Nuclear mattersIreland examines need for radioactive waste facility near Shannon

Published 30 January 2009

Terrorists may try to smuggle nuclear materials into the United States through Ireland; Irish government will build radioactive waste facility near Shannon airport in case radiological screening of aircraft bound for the United States discovers such material

U.S. worries about what to do with nuclear waste dovetail with Irish worries about nuclear contamination. A high-level government interdepartmental group is now examining the need for a national purpose-built radioactive waste facility. Part of its work is focused on what protocols should be in place in the event of a positive alarm during nuclear/radiological screening of aircraft bound for the United States.

Irish Times’s Gordon Deegan writes that the screening for nuclear materials is to be put in place at Shannon airport this summer and at Dublin airport in 2010 as part of the new U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) facilities, following an agreement in November between the United States and Irish governments.

The Irish Department of Transport refused access to the vast majority of records concerning the negotiations that led to the new customs and borders facilities, citing “international relations of the State.” The released records, however, include a letter from Minister of State for the Environment Michael Kitt to Department of Transport secretary general Julie O’Neill last September on the establishment of the committee. “Ireland currently does not have a national, purpose-built, radioactive waste facility for disposing of or storing its radioactive waste,” Kitt said.

Kitt chairs the committee and departments and agencies represented include the departments of transport, environment, defense, and health as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Radiological Protection Institute. The inaugural meeting of the committee took place last September. Its agenda included a presentation by the RPI on radioactive waste management in Ireland and the terms of reference for the group.