Nuclear waste disposal goes public

Proposals for the way in which a site will be chosen for the long-term disposal of higher activity radioactive waste were today published for public consultation.

Proposals for the way in which a site will be chosen for the long-term disposal of radioactive waste were today published for public consultation.

The consultation, issued by the UK government and the administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, is seeking views on the technical aspects of designing and delivering a disposal facility for higher-activity radioactive waste, and on the process and criteria to be used in deciding where the future facility should be located.

Based on the recommendation of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), the government announced last year that geological disposal, coupled with safe and secure interim storage, is the way forward for the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes.

UK Environment Minister Ian Pearson said that the government was proposing an entirely new approach based on the concept communities expressing an interest in taking part in the process.

‘We need to decide how a site for the geological disposal facility is chosen. As we do that, we want make sure that people have a chance to have their say at every stage in the process,’ he said.

‘The proposed disposal facility will be a high-technology, multi-billion pound project that will bring investment and jobs for generations. It will result in significant economic and social benefits both for the host community and the wider surrounding area.’

Mr Pearson said that the UK could learn from the considerable experience of other countries that have already adopted geological disposal as a way of dealing with radioactive waste in the long term.

He stressed that this is not the start of a site selection process.

‘There is no site selection process underway at this point – and there won’t be until after we have consulted the public, and we have established and published our policy on the way forward in light of responses to that consultation,’ he said.

Planning and developing geological disposal will be based on: partnerships with potential host communities that allow issues and opportunities to be fully discussed and evaluated; implementation by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), with clear responsibilities and accountabilities; strong independent regulation by the statutory regulators, the Health and Safety Executive, the environment agencies and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security; and independent scrutiny and advice to government by a reconstituted CoRWM.

The consultation will run until 2 November 2007. More information is available here.