Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-47)
MONDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2001
40. Nirex had an independent stakeholder review
carried out earlier this year, I think, by Environmental Resources
Management, published in July this year?
(Mr Murray) Yes.
41. And one of their conclusions was that you
should initiate research on surface storage of radioactive waste.
That was July this year. Post September 11, is that still an option
that anyone would accept?
(Mr Murray) You are asking me two questions there;
if I address them in two parts. First of all, the question about
Nirex looking at surface storage. One of the issues with Nirex
in the past has been that we have been very focused on deep geological
disposal, and, although we have looked at other options, it is
very important now that the organisation taking this forward,
Nirex's successor, probably, would be looking at all options and
much more aware of what was required in other options. A second
point is that, no matter what, there will have to be surface storage,
in any strategy, because it takes time to work through this kind
of process, we are talking decades here, with the best will in
the world, so there does have to be surface storage; and Nirex's
advice to waste producers actually covers the surface storage
period, in terms of the packages that they produce. The question
that you ask about whether surface storage is a viable option
post September 11 is something that many people have talked to
us about since September 11, and they have generally been along
of the lines, `well, it's obvious that something has to be done,
the only thing to do is to take the waste deep.' My answer to
that is, September 11 was a terrible thing, and it had an effect
on all of us, I think, but we need to feed September 11 into this
kind of consultation process and we need to have a reasoned debate
around these issues and come to a slightly slower discussion of
it, taking a little bit of time to think through just truly what
are the implications are.
42. But what your independent stakeholder review
was recommending, back there in July, becomes a more difficult
option to debate now?
(Mr Murray) Nevertheless, the body taking this forward
should have more involvement than that, it should take a wider
view of all the options.
43. Can I ask just a couple of other things,
Chairman, if I may. I believe there is a backlog of both intermediate-level
waste and high-level waste which still requires conditioning;
that is so?
(Mr Murray) That is so. First of all, we do not have
any remit to deal with high-level waste.
44. Do you think you should have, for high-level
(Mr Murray) Yes. I think that it would be better if
our successor had a wider remit, that looked across all the wastes,
and actually all the options, so that it was a much more rounded
way of going forward.
45. Alright; but given the limitations on what
your responsibilities are, at the moment, is there a case for
the conditioning of that intermediate-level waste, which is part
of the backlog, being accelerated now, rather than waiting for
further policy developments on it?
(Mr Murray) I think there is a lot of pressure, particularly
from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, and, indeed, I think,
the Environment Agency as well, to get ahead with packaging waste.
We do not see that as something that causes a problem, in terms
of what we do; in the sense that if our advice is fed in early
enough to the process, it should not really cause too many problems,
in terms of getting ahead. I do not recognise that there is no
pressure to get ahead, I believe there is pressure to get ahead,
and that the Inspectorates are the people who are applying that
(Dr Hooper) I think, if I might add, Chris, just in
the last 12 months, both the regulators and, if anybody from Scotland
will forgive me, the Environment Agency for England and Wales,
certainly, and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, have put
in their guidance to inspectors that the packaging advice process
that Nirex operates is a valid process for considering the conditioning
of intermediate-level waste. So I think there is a process that
is accepted by the regulator for making progress on this conditioning.
46. Finally, are you satisfied with the way
in which existing waste is being stored; are there any risks involved?
(Mr Murray) There are risks with raw wastes, as they
are stored, but that is a question really for the industry, not
for ourselves. We, for our part, are concerned with the very long
term, and what we would like to see is the process continuing
at a steady pace, getting the waste into a form that can be said
to be okay for the long term; and that is our role, to feed in
the long-term perspective, what needs to be done in order to get
a package to get a waste product, if you like, that will be suitable
for very long-term management.
47. And you are happy with the way the industry
is managing that situation at the moment?
(Mr Murray) Yes, given what Alan said, that we are
being built into the process by both regulators. You could argue
that we should be a statutory consultee, but these are all refinements
of the process.
Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed.
We will no doubt be back in touch with you, but we have got a
lot to gallop through today. Thank you very much for coming.