Memorandum submitted by Nuclear Legacy Advisory Forum (NuLeAF) (NPS 34)

 

 

NEW NUCLEAR BUILD AND RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT

 

Introduction

 

1 NuLeAF is a Special Interest Group of the Local Government Association that seeks to represent the views of its member local authorities on nuclear legacy management issues and developments that may impact upon that management. Further information about NuLeAF is available at www.nuleaf.org.uk.

 

2 As an organisation, NuLeAF is neither pro nor anti nuclear. However, it does have considerable collective understanding and experience of radioactive waste management developments. This has been drawn on in preparation of the comments below, which arise from a meeting of NuLeAF's Strategy Review Group on 15 December 2009. NuLeAF's draft formal response to the Government consultation on the draft Nuclear NPS will be considered at its Steering Group meeting on 27 January.

 

3 This submission provides comments on two aspects of the draft Nuclear NPS's coverage of radioactive waste management that we think should inform discussion at the Committee:

 

a) the Government's preliminary conclusion that effective arrangements will exist to manage and dispose of the waste that will be produced by new nuclear power stations; and

b) the Government's view that, as a result, "the IPC need not consider this question" (draft Nuclear NPS, para 3.8.20).

 

The Government's Preliminary Conclusion that Effective Arrangements for Managing Radioactive Wastes Will Exist

 

4 The draft Nuclear NPS refers to the Government's policy that "before development consents for new nuclear power stations are granted, the Government will need to be satisfied that effective arrangements exist or will exist to manage and dispose of the waste they will produce" (para 3.8.1). In reaching its overall conclusion, Government focused on higher activity wastes and concluded that: geological disposal is technically achievable for those wastes; a suitable site can be found for geological disposal, and safe, secure and environmentally acceptable interim storage will be available prior to geological disposal.

 

5 In relation to finding a site for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), Government refers to the formal 'expressions of interest' about potential involvement in the siting process that have been received from three local authorities (para 3.8.14). The Committee should be aware that a Partnership has been established to advise these local authorities on a decision about formal participation. Further information about the Partnership is available at www.westcumbriamrws.org.uk.

 

6 The central issue about the Government's preliminary conclusion is not whether technical solutions to radioactive waste management are known in principle or, in some cases, practice (as they are), but whether current strategies for implementing them will succeed and, if not, whether fall-backs or contingencies can be put in place. Whether current strategies are likely to succeed is essentially a matter of judgement. Certainly the Government's current approach to siting a GDF - based on voluntarism and partnership - does offer enhanced prospects for success (compared to previous attempts), but the outcome cannot be known for certain. Whether fall-backs or contingencies (as in the case of alternatives to the current GDF siting process) are likely to succeed could be argued to come down to a question of whether Government has the political will and/or financial resources.

 

7 Either way, and regardless of the case for or against new nuclear power stations, NuLeAF considers it important that the prospects for effective radioactive waste management arrangements should be enhanced by: (a) maintaining adequate levels of Government funding (particularly for the GDF programme); (b) ensuring openness and transparency in strategy development and implementation; and (c) pursuing strategies for managing radioactive wastes that pay full and proper regard to the views of host communities and their local authorities.

 

8 More specifically, point (c) is likely to mean:

 

ensuring that host communities and their decision making bodies can play an appropriate and significant role in decision making about the inventory of wastes for disposal in a GDF;

ensuring that public acceptability is placed at the heart of decision-making in the implementation of strategy for managing Low Level Wastes (LLW); and

ensuring that potentially affected local authorities are fully involved in assessment and decision-making about options for the interim storage of spent fuel from new reactors.

 

The Government's View that the IPC need not consider whether Effective Arrangements for Managing Radioactive Wastes Will Exist

 

9 The stark statement in the draft Nuclear NPS that the IPC need not consider this question (emphasis added) is capable of being misinterpreted to mean that the IPC will not have to consider radioactive waste management issues at all. We believe that this is not what the Government meant and that it should be encouraged to clarify its position.

 

10 We note in particular that DCLG advice to Chief Planning Officers is that the IPC will invite the relevant local authority to submit a local impact report by a specified deadline (Letter, 9/11/09, para 9). It adds that the Planning Act is not prescriptive about what should or should not be included in local impact reports - it is for the local authority to determine what they regard as relevant having considered the likely impact of the proposed development on the authority's area.

 

11 In determining what is relevant, local authorities are likely to bear in mind the following:

 

A statement that the significance of radioactive waste effects will need to be determined through studies at the level of Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitat Regulation Assessments (draft Nuclear NPS, para 1.5.6)

That the local radioactive waste management effects should be assessed at the project level (Appraisal of Sustainability (AOS), paras S.11.27 and 6.4.14)

That detailed site specific plans for spent fuel management will be presented by potential operators for assessment by regulators and planning authorities (AoS para 6.4.11)

That it is at the local site level that a full understanding of the impacts of spent fuel management can be identified, minimised and mitigated (AoS para 6.4.18)

That when reactor site-specific consideration is given to waste a 'Radioactive Waste Management Case' will be required (Justification Consultation Document, para 4.67).

 

12 It will therefore be important for the relevant local authorities to pay close regard to radioactive waste management issues when preparing Local Impact Reports for the IPC. These issues might include:

 

the pros and cons of different options for the interim storage of spent fuel from new nuclear power stations;

the availability of on and off-site treatment and storage facilities for Intermediate Level Waste (ILW), including on any neighbouring nuclear sites;

the availability of on and off-site treatment and disposal facilities for LLW, including on any neighbouring nuclear sites; and

the case for the provision of community funds in association with the development of long-term storage facilities for spent fuel, or for the on-site disposal of LLW or short-lived ILW.

 

13 We would anticipate that the IPC will need to consider the radioactive waste management issues raised in Local Impact Reports, and suggest that Government be encouraged to clarify that this is the case.

 

 

January 2010