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Alarm at UK Government Decision to Transport Nuclear Material by Air

North Ayrshire & Arran MP, Patricia Gibson, has expressed alarm that the UK Government has updated the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003 to enable civil nuclear materials to be transported by air. An amendment was passed at the Delegated Legislation Committee.

Patricia Gibson MP said:

“Many of my constituents in North Ayrshire & Arran, and people across Scotland, are already deeply concerned about the transportation of nuclear materials by road and rail. This new development will, quite rightly, cause real alarm.

“When the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations were first written, it was not considered an option to move this material by air and it is not clear why this is considered to be an option now.”

Nuclear material was transported by air once in the UK in 2010, under the auspices of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, although there was no specific regulatory regime in place at that time. At that time, it was not understood that a specific regulation was required.

Patricia added:

“It is astonishing that it has taken the UK Government six years to realise that a specific regulation was required and that the previous transportation of nuclear materials by air was not conducted without the proper competent authority.

“Concerns have also been raised about who is responsible for moving nuclear material by air. The Committee was told that this was a matter for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and movement by civilian airlines could not be ruled out, although the Secretary of State indicated that she did not believe that commercial carriers capable of securely carrying civil nuclear material. However, there is real doubt as to whether the Ministry of Defence or any other Department has the transport assets to do so either.

“Apart from the obvious concerns about the potential for terrorist attack, human error must also be considered since the consequences of anything going wrong as these cargoes pass over our towns and cities will be incalculable. An accident involving aircraft would indeed be catastrophic and could contaminate large tracts of land with potential radiological consequences for unprotected members of the public.”

This Amendment was passed 11 to 6 votes at the Committee with the SNP voting against, the Tories voting in favour and the Labour vote being split.

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