Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by RWMAC


  This is a study which RWMAC is carrying out jointly with the Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee (NuSAC).

  RWMAC's reasons for undertaking the work derive from the Committee's view of the significant developments that have taken place in the four year period since the collapse of the Nirex programme for deep geological disposal of ILW. RWMAC has also commented publicly on the need for consistency between different items of regulatory guidance, and between regulatory guidance and government policy.

  Against this background, storage of ILW, both raw and conditioned, on nuclear sites is subject to regulatory control by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) which consults the environment agencies on operator proposals. Waste packaging proposals, along with, where necessary, the retrieval and conditioning of raw waste, also need NII agreement. A "Letter of Comfort" from Nirex is required concerning the potential disposability of the final package. Thus a complex range of regulatory requirements, formal and informal (since Nirex has no formal regulatory locus) apply.

  The study seeks to determine whether there are currently clear and sensible aims and objectives for the conditioning, packaging and storage of UK radioactive waste. Are these objectives accepted by all the key players, clearly set out in advice and guidance and universally applied. Are they sufficient to safeguard the health of both the public and radiation workers? If not, what problems is this likely to give rise to and how might these problems, in relation to different waste streams, be addressed?

  A key issue concerns how best to achieve a sensible balance between the benefits of putting unconditioned wastes into a passively safe form for storage (ie, not requiring human intervention) compared with conditioning that might foreclose future disposal options. A related question is the life-time of ILW stores which nuclear operators need to take account of in planning their waste management strategies.

  Like all RWMAC studies, RWMAC's report will be published once it has been submitted to Ministers.


January 2002

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