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Radioactive Waste

Energy and Climate Change written question – answered on 3rd May 2011.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what quantities of operational (a) low, (b) intermediate and (c) high level nuclear waste have been created to date as a result of the UK's civil nuclear power programme; and what assessment he has made of the volumes of decommissioning waste that will be created from (i) the existing nuclear programme and (ii) any future new build programme.

Photo of Charles Hendry Charles Hendry The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

The United Kingdom Radioactive Waste Inventory is currently updated every three years with the most recent update published on 22 March 2011. The inventory describes the stocks of radioactive waste and radioactive materials held in the UK at 1 April 2010 as well as those that are predicted to arise from the operation and decommissioning of current facilities in the future.

The inventory includes wastes produced from a number of programmes including the generation of electricity in nuclear power stations, the associated production and processing of nuclear fuel, the use of radioactive materials in industry, medicine and research, and from some military nuclear programmes. The following table sets out the waste volumes resulting from these programmes, stored in the UK at 1 April 2010, as well as estimated arisings from current facilities in the future. The table does not include waste which has already been disposed of. Further information is available in the inventory reports available at:

Stored waste at 1 April 2010 (m (3) ) Future arisings (m (3) ) Total (m (3) )
Low Level Waste (LLW) 66,000 4,360,000 4,430,000
Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) 94,300 192,000 287,000
High Level Waste (HLW) 1,620 -601 1,020
Total 162,000 4,550,000 4,720,000
Notes 1. Future arisings of HLW have negative volumes. This is because Sellafield has reported future arisings of HLW to show that the volume of accumulated waste (liquid plus vitrified product) will fall as liquid waste existing at 1.4.2010 and forecast in the future is conditioned to a vitrified product. 2. HL W is the product of reprocessing the spent fuel from current reactors.

The amount of radioactive waste that would arise as a result of a future new build programme would depend on such issues as the number and the type of reactors. Based on an assumption of a new build fleet comprised of four AP 1000 reactors and four EPR reactors operating for 60 years and generating 10GW, disposability assessments undertaken by NDA suggest that the estimated amount of intermediate level waste could be of the order of 25,000 cubic meters and an estimated amount of spent fuel of about 20,000 cubic meters. Based on the same assumptions, the low level waste management company, LLW Repository Ltd, has estimated that approximately 80,000 cubic meters of LLW might be produced.

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