Policy framework for managing radioactive substances and nuclear decommissioning

Department for Energy Security and Net Zero written statement – made at on 16 May 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

Nuclear power, which uses radioactive nuclear fuel, continues to provide low carbon electricity to homes and businesses in the UK. The UK also uses radioactive substances in many different products and processes – to treat and diagnose serious illnesses, to deliver research and development and in industrial processes. Most uses of radioactive material create radioactive waste, which needs to be managed and the facilities that use this type of material, including nuclear power stations, will eventually need to be deconstructed safely and efficiently after they stop operating.

The UK Government and devolved administrations are today publishing an updated policy framework for nuclear decommissioning and managing radioactive substances following a consultation conducted during spring 2023.

The policy document published today replaces, Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy: Final Conclusions (Cm 2919) which was published in 1995. It updates, clarifies and consolidates a number of policies into a UK-wide policy framework. It sets out clearly those policies that are pursued jointly by the UK Government and devolved administrations and any separate policies that apply in different parts of the United Kingdom.

Nuclear power will continue to be an important source of low carbon electricity in England and Wales as we work towards reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Although the Scottish Government does not support building new nuclear plants under current technologies it places great importance on the need to address Scotland's radioactive waste legacy and is committed to the safe, secure and responsible management of waste with care for people and the environment. The UK Government and devolved administrations agree that it is vital that we have a policy framework for decommissioning and managing radioactive waste that is fit to deal with our legacy waste and fit for the future.

The waste can occur as gases, liquids or solids. Radioactive substances policy covers the management and use of radioactive materials and how any subsequent wastes are then managed to ensure people and the environment are protected.

Key updates to the UK-wide policy include enabling additional disposal capability in England and Wales to deliver faster, more cost effective and sustainable decommissioning and placing greater emphasis on including decommissioning by design into nuclear projects.

Overall, the revised policy framework creates clearer and more consistent policy objectives across the UK, which should unlock more innovative and sustainable ways of working realising significant savings for industry and the taxpayer, whilst maintaining high standards of safety, security and environmental protection.

The UK Government and devolved administrations are publishing alongside the final policy framework a summary of the responses to the consultation.

I will deposit a copy of the updated policy framework for nuclear decommissioning and managing radioactive substances in the Libraries of the House.