The NFLA submits today its views on two important radioactive waste submissions – its initial views to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) Draft Strategy 2016 – 2021 and its views on the process to develop a geological screening exercise in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of determining a future location for a deep underground radioactive waste repository.
The NDA is seeking views on its core commitments over the next five years and beyond. NFLA will be attending the NDA’s National Stakeholder Dialogue meeting in January 2016 as well. In responding to radioactive waste consultations NFLA always starts from a core set of environmental principles, and have again considered the NDA’s draft future plans in this context. (1)
In terms of the NDA’s core plans for the next five years, NFLA makes the following comments:
- Nuclear waste management should be conducted according to a clear set of environmental principles. In particular NFLA believe radioactive and toxic substances should be ‘concentrated and contained’ rather than ‘diluted and dispersed’ and should be managed in accordance with the ‘proximity principle’.
- The way in which the NDA applies the ‘waste hierarchy’ to radioactive waste is not compatible with environmental principles and results in the dilution and dispersal of waste into the sea; around landfill sites; and into the atmosphere via incineration and metal recycling.
- Whilst the NFLA has no objection to re-visiting the timing of Magnox reactor dismantling in the light of recent advances in robotics, this should be through the prism of an agreed set of environmental principles, not because new opportunities for spreading waste across the country have arisen.
- Although both reprocessing plants at Sellafield are due to close in the next five years every opportunity to end this method of diluting and dispersing waste in the Irish Sea as soon as possible should be taken.
- All methods of re-using plutonium, thus keeping weapons-useable material in circulation, should be dropped in favour of immobilising this material.
- NFLA calls on the NDA to review the necessity and utility of transports of radioactive materials by road, rail and sea and to avoid them wherever practical to do so.
At the NDA Stakeholder Dialogue meeting in January NFLA representatives will focus on raising these concerns directly with senior NDA staff. NFLA will also be interested to hear how the UK Government’s Spending Review will affect some core priorities, particularly in the safe management of the Sellafield facility.
NFLA has also submitted today a response to Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) Ltd, a subsidiary of the NDA. It is progressing with the UK Government’s policy to seek a ‘volunteer’ community to host a deep underground radioactive waste repository. (2)
A core part of that process will be to undertake a generic geological screening of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has a different policy for the management of higher activity radioactive waste) to give high level geological information to assist local authorities and communities considering hosting a facility. More detailed local studies will be produced if communities come forward. NFLA remains concerned that many complex scientific and technical issues remain in developing such a repository.
Key conclusions in the NFLA submission include:
- Experience from Cumbria suggests that the public wants to see the best geological barriers AND engineered barriers, not simply adequate or poor geology with a greater reliance on engineered barriers.
- The Geological Screening process will produce a huge amount of information, but it is not clear how non-experts, such as councillors and local authority officials, will be able to make an assessment of that information. Funding needs to be available to help them obtain independent advice to interpret the information made available.
- Local authorities and communities need an assurance that should they volunteer, a right to withdraw will remain until they are in a position to obtain an independent assessment of boreholes and other detailed geological investigations.
- There needs to be much more discussion about how and when public opinion will be tested. Any test should be carried out after an independent assessment of boreholes and detailed geological investigations has been published.
NFLA Chair Councillor Norman McDonald said:
These responses to two key radioactive waste consultations emphasise the clear and consistent approach NFLA takes to nuclear decommissioning and the safe management of nuclear materials. NFLA will continue to press the NDA to ensure that its strategy does not lead to radioactive waste being dispersed across the country but rather safely managed at existing sites where practical and possible. NFLA also calls on independent advice to be a key part of any future process for community volunteerism around finding a suitable deep-underground radioactive waste. In both responses, NFLA is mindful of the need for careful stewardship of radioactive waste and will be representing its members to ensure the nuclear industry has public protection and safe management of waste at the core of its mission.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 07771 930196 or NFLA SC Policy Advisor Pete Roche on 0131 444 1445.
Notes for editors:
(1) NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing 59 on the NDA Draft Strategy is attached with this media release. It will be placed on the NFLA website later today.
(2) NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing 60 on the RWM geological screening process is attached with this media release. It will be placed on the NFLA website later today.