Documents considered by the Committee on 10 January 2018 Contents

1Radioactive waste and spent fuel present in the EU

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Document details

Report from the Commission on progress of implementation of Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM and an inventory of radioactive waste and spent fuel present in the Community’s territory and the future prospects

Legal base

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Number

(38720), 9329/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 236

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

1.1The EU—through the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)—has responsibility for the safe and responsible management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. Directive 2011/70/EURATOM put in place a new framework to deliver that objective, seeking to protect workers, the public and future generations from the danger of ionising radiation.

1.2The Commission’s Report is the first comprehensive progress report on the state of implementing the Directive. All Member States generate radioactive waste, and 21 of them also manage spent fuel on their territory.

1.3Generation of radioactive waste—material for which no further use is foreseen—is associated with nuclear power and non-power uses for medical, research, industrial and agricultural purposes. In the EU almost 90% of radioactive waste is classified as low level or very low level. Spent fuel is nuclear fuel removed from a reactor core following irradiation and which is no longer usable in its current form. It can either be reprocessed or disposed of as high level waste.

1.4To deliver its objectives, the Directive requires Member States to put in place national policies, national programmes and national legislative, regulatory and operational frameworks. The Commission concludes that it will continue supporting Member States in addressing a number of challenges, including:

1.5The Minister for Energy and Industry (Richard Harrington) says that no policy implications arise. On the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, he indicates that the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU. When the UK signalled its intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50 TFEU, it also signalled withdrawal from Euratom.

1.6Since publication of the Commission Report and the Government’s EM, both the European Commission6 and the Government7 have published position papers on aspects of the future UK-EU relationship pertaining to nuclear waste and the two sides have reached a provisional agreement.

1.7In the Joint report on progress during phase one of the withdrawal negotiations, the two sides indicated that agreement had been reached on principles on the responsibility for spent fuel and radioactive waste.8 The Commission Communication on the state of the negotiations elaborated on that statement, explaining:

“Both sides agree that ultimate responsibility for spent fuel and radioactive waste remains with the State where it was produced, in line with international conventions and European Atomic Energy Community legislation.”

1.8While the Minister makes no direct reference to future UK participation in Euratom or its activities, the Government has since clarified that its approach is to seek a close and effective relationship with Euratom.

1.9One of the areas highlighted by the Commission is that of “shared solutions” for radioactive waste management and spent fuel disposal. We ask the Minister to explain to what extent the Government would hope to be able to participate in such solutions once the UK has withdrawn from Euratom.

1.10The Commission draws attention to the conclusion of reprocessing at Sellafield by 2020, leaving France as the only current Member State with reprocessing available domestically. We would welcome an update from the Government on its latest plans for managing spent fuel while plans for a Geological Disposal Facility are taken forward, including whether this might include export of spent fuel elsewhere for reprocessing or whether it will all be stored.

1.11A substantial amount of reprocessed fuel remains at Sellafield, including fuel that originally derived from other Euratom Member States. We note that the EU and UK have agreed that the ultimate responsibility for spent fuel and radioactive waste remains with the State where it was produced. We would welcome information as to the proportion of the waste in the UK originally generated in other Euratom Member States and vice versa.

1.12The Government expected to receive the Commission’s formal Opinion on the UK’s National Programme over the summer. It would be helpful to know if the Opinion has been received and, if so, we would welcome sight of the documentation.

1.13We retain this document under scrutiny and draw it to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. We look forward to a response to the issues raised by 2 February 2018.

Full details of the documents

Report from the Commission on progress of implementation of Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM and an inventory of radioactive waste and spent fuel present in the Community’s territory and the future prospects: (38720), 9329/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 236.

Background

1.14Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM of 19 July 2011 established an EU framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The aim of the Directive was to avoid imposing undue burdens on future generations and to protect workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionising radiation. The Directive was based on some of the principles and requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. The UK is a Contracting Party to the Joint Convention.

1.15The Commission’s Report presents information on the progress made by Member States in implementing the Directive and highlights areas where it considers further improvements and attention are required. The Report does not provide a detailed analysis on each Member State but presents the Commission’s main findings on progress, challenges and trends.

1.16The Report indicates that the Commission expects Member States to improve their demonstration of compliance with the Directive in a number of areas, particularly in relation to policies, concepts, plans, research and site selection for the disposal of intermediate level radioactive waste and high level radioactive waste (including spent fuel), projections of inventories for spent fuel and radioactive waste, cost assessments and financing mechanisms.

1.17The Report also provides an overview of the inventory of spent fuel and radioactive waste in the European Union.

1.18It is noted that all spent fuel present in the EU is currently in storage. While historical and current practice in certain Member States (including the UK) has been to reprocess spent fuel, the majority of Member States intend to dispose of their spent fuel in deep geological facilities without reprocessing. The option of a Geological Disposal Facility is currently being explored in the UK in the context of its decision to shut down its reprocessing facility at Sellafield by 2020. France will be left as the only Member State with an industrial policy on reprocessing domestically. Some others are reprocessing fuel abroad and are considering doing so in the future.

The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 3 August 20179

1.19The Minister states that no policy implications arise directly from the Commission’s Report. He alludes to Brexit, noting simply that the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.

1.20He confirms that the Directive on which the Commission reports progress was transposed in the UK by the deadline of 23 August 2013, primarily using the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 and the existing suite of 36 standard site licence conditions under it, and the relevant provisions of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (England and Wales) and the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (Scotland and Northern Ireland).

1.21The Minister observes that, other than noting that the UK will cease reprocessing spent fuel by around 2020, there is no specific detailed analysis on the UK (or any other Member State). He explains that the information provided by the UK in its National Report and National Programme, submitted to the Commission by the deadline of 23 August 2015, is summarised as part of a series of tables in the Report, but the accompanying text does not draw any conclusions on the information provided. Prior to drafting its Report, the Commission sought clarification from the UK on aspects of the UK’s National Programme. The questions primarily covered:

1.22The Minister confirms that the UK has responded to these questions and expected to receive the Commission’s formal Opinion on the National Programme in Summer 2017. The second National Report on implementing the Directive must be submitted to the Commission by 23 August 2018.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


7 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nuclear-materials-and-safeguards-issues-position-paper.

8 Joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.




12 January 2018