The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) submits today its official response to the UK Government and Devolved Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland giving its view on the updated UK strategy for the management of solid low level radioactive waste from the nuclear industry. (1)
In its response to the Governments’ joint consultation (2), NFLA argue that low-level radioactive waste management in the UK is in crisis.
The total quantity of low level radioactive waste existing, or forecast to be created, is greater than the total amount of existing disposal capacity. In the NFLA’s view, the construction and operation of new nuclear power stations would only make matters worse. NFLA also note that the existing low level waste dump near Sellafield is virtually certain to be eroded by rising sea levels and to contaminate the Cumbrian coast with large amounts of radioactive waste at some point over the next few hundred years.
In the NFLA’s view, the nuclear industry is managing to hide this crisis for the time-being by dispersing radioactive waste around the country. Spreading around the UK radioactive waste previously destined to be disposed of in the engineered facility near Sellafield, is liable to increase the UK population’s collective radiation dose and therefore increase the risk of cancer and other health problems.
Since at least August 2004, NFLA has consistently raised concerns (3) about the large volumes of lower level wastes and the likelihood that there would be pressure to introduce unacceptable waste management techniques, such as increasing the amount of wastes going to landfill, and lowering standards for site remediation, in an attempt to reduce the volumes of waste generated and their associated disposal costs. With significant quantities of potentially valuable metals arising from decommissioning, there could also be pressure to allow more recycling which would result in increases in discharges of liquid radioactive waste into the marine environment, as a consequence of the decontamination processes for metals.
NFLA is highly concerned that the emphasis being placed on “flexibility” in the Government and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) documents indicates an intention to permit, and even encourage, the dilution and dispersal of radioactive contamination throughout the environment, provided that projected dose and risk levels remain within certain parameters.
NFLA rather advocate an alternate LLW management strategy that would:
- Stop producing further waste as soon as possible. Practically speaking this means no new reactors and no fracking producing unnecessary NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials).
- Existing waste should be concentrated and contained rather than diluted and dispersed.
- LLW should be managed as close to the site of production as possible.
- Practically speaking this would involve the storage of waste, in facilities which can contain the waste on the site where it is produced. It means no incineration of waste and no decontamination which involves discharges into the environment and no depositing of waste on landfills.
- Options for controlled contaminated metals smelting as a means of volume reduction, and controlled reuse (e.g. within the radioactive waste management industry) may be acceptable.
- It is accepted that the application of environmental protection principles (e.g. ‘proximity principle’, ‘containment’, ‘Best Practicable Environmental Option’, ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment’ and ‘transportation minimisation’) at sites with good containment characteristics may result in decisions to retain large volumes of radioactively contaminated soils ‘in situ’.
NFLA Chair Councillor Mark Hackett said:
In its response to the UK and Devolved Government’s proposed strategy for the management of solid low level radioactive waste, Nuclear Free Local Authorities have real concern that the priority appears to be to allow the nuclear industry to dilute and disperse this waste, rather than concentrate and contain it. Low level waste management is in crisis in the UK, but this strategy is not fully coming to terms with it. NFLA argue for a new vision in radioactive waste policy that involves containing waste close to its place of origin and not producing further waste as much as is possible. Only by abiding by a series of such tightly controlled environmental principles can the public be assured that environmental protection and public safety are properly and appropriately dealt with.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 0161 234 3244 or Pete Roche, NFLA Scotland Policy Advisor on 0131 444 1445.
Notes for editors:
(1) The NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing is attached with this briefing and it will be placed on the NFLA website.
(2) UK Government and Devolved Administrations Joint Consultation on UK Strategy for the Management of Solid Low Level Radioactive Waste from the Nuclear Industry
(3) See for example NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing No.11 August 2004. https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/docs/radwaste/C3k.pdf