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Friday, 29 May 1987
Page: 3660

(Question No. 4963)

Mr Milton asked the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 27 November 1986:

(1) Further to the Minister's answer to question No. 3970 (Hansard, 8 October 1986, page 1708) what is meant by radiation-induced death and serious radiation-induced injury.

(2) Is the Minister able to say whether the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is always notified of accidents involving radiation exposure of workers at nuclear power stations in OECD countries; if so, (a) is this a legal requirement of the companies or government bodies responsible for the nuclear power stations and (b) what type of information is provided to the NEA.

(3) If the NEA is not always notified, how does it obtain information on the exposure of workers to radiation.

(4) Is the Minister also able to say what level of radiation exposure of workers is regarded as hazardous to health in each of the OECD countries and how many workers in each of these countries have received exposure to radiation above these limits.

(5) Does the NEA or any other agencies in OECD countries monitor deaths or diseases of workers who cease work at nuclear power stations, as death or disease from radiation exposure can occur some years after exposure.

(6) What were the causes of the 9 deaths which occurred in the civil nuclear industry in the U.K. between 1975 and 1984, referred to in the Minister's answer to part (2) of question 3970.

Mr Barry Jones —The Minister for Resources and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) Radiation-induced death is likely to occur as a result of instantaneous or short term irradiation at levels around 5 sieverts and above. At lower levels, or when only parts of the body are irradiated, other serious effects can occur, such as sterility and erythema, and this is what is meant by serious radiation-induced injury.

(2) Yes, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is advised of accidents involving radiation exposure of workers at nuclear power plants in member countries.

(a) There is no legal requirement to provide such information, the arrangements are based on a recommendation of the Council of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

(b) The information provided covers the circumstances and details of the accident, including the number of workers receiving a radiation dose in excess of prescribed limits as a result of the accident and the extent of such doses.

(3) Not applicable.

(4) The criteria and procedures for protection of workers against ionising radiation are based on the re-commendations of the International Commission of Radiological Protection (ICRP). The recommendations have been incorporated into ``Basic Safety Standards for Radiation Protection'' issued jointly by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Labour Organisation, the NEA and the World Health Organisation. In turn, OECD countries, and others, have adopted these standards as a basis for legislation and regulations. These ICRP limits are set out in ICRP publication number 26 published in 1977 copy of which I have arranged to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.

Apart from advice received under 2 (b) above, the NEA does not have statistics of exposures above the annual dose limits established under national legislation or regulations as outlined above.

(5) The monitoring of deaths or diseases of workers who cease work at nuclear power stations, in terms of the possible effects of such work, requires epidemiologi-cal analysis. Such studies require data specific to regions and the particular groups involved. Epidemiological studies cannot therefore be carried out effectively on an international basis. The NEA does not carry out such studies, but has conducted assessments into levels and trends of occupational exposures on a task by task basis for workers in commercial nuclear power plants. Epidemiological studies have been carried out in the U.K. for particular groups of nuclear workers, and the National Radiological Protection Board is carrying out a national study collating all the available data.

(6) The U.K. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was unable to provide the specific causes of the 9 deaths which occurred in the U.K. civil nuclear industry between 1975 and 1984 and which were reported in the U.K. Hansard of 10 March 1986. However, in the U.K. Hansard of 9 March 1987 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy reported that there were 10 deaths in the nuclear civil industry in the 10 years to February 1987 none of which involved radiation. The HSE reports that these were due to road traffic accidents, people being struck by objects, crushed by machinery, falling or being asphyxiated.