Select Committee on Science and Technology Third Report


Call for evidence (Published November 1997)

    The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has appointed Sub-Committee II, under the chairmanship of Lord Phillips of Ellesmere, to conduct an enquiry into The Management of Nuclear Waste (civil and military) in the United Kingdom.[78]

  We are particularly keen to hear of international experience with nuclear waste management issues where there has been success in finding technical solutions and achieving public acceptance. All management options are under consideration (including storage, repositories and transmutation of waste), but we do not intend this enquiry to cover the future of nuclear power per se, nor the management of waste stocks other than those arising in the UK. The enquiry will focus to a large extent on the management of intermediate and high level waste rather than low level wastes.

The Sub-Committee has access to the new report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Radioactive Waste - Where Next? (POST, November 1997) which provides a useful summary of nuclear waste management issues and a discussion of the problems surrounding the proposed Sellafield repository. The POST report will be taken as a starting point by the Sub-Committee and answers to questions should be framed with this in mind so as to avoid unnecessary duplication of work. The POST report can be purchased from the Parliamentary Bookshop or from The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 7 Millbank, London, SW1P 3JA (tel: 0171-219 2840).

  We invite written submissions on all matters relevant to this topic, but in particular to the questions listed below, with a view to making a report to the House of Lords and the Government in the summer of 1998.
1.What is the best sustainable solution for the long-term management of nuclear waste in the United Kingdom? By what process should this be ratified? Is there an adequate knowledge base to support such a solution?
2.Are you satisfied with the institutional responsibility for nuclear waste in the United Kingdom, and, if not, how might it be improved?
3.How should the process of storage and/or repository site selection be conducted to reduce conflict and to ensure that work can be carried out at sites that are agreed to be acceptable? Who should be involved?
4.It is perhaps unrealistic to assume that the >perfect site for a long-term store or repository can be found (or even exists), so what would make a good nuclear waste site:
i.   What selection criteria should be used?
ii.  How should these criteria or other performance attributes be compared?
iii. If a repository option is chosen, what solution would be acceptable in geological terms?
5.How can a rational assessment of the risks associated with a long-term nuclear waste store or repository site be made, and how can one be sure that what is an acceptable risk now will remain so in the future? How do the principles of intergenerational equity apply?
6.What is the standard of safety to which a repository or long-term store should be designed? Is there a firm public perception that it should be Aas safe as possible regardless of cost, and if so what are the implications?
7.Has enough been learnt from the experience of natural analogues to determine the optimum design and geological conditions for a nuclear waste facility?
8.What are the problems and advantages of instituting a waste management programme where intermediate and high level waste are dealt with together, i.e. in a co-disposal repository?
9.Would an international solution to nuclear waste management be desirable and feasible (e.g. a joint repository accepting waste from many countries) and if so what would this entail?
10.Can we postpone the search for a repository site in the United Kingdom and simply maintain existing arrangements? Might more emphasis on waste partitioning and storage be used both to defer and to reduce the requirement for a repository?
11.Does the management of UK military nuclear waste present any special problems?
12.What measures should the UK take to sustain the long-term research base for the management of its nuclear waste?

78   Lord Phillips of Ellesmere stood down as Chairman 23 April 1998. His place was taken by Lord Tombs. Back

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