Memorandum submitted by Nirex
Nuclear power is one non-carbon energy source
that was discussed in the PIU energy review. The long-term management
of radioactive wastes was highlighted as an issue to be addressed
when considering developing new nuclear power stations.
Nirex's Mission is:
To provide the UK with safe, environmentally
sound and publicly acceptable options for the long-term management
of radioactive materials.
Radioactive waste exists whether or not new
or replacement build takes place. It is a scientific, technical,
social, political and ethical issue and due to the long time scales
involved should be dealt with on behalf of society.
Nirex does not advocate new build but must inform
itself of the consequences for safe long-term management of radioactive
waste of any possible new or replacement build strategy.
This submission outlines Nirex's view of what
the key issues are with regard to long-term radioactive waste
management. The submission also highlights views that have been
expressed by the public on these issues that, we felt, might be
of interest to the Committee.
In September 2001, DEFRA and the Devolved Administrations
launched a consultation paper, "Managing Radioactive Waste
Safely" to discuss how to develop policy on the long-term
management of radioactive wastes in the UK.
The review was caused by a failure in the late
1990's to implement the policy of deep disposal in the UK. Since
then, Nirex has reviewed the events that occurred and identified
lessons that it believes can be learned to take forward the development
of radioactive waste management policy in the UK.
The lessons can be grouped under three themes,
underpinned by the concept of transparency.
The structure of an industry affects the legitimacy
of its activities and the visibility of issues to decisions makers.
Radioactive waste management involves short-term decisions that
have very long-term consequences. Nirex believes that the short
and long-term issues need to be visible to the decision makers
and that the best way to achieve this is to maintain separate
organisations that are responsible for the different aspects.
The DTI recently issued a White Paper announcing
plans to formulate a Liabilities Management Authority (LMA) to
focus on decommissioning and clean-up of redundant nuclear facilities.
Based upon lessons learned and consultation
with a wide range of stakeholders, Nirex sees the need to maintain
an independent, long-term waste management organisation with a
separate focus on finding a long-term solution to radioactive
waste on behalf of society. In response to Phase 1 of its consultation,
DEFRA announced the setting up of an independent body to take
forward the consultation process and, in particular, to review
long-term waste management options. More announcements are expected
later in the year about the organisational structures required.
Commercial Decommissioning and Clean-up Long-term
It is Nirex's view (as stated above) that a
separate and independent long-term waste management organisation
is needed to work with society to find a long-term solution. Nirex
has also suggested that a Policy Board could help DEFRA and the
Devolved Administrations to develop and establish Government policy
in this area. The Board would assist Government in carrying forward
the consultation process that has been started to reach a conclusion
A clear decision making process must be set
up by Government including how people can be involved, what outcomes
are required, how decisions will be made and by whom. There should
be stakeholder involvement throughout the process and those in
authority should be accountable for their actions and show how
stakeholders concerns have been taken into account.
Nirex favours a policy outlining the process
for developing solutions, rather than a policy that dictates a
particular option or solution.
The behaviour of those involved in long-term
waste management must be open, transparent and accountable. From
the lessons it has tried to learn, Nirex believes that institutional
structures with clear accountability and independence from waste
producers alongside transparent and accountable processes affect
the behaviour and credibility of the parties involved.
Nirex believes that these lessons would be equally
applicable to developments on energy production in the UK.
Nirex is currently undertaking research into
all aspects of radioactive waste management including engineering,
technical, scientific, social, ethical, economic and political
issues. The total spend on research in 2001-02 was approximately
During consultations with members of the public
about radioactive waste management, members of the discussion
groups have raised concerns about continuing to use nuclear energy
when there is no current solution for the waste. Clearly a long-term
implementable solution to radioactive waste will be important
in building public support for any new nuclear build in the UK.
Quotes from stakeholder dialogues Nirex has
conducted that refer to the link between nuclear energy and long-term
radioactive waste management are included below. The references
for the reports are listed.
"It seems irresponsible to create something
that you don't know how to get rid of it, how to store it, and
it's going to be around for hundreds of thousands of years."
"There were many references [during the
discussion groups] to the short-sightedness of producing wastes
for which there is no disposal method available."
"Protect future generations and stop making
radioactive stuff now."
"Stop additional production of the problem
materials. And see where you can move on from there."
"There were, however, some participants
who saw nuclear power as being economically and nationally beneficial
or who saw it as preferable to fuel production based on burning
"For many people, the scale of the (radioactive
waste) problem was a strong argument for stopping nuclear energy
now. They were unwilling to separate the issue of waste management
from the issue of waste generation. Given that no agreement had
been reached on what to do with the existing waste, it was considered
irresponsible and immoral to continue producing any more."
"Dialogue has to keep open the relationship
of current (radioactive) waste production and the production of
future waste. Dialogue has to take place in relation to the wider
context. This wider context includes the whole question of energy
supply, looking at both supply and demand sides."
"Just because the (radioactive) waste will
be monitored and retrievable, this should not justify the building
of new nuclear power stations."
Nirex is happy to provide copies of the reports
referred to and to discuss with the Committee any aspects of this
23 September 2002
1 Future Foundation, Interim report to Nirex on the
qualitative focus groups, A report to Nirex, 2000. Back
CSEC, The Front of the Front End: Mapping Public Concerns about
Radioactive Waste Management Issues, Report to UK Nirex by The
Centre for the Study of Environmental Change (CSEC), Lancaster
University, 2001. Back
Future Foundation, Identifying public concerns and perceived
hazards for the phased disposal concept, A report to Nirex, 2002. Back
UKCEED, Workshop on the Monitoring and Retrievability of Radioactive
Waste, A Report for Nirex prepared by The UK Centre for Economic
and Environmental Development (UK CEED) in association with CSEC
at Lancaster University, Manchester Town Hall, 2nd December 2000. Back