Documents considered by the Committee on 28 March 2018 Contents

3Radioactive waste and spent fuel

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Document details

(a) 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; (b) Report from the Commission on Member States’ implementation of Council Directive 2006/117/EURATOM on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel

Legal base

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Numbers

(a) (38720), 9329/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 236; (b) (39455), 5540/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 6

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

3.1All EU Member States generate radioactive waste, and 21 of them also manage spent fuel on their territory. European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) legislation lays down systems for the supervision and control of transboundary shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel (Council Directive 2006/117/EURATOM) and for the safe and responsible management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste (Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM). The Commission has assessed the operation of both Directives.

3.2We considered the Commission’s Report on the operation of the nuclear waste management Directive at our meeting of 10 January 2018 and raised a number of questions to which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Energy (Richard Harrington) has now responded.

3.3The Minister emphasises that the UK is a Contracting Party to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management and will remain so after the UK leaves the EU. He says that the UK’s position and policy on the import of radioactive waste aligns with the requirements of the Directive and obligations under the Joint Convention. The UK does not plan to revise its position or policy in this area once the UK has withdrawn from EURATOM.

3.4The Minister goes on to explain the limited circumstances in which radioactive waste may be imported to, or exported from, the UK. Finally, he outlines the Government’s latest plans for managing spent fuel while plans for a Geological Disposal Facility are developed and the outstanding position as regards spent fuel originally derived from other EURATOM Member States.

3.5The Minister has also submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on the Commission’s report assessing the implementation of Directive 2006/117/EURATOM regarding the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel.

3.6The Directive ensures that the Member States concerned are informed about shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel to or via their territory with the obligation to give either their consent or reasoned refusal to the shipments.

3.7The Commission proposes to take measures to improve the standard document used for compliance with the Directive and to provide support to Member States to harmonise the reporting of shipments of spent fuel and radioactive waste of Member States. Regarding the transport of materials within Member States, the Commission will assess any specific actions required for the improvement of transport at EU and national levels, to enhance transparency and to increase public confidence.

3.8The Minister indicates no concerns.

3.9The EU and UK have resolved most of the Brexit issues applicable to EURATOM, including the UK’s ultimate responsibility for spent fuel and radioactive waste generated in the UK and present on the territory of a Member States at the end of the transition period. The UK has also agreed that it has sole responsibility for ensuring that all ores, source materials and special fissile materials covered by the Euratom Treaty and present on the territory of the UK at the end of the transition period should be handled in accordance with relevant and applicable international treaties and conventions, including safety of spent fuel management and the safety of radioactive waste management.

3.10We note the outcome of negotiations on a post-Brexit implementation period, including the resolution of most issues applicable to EURATOM and specifically to responsibility for spent fuel and radioactive waste.

3.11We welcome the comprehensive information provided by the Minister in response to the queries raised in our Report of 10 January 2018. We clear both documents from scrutiny and draw this chapter to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

Full details of the documents

(a) 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; (b) Report from the Commission on Member States’ implementation of Council Directive 2006/117/EURATOM on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel: (39455), 5540/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 6.

Background

Document (a)—management of radioactive waste and spent fuel

3.12The Commission’s Report on radioactive waste and spent fuel management was the first comprehensive progress report on the state of implementing the Directive. The Directive seeks to protect workers, the public and future generations from the danger of ionising radiation. Further information on the background to, and content of, the Commission’s report was set out in our report of 10 January 2018.40

3.13In his original Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister said that no policy implications arose. On Brexit, he indicated that the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations would determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.

3.14When the Committee considered the document at our meeting of 10 January 2018, we raised a number of issues:

Document (b)—shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel

3.15The Report covers the three-year period 2012–14. The Report provides information on the general provisions of the Directive, the current EU and international legal framework, and an overview of the number of authorised shipments between Member States and by Member States to third countries. It highlights that the majority of shipments were between Member States while exports to third countries (Russia, USA, Switzerland and Japan) remain low.

3.16During the 2012–14 period, shipments from the UK comprised the return of wastes from processing (metals) and reprocessing or treatment of spent fuel, treatment (e.g. oily Uranic residue) and recycling (of metals). Shipments to the UK were mainly the return of residues from the processing or treatment of wastes, and the disposal of sealed and open sources from Ireland and the retrieval and disposal of a damaged sealed source from Kuwait. The agreement to dispose of these sources is in line with the UK’s policy on the import of radioactive waste.

3.17The Report notes that Member States have reported that the shipments are supervised and controlled in accordance with the procedures and provisions laid down in the Directive, and that there were no non-authorised shipments, shipment failures or prohibited exports. It also notes that the information in Member States’ reports is consistent with and complementary with their National Reports under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. The UK is a Contracting Party of the Joint Convention.

3.18Finally, the Report provides information on measures that the Commission will take to improve the standard documentation for the supervision and control of shipments and provide support to Member States to enhance the level of consistency and detail in future reports.

The Minister’s letter of 19 February 2018 (on document (a))

3.19On “shared solutions” for radioactive waste management and spent fuel disposal, including future UK participation, the Minister notes that both the Directive and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (on which the Directive is based) recognise the potential to share disposal facilities, but they should only be used in specific circumstances (see below).

3.20Both the Joint Convention and the Directive, says the Minister, stipulate that radioactive waste should be disposed of in the country in which it was generated, unless there is an agreement between Member States/Contracting Parties to allow facilities in one to be used by the other(s). The Directive requires that such an agreement is in place at the time of shipment. On the post-Brexit approach, the Minister says:

“The UK is a Contracting Party to the Joint Convention and will remain so after we leave the European Union. The UK’s position and policy on the import of radioactive waste aligns with the requirements of the Directive and obligations under the Joint Convention. We do not plan to revise our position or policy once the UK has withdrawn from EURATOM.”

3.21The Minister signals the UK’s recognition of the self-sufficiency principle, whereby countries that have a nuclear industry should also manage their own nuclear waste. The UK’s general policy is that radioactive waste should not be imported to or exported from the UK, except:

3.22However, radioactive waste may be imported for treatment and disposal in the United Kingdom: if it is in the form of spent sealed sources that were manufactured in the United Kingdom; or if it arises from small users, such as hospitals, situated in Member States that produce such small quantities of radioactive waste that the provision of their own specialised installations would be impractical, or developing countries that cannot reasonably be expected to acquire suitable disposal facilities.

3.23The Minister reiterates the Government’s ambition to maintain a close and effective association with Euratom. He adds that, at the same time as conducting the Brexit negotiations, the Government is also putting in place all the necessary measures to ensure that the UK can operate as an independent and responsible nuclear state from day one.

3.24On the Government’s 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, the Minister says:

“There are no plans to export spent fuel from the UK to be reprocessed elsewhere.

“The remaining Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor fuel from the EDF Energy fleet will not be reprocessed following the closure of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) in November 2018, but will be stored in the THORP Receipt and Storage Pond pending a decision on its future disposition, which includes disposal to a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). The current plan for spent Magnox fuel is for reprocessing to be completed before the end of 2020, when the Magnox Reprocessing Plant at Sellafield is expected to cease operating.

“Spent Pressurised Water Reactor fuel from the Sizewell B power station is held in dry storage at that site, pending a decision on its future disposition which includes disposal to a GDF. Any spent fuel from the UK’s new nuclear programme would be safely and securely stored on site, pending disposal to a GDF.”

3.25Regarding the proportion of the waste in the UK originally generated in other Euratom Member States and vice versa, the Minister says:

“With the exception of a small quantity (c.28 tonnes) of non-standard overseas-origin spent fuel, all spent fuel originally derived from other EURATOM Member States, will have been reprocessed by the time THORP closes at the end of 2018. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA, a BEIS Non-Departmental Public Body) has already taken ownership of the majority of this overseas-origin spent fuel and is in the process of taking ownership of the remaining quantity (c.2.7 tonnes) through concurrence by the EURATOM Supply Agency (ESA). We expect this to be concluded with ESA before the UK has withdrawn from EURATOM. As a result this fuel will be owned by the NDA in line with published policy. The non-standard fuel will be managed at Sellafield alongside similar UK material pending disposal to a GDF.

“In line with UK policy, all radioactive waste arising from the EURATOM Member States reprocessing contracts (or a radiological equivalent) has either been returned to or will be returned to the customers. There are two outstanding returns: (1) to Germany, planned to be completed by 2021/22, and (2) to Italy, planned to be completed by 2025.”

3.26In response to our query about a formal Commission Opinion on the UK’s National Programme, the Minister indicates that this is not anticipated.

The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 5 February 2018 (on document (b))

3.27The Minister indicates that no policy implications arise from the Commission’s Report. He explains that the Directive was transposed in the UK by the Transfrontier Shipment of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Regulations 2008. Paragraph 13 to the Regulations sets out the criteria under which shipments to and from the UK may take place (see paras 3.21–3.22 above). The UK’s environmental regulators are responsible for granting an authorisation or consent to a shipment of radioactive waste or spent fuel, and for enforcing the Regulations.

Previous Committee Reports

Eighth Report HC 301–xiii (2017–19), chapter 1 (10 January 2018).


40 Eighth Report HC 301–viii (2017–19), chapter 1 (10 January 2018).




3 April 2018