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Radioactive Waste

Question for Department for Energy and Climate Change

UIN HL5462, tabled on 4 March 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have for storing or transforming the United Kingdom's stockpile of highly reactive nuclear waste, including plutonium; what is the timetable for those plans; and whether those plans involve collaboration with European countries and agencies.

Answered on

11 March 2015

The majority of high activity radioactive wastes are unsuitable for disposal at existing waste management facilities. The Government’s policy is for these wastes to be stored safely and securely until a suitable disposal facility is available. The Government’s policy, following the recommendations of the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in 2006, is to manage these wastes in the longer term through geological disposal.

On 24 July 2014 the Government published a White Paper setting out a revised plan to implement geological disposal. The Government has listened to the public and will work with communities and experts to address people’s concerns on issues like the planning process and environmental impacts. There is no fixed timetable for delivering a geological disposal facility. The Government understands that a community that engages in the site selection process will want to progress at a pace acceptable to them, not one imposed by Government.

Geological disposal is internationally recognised as the safest and most secure way of dealing with radioactive waste on a long-term basis.

Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), as the developer for geological disposal, has bilateral agreements with various international organisations. RWM engage at a high level with: the International Atomic Energy Agency; the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency; and the European Commission. RWM also take part in relevant internationally coordinated joint research and development, working groups and other collaborative mechanisms.

All options for plutonium management require further work to be carried out to better understand their technical and commercial details. DECC asked the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to undertake this work with the technology suppliers with the aim of establishing a consistent level of understanding of each option. DECC expects that NDA will provide this advice in Spring 2015. The report will give a view on the balance of attractiveness and risk for each option, which will enable DECC to consider options for the way forward.

Answered by

Department for Energy and Climate Change