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David Cairns: My hon. Friend is tempting me to comment on the final recommendations of the CoRWM report, which we simply do not have. However, it is up to the Scottish Executive to decide how they wish to progress their own response to CoRWM. In my view, which I have reiterated throughout my speech, this is clearly an area in which
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there has been a considerable degree of joint working. I am also clear that CoRWM is reporting to the Government as well as to the Ministers in the Scottish Executive.

I want to tell the House why that is the case, and to set out why the Scottish Executive have responsibility for this matter. Part II of schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998 reserves the topic of nuclear energy and makes it clear that this reservation includes nuclear safety, security and safeguards. All these are the responsibility of UK Ministers throughout the whole country. Exception (b) to this provision in head D4 of schedule 5 provides that, notwithstanding this general reservation of nuclear energy, the subject matter of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 is devolved. Section 2 of this 1993 Act defines radioactive waste, and provisions from section 13 onwards provide for the regulation and disposal of radioactive waste. It follows, therefore, that all aspects of dealing with radioactive waste in Scotland are matter for the Scottish Parliament.

The disposal of radioactive waste is a devolved matter. Any future decisions on the disposal of radioactive waste in Scotland are for Scottish Executive Ministers. I should add for completeness that the detailed definition of radioactive waste in the 1993 Act includes nuclear waste, in the sense of substances that have been irradiated by exposure to a nuclear reaction in a reactor or as part of the construction of a reactor. That is significant because the dismantling of decommissioned nuclear reactors is consequently one of the major sources of nuclear waste by volume, and produces a good deal of the higher activity wastes, which are the concern of CoRWM.

Turning to the particular types of waste in Scotland, we have waste from our power stations and from other uses. As the Executive recognises, Scotland has to be engaged as part of the solution, not just part of the problem. The provisions for managing existing waste in Scotland are a matter for the Executive. There is no high-level waste in Scotland. Spent power station fuel is taken to Sellafield and the activity of previous high-level wastes at Dounreay has decayed.

Pending a long-term management option for intermediate-level wastes, interim arrangements are in place for them to be stored at the sites where they are created. Such interim storage facilities are built at sites as and when required in line with decommissioning plans.

That goes to some of the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West raised, such as the confusion that exists, whether it is deliberate as he believes or otherwise, over handling different levels of radioactive waste and those who perhaps seek to portray the low levels of radioactive waste as being on a par with the very high levels of waste, which obviously involve different sorts of management. That confuses the issue. I think that he is quite right, and during his speech he teased out the different grades of waste that are involved.

John Robertson: Going back to the point that my hon. Friend has made and which I clumsily made about the fact that the high-level waste goes down to Sellafield, which is south of the border, does that mean that if the Scottish Parliament and Executive decided
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that they wanted to control all their waste, we would have to ship high level waste back from Sellafield to Scotland for them to deal with?

David Cairns: My hon. Friend is encouraging me to speculate not only on what the outcome of the CoRWM report will be and the Scottish Executive’s response to that, but on what the implications will be for us of the Scottish Executive’s response to a report that has not yet been published. He will forgive me if I do not go down that road, although there is clear recognition—I want to come on to this in a moment—by the First Minister that there is a problem in Scotland of dealing with this waste.

The First Minister is showing leadership in tackling the issue and not running away from it, like those who would simply wish the waste away. Let us get ourselves a magic wand and wish it all away. Let us wish away the waste that will come from decommissioning Hunterston B and Torness. Let us wish away the waste from Dounreay and Chapel Cross. That luxury is affordable to those who are in opposition and never have to take such decisions, but those in government, whether in the Scottish Executive or here, have to take such decisions. We recognise that we cannot simply wish away the radioactive waste.

We all have to deal with the radioactive waste issue. Waste from various sources already exists and we need to ensure that we manage it appropriately. Considerable quantities of existing waste in Scotland come from the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, which have been an important part of Scottish industry and served Scottish electricity users well over several decades. There will be substantially larger volumes of such waste in Scotland as decommissioning proceeds and in time takes in the stations at Hunterston B and Torness, which are still operating.

A recent study estimated that the volume of intermediate and low level radioactive waste in Scotland will grow from about 14,000 cu m in 2004 to 54,000 cu m by 2014, and continue to grow thereafter as Hunterston B and Torness move into decommissioning.

There is this legacy of waste in Scotland, but it is a devolved responsibility as to how it should be handled in the long-term. It will have to be addressed by the Administration in Edinburgh, but there have been important considerations in the Scottish Executive in agreeing, first, with UK Ministers to set up CoRWM and continuing co-operation, ongoing, through the managing radioactive waste safely programme.

We are at the stage where CoRWM is about to finalise its recommendations, and all involved will need to consider how they wish to respond. Some critics appear to consider devolved responsibility in this area is simply the power to keep saying no. That is not how responsible government works. There is a problem about what to do about legacy waste in Scotland—it is a devolved problem—and the devolved Administration will have to address it. However, the First Minister is well aware of the position. He said in the Scottish Parliament on 18 May:

That is a sensible approach which we would expect from the First Minister. It is for everyone in the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Executive to continue to work jointly in responding to CoRWM, and to work in other ways towards agreement on a shared approach to the handling of all types of radioactive waste from all parts of Britain.

My hon. Friend asked a couple of other questions. He spoke about the planning regime, which is also devolved in Scotland. The energy review, however, will consider the planning regime not in the context of nuclear new build, but as it applies to all forms of electricity generation. We are aware that, not just in Scotland but particularly in Scotland, some of the most controversial aspects of the planning regime revolve around onshore wind generation. Every application for onshore wind generation itself generates, in the first instance, enormous public concern and many objections. Incidentally, the Opposition parties here that demand more and more forms of renewables are often the same parties that object to every planning application and permission in the country.

My hon. Friend asked about the vulnerability of nuclear installations in an age of global terrorism. That is an important and serious question, and one that needs to be addressed now rather than in the context of nuclear new build. Any prospect of nuclear new build is still some years away, and we are dealing with the threat of global terrorism today. My hon. Friend would not expect me to go into detail about the security arrangements to ensure that our nuclear installations are protected, but they are in place. They have been thoroughly reviewed since 11 September, and are the subject of continuing reviews. There have been no terrorist incidents at our nuclear installations so far, but my hon. Friend is right to keep us abreast of the need to ensure their safety when there is an ongoing terrorist threat.

As I said at the outset, we are in a holding position. We await the final outcome of the energy review, which is expected some time next month, and we await what will be said about how we are to provide the energy that our country needs without wrecking the planet in the process. “How do we do that?” is a simple question; answering it is more complex, but that is the task with which the energy review must grapple. We also await the final report from CoRWM, which is dealing with the legacy of waste from which we simply cannot run away. We have to deal with it, because it is here and no amount of wishful thinking will dispose of it. We can deal with it only by making decisions based on the science and the recommendations of CoRWM. It is for CoRWM to make the recommendations and, ultimately, it will be for Ministers to make the decisions.

Unfortunately, we have already heard a recitation of an old list of sites from a survey carried out many years ago. We need a public debate on the siting of any deep geological disposition, if that is the recommendation of CoRWM and if it is what Ministers decide. There is no secret list of sites, and there is no plan to dump nuclear waste in Scotland or anywhere else. The whole
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CoRWM process has been about a grown-up consideration of this issue, based on the science and moving forward from CoRWM into the months— and, indeed, years—ahead, because many of these decisions will not be implemented for many years to come. So we have the time to take forward this issue in a considered manner that is rooted in the science and free from the hysteria that often marks this debate, but on the very clear understanding that it is not an issue that we can duck. We need to deal with it, irrespective of the
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outcome of the energy review and of the future of nuclear power in this country.

I finish by once again congratulating my hon. Friend on continuing to raise these important issues. His speech this evening is weighty and important contribution to a very significant debate, to which we will doubtless return in the months ahead.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at fifteen minutes past Ten o’clock.

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