

Mr. Spellar

This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from John Chisholm to Mr. Tam Dalyell, dated 13 December 1999: I have been asked to reply to your parliamentary question about Depleted Uranium (DU) firings at the Kirkcudbright Range since these firings are now conducted by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) on behalf of MOD. DU has been fired at the Kirkcudbright Range since 1982 and there is a continuing need for proof testing of the ammunition while it remains in service. Over the last 15 years, some 6350 rounds have been fired into the Solway Firth. A programme of environmental monitoring has been in place at the range since 1982. The monitoring programme has confirmed that there are only low levels of DU contamination which are well below anything that could be considered a health hazard either to those who work at the sites or those living nearby. In addition, in 1993 the MOD commissioned the consultants WS Atkins to conduct an independent environmental impact assessment of the firing of DU. The report of the study concluded that there was no significant risk to the public or to site personnel form air emissions from malfunctioning DU projectiles or marine food chain sources. A copy of that report has been placed in the House Library. Our own comprehensive environmental monitoring programme continues to confirm that this is still the case. The monitoring reports are all within the public domain; the most recent one was presented at a public meeting of the Dumfries and Galloway Stewartry Area Committee on 22 September 1999. DERA, however, is not complacent about these results. We work, closely, as you may know, with local interested parties and, in particular, have a close relationship with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). To this end, a meeting between representatives from DERA's Test & Evaluation Ranges Sector and Radiation Protection Services and SEPA was held on 29 November to review the progress on monitoring and to discuss plans for the future.