Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Government consults on long-term radioactive waste management plans

Government consults on long-term radioactive waste management plans

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref : 195/07) issued by The Government News Network on 25 June 2007

Proposals for the way in which a site will be chosen for the long-term disposal of higher activity radioactive waste were today published for public consultation by the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The consultation is seeking views on the technical aspects of designing and delivering a disposal facility for higher-activity radioactive waste, and on the process and criteria to be used in deciding where the future facility should be located.

Based on the recommendation of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), the Government announced last year that geological disposal, coupled with safe and secure interim storage, is the way forward for the long-term management of the UK's higher activity radioactive wastes.

UK Environment Minister Ian Pearson said that the Government was proposing an entirely new approach based on the concept of voluntarism - that is, communities expressing an interest in taking part in the process.

"We need to decide how a site for the geological disposal facility is chosen. As we do that, we want make sure that people have a chance to have their say at every stage in the process," he said.

"The proposed disposal facility will be a high-technology, multi-billion pound project that will bring investment and jobs for generations. It will result in significant economic and social benefits both for the host community and the wider surrounding area."

Mr Pearson said that the UK could learn from the considerable experience of other countries that have already adopted geological disposal as a way of dealing with radioactive waste in the long term.

He stressed that this is not the start of a site selection process.

"There is no site selection process underway at this point - and there won't be until after we have consulted the public, and we have established and published our policy on the way forward in light of responses to that consultation," he said.

Planning and developing geological disposal will be based on four pillars:

* Partnerships with potential host communities that allow issues and opportunities to be fully discussed and evaluated;

* Implementation by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), with clear responsibilities and accountabilities;

* Strong independent regulation by the statutory regulators, the Health and Safety Executive, the environment agencies and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security; and

* Independent scrutiny and advice to Government by a reconstituted CoRWM, carrying forward the original committee's commitment to openness and transparency.

The consultation will run until 2 November 2007. More information is available at http://www.defra.gov.uk/WEBLINK,

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. A copy of Ian Pearson's written Ministerial Statement to Parliament is available at http:// http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/radwaste-framework/index.htm.

2. The Government published its response to CoRWM in October 2006, in which it accepted CoRWM's recommendation to dispose of higher activity radioactive waste through geological disposal. This involves placing radioactive waste in facilities deep underground, where the rock and man-made structures provides a barrier against radioactivity.

3. Higher activity waste, which are the more radioactive wastes from sources such as the nuclear and medical industries, military uses and academic research, will be managed in the long term through geological disposal. Geological disposal was identified by CoRWM as being the option that would perform best in terms of security and protecting the public and the environment.

4. This consultation is concerned with the long term management of higher activity radioactive waste. It is not a consultation on the principle of new nuclear power stations. That is a separate subject being consulted on separately by the DTI consultation Nuclear Power: The Role of Nuclear Power in a Low Carbon UK Economy (Consultation Document) May 2007. Further information is available at http://www.dti.gov.uk/consultations/page39704.html, by phoning the DTI helpline on 0207 215 5000 or emailing dti.enquiries@dti.gsi.gov.uk.

5. A number of countries have already made good progress towards implementing geological disposal. These include Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and the USA.

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