Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-263)|
MONDAY 17 DECEMBER
260. Gentlemen, is this an urgent matter or
(Professor Curtis) Which? The whole
261. Deciding what to do about this?
(Professor Curtis) The whole question? I think it
is an urgent matter. I think it is easy to assume that as the
regulators are in place keeping an eye on these things that as
long as they are doing a good job, there will be no threats, but
if this waste is left as it is, it is complicated and difficult
to deal with, particularly the older wastes which you have been
talking about, it will continue to deteriorate. I do not think
it is responsible to allow that to happen. I think if we have
a policy in place it will help that process of developing intermediate
stages. We are keen in the intermediate term to see these wastes
processed and repackaged so they are in a more passive and stable
state where they require less active management. There is a cost
implication, too. If you leave these things in a bad state, your
costs of surveillance and security are going to escalate. So to
my mind, again speaking personally, there is this hazard which
will tend to increase if it is left alone. Of course, I am saying
what the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate are really saying here;
it makes good sense for lots of reasons to get on and improve
the state of that waste, to condition that waste, and it is also
important ideally that you have a policy for long term management
which will define to some extent the preferred form of that waste
for its long term management because it makes economic sense in
262. What is your definition of "urgent"?
(Professor Curtis) Fred?
(Mr Barker) I was going to suggest that the critical
thing is to move forward after March 12 to get some decisions
taken which enable this overseeing panel to be set up by the end
of the year. You could interpret that as a reasonably urgent timetable
that needs to be fulfilled. After that you are in the hands of
the overseeing panel and it will be necessary to do more consultation.
There will be more events to engage with the public and talk to
stakeholders about the range of options you want, the criteria
against which you assess them, and so on and so forth. There is
clearly a need to be able to move forward in a programmatic way
on that. You could say the complete programme for getting to a
point where government can reach a policy decision on a long-term
radioactive waste management option is not as urgent as perhaps
dealing with some of the historic wastes where we need to move
forward with conditioning programmes. The view, however, is that
we need to move forward in a sense along both tracks. On the policy
formulation process track we need to move forward at a pace which
is consistent with ensuring that we are properly engaging with
the public and engaging with stakeholders.
263. Whereupon a whole series of definitions
could be demanded of you, but I am not going to do that. Gentlemen,
thank you very much indeed for coming to see us this afternoon.
There were a number of issues where you said you had not yet formulated
a view, or not discussed it, when you do, we would obviously be
pleased to know what they are.
(Professor Curtis) We will supply them to you.
Chairman: Thank you very much.