The UK’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has published its final recommendations for the long-term management of the UK’s radioactive waste and called for immediate action to begin their implementation.
After a two and a half year programme of engagement with the public, stakeholders and the scientific community, the independent committee has produced a set of 15 recommendations for consideration by DEFRA and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The key elements of the recommendations – which CoRWM regards as an interdependent package include, for the long term, disposal of radioactive waste deep underground (geological disposal) and robust interim storage, in recognition of the fact that the process leading to the creation of suitable facilities for disposal may take several decades. CoRWM has also called for the immediate creation of an oversight body to begin the process of implementation
According to CoRWM, the recommendations provide, for the first time, a realistic roadmap to manage the UK’s radioactive waste over the long term.
‘The Committee has worked tirelessly to assess a huge amount of information and analyse the views of a diverse range of people,’ said Professor Gordon MacKerron, Chairman of CoRWM. ‘The results of our engagement with stakeholders and the public since April have confirmed that our recommendations are scientifically and technically robust. They also provide the basis for inspiring wider public confidence in any future process.
‘The UK has been creating radioactive waste for 50 years without any clear idea of what to do with it. We are confident that our recommendations provide the way forward. It will, however, take a long time to put in place all the component parts so now it’s time to get on with the job.’
The Committee agreed that deep disposal in an underground repository is the best available approach for long-term management of the waste in terms of safety and security. However, it believes that a robust programme of interim storage is needed to safeguard the waste for 100 years or more, in case of delay or failure in a repository programme.
The Committee’s remit does not include recommending specific sites. However, it has set out a process to determine where any facilities should be located. This process should include identifying parts of the UK with suitable geology in which to build a facility, the report says.
The recommendations apply to the estimated 470,000 cubic metres of waste that currently exist or will arise through decommissioning of current nuclear sites.
In producing its final report, the Committee felt it important to reiterate its position on new nuclear build.
‘CoRWM takes no position on the desirability or otherwise of nuclear new build. We believe that future decisions on new build should be subject to their own assessment process, including consideration of waste. The public assessment process that should apply to any future new build proposals should build on the CoRWM process, and will need to consider a range of issues including the social, political and ethical issues of a deliberate decision to create new nuclear wastes.’