Radioactive Waste

– Scottish Parliament written question – answered on 26th March 2007.

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Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

Question S2W-32600

To ask the Scottish Executive, further to the answer to question S2W-23582 by Ross Finnie on 28 February 2006, when it will publish the outcome of the review of the policy for management of solid low level radioactive waste.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I am pleased to announce that the review by Government (the UK Government and the devolved administrations) of the long-term management of the UK’s solid low level radioactive waste (LLW), has been completed and that the revised policy statement is being published today. Copies of the policy statement will be placed in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Bib. number 42382). Copies are also available on the internet at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/Waste/16293/176481 .

The public consultation on the review of solid LLW management policy was published on 28 February 2006. It parallels and complements the on-going work Government is carrying out on the policy for the management of higher activity radioactive wastes under our Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme, following recommendations made by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) in July 2006.

As I made clear when I announced the consultation, unlike the higher activity wastes, paths for the long-term management and disposal of LLW already exist but we recognised that there were problems which needed to be dealt with in that:

with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA’s) decommissioning and clean-up programme underway, there will be greatly increased arisings of LLW over the coming decades, and this is already starting to happen; there will be insufficient capacity at the national LLW disposal facility near Drigg in Cumbria to deal with this waste, and the future capacity of this facility is currently also under review; while other disposal routes for certain types of LLW have been used (e.g. by disposal on or near the site of arising, by controlled and uncontrolled burial to landfill and by incineration), the availability of these other routes has diminished in recent years, and finding small-scale treatment and disposal routes for the least radioactive LLW, which are very important for the non-nuclear sectors (hospitals, research and education establishments, and the oil and gas industry) is proving increasingly difficult.

The revised policy recognises that much LLW has very low levels of radioactivity and can be disposed of in a variety of ways while posing a negligible risk to human health or the environment. The revised policy will:

allow greater flexibility in the management of the wide range of LLW that already exists, and will arise in future from the NDA’s activities and other nuclear and non-nuclear industry arisings; require the necessary level of safety to be maintained through the use of a risk informed approach, and the preparation of plans and safety cases that are acceptable to the regulatory bodies (including the Environment Agencies and the Health and Safety Executive); seek to minimise the amount of LLW for disposal by application of the waste hierarchy applied in other areas of waste management – avoidance of generation, minimisation, reuse and recycling – prior to disposal; emphasise the need for effective consultation and public involvement in the development and delivery of LLW waste management plans; make the NDA responsible for development of a UK-wide strategy for the management of nuclear industry LLW, including the identification of the need for additional LLW disposal capacity and facilities, and initiate the first steps towards development of a UK-wide strategy for the management of non-nuclear LLW. The first step in this will be for Government, in conjunction with the NDA, to undertake a study which will give a clear picture of arisings across the UK.

The policy has been developed with stakeholders, including two national stakeholder workshops held during 2005: the first to discuss the key issues; the second to discuss a first draft of the consultation document which consequently was revised extensively. There were discussions with stakeholders during the public consultation period and subsequently on issues raised in responses received. The policy statement issued today reflects that engagement.

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