Nuclear, Waste Management & Decommissioning

UK launches nuclear waste consultation

8 June 2009 – The UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has launched a consultation for the management of solid low level radioactive waste (LLW) for the UK nuclear industry.

The move follows a response to a revised government policy for the management of solid low-level waste and has been produced in conjunction with a UK-wide consultative group, the Low Level Waste Strategy Group, which represents a cross-section of businesses and other groups.

The strategy is being launched along with the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which underpins the strategy, said the NDA.

The principles of the draft strategy are similar to those applied to domestic and industrial waste management across the country. These are to prevent, reduce, reuse and recycle, prior to disposal.

The principles are in addition to maintaining high standards of health, safety, security and environmental protection.

At present, about 335m tons of conventional (non-radioactive) waste are generated each year. In comparison, predicted volumes of LLW are around 25 000 m3 per year – the equivalent to just 0.0075 per cent of conventional amounts.

The majority of the UK’s solid low-level radioactive waste from the nuclear industry and is disposed of at the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) near Drigg, Cumbria in England.

This site has been in use since 1959 and is now close to reaching full capacity. More space is being built and there are plans for expansion in the future.

But even with extra capacity (potentially 700 000 m3 subject to planning and regulatory approvals), there is still expected to be a significant shortfall compared with the predicted amount of waste to be generated over the long term (3m m3 over 120 years).

“‘Reduce, reuse and recycle’ is a familiar mantra for most homes now – and through the launch of this consultation we are looking at how we can apply these basic waste management principles to solid low level radioactive waste in a safe and sustainable manner,” said head of Low Level Waste for the NDA, Jo Fisher.

Solid LLW is produced by both the civil and military nuclear sectors and is made up of a wide range of materials, including plastic, paper, tissue, clothing, wood, metal and building rubble.