Collection

Managing waste

NDA's waste management strategy aims to protect people and the environment.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is responsible for the safe and efficient clean-up of the UK’s nuclear legacy.

We achieve this through managing contracts with Site Licence Companies (SLCs) supported by NDA subsidiaries and the supply chain.

How we manage waste

Decommissioning generates a wide range of wastes which need to be managed responsibly, recognising hazards and taking steps to prevent harm to people and the environment.

Radioactive waste is disposed of where possible, or placed in safe, secure and suitable storage, complying with UK and devolved administrations policies.

2010 to 2015 government policy: radioactive and nuclear substances and waste

Our Strategy sets out our strategic direction and describes our long-term objectives.

Strategic decisions about waste management take into account that:

  • risk reduction is a priority
  • centralised and multi-site approaches should be considered where it may be advantageous
  • waste should be minimised
  • the waste hierarchy is a framework for waste management decision-making. This approach balances priorities such as:
    • value for money
    • affordability
    • technical maturity
    • the protection of health, safety, security and the environment

Radioactive wastes

There are two main categories of radioactive waste:

  • Higher Activity Waste (HAW)
  • Low Level Waste (LLW)

The interface between the current HAW and LLW topic strategies is an important development area for the NDA. This interface requires careful management and may offer significant opportunities. The existing HAW and LLW strategies are described below, as well as our position in respect of category boundary wastes, eg Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) and LLW.

UK radioactive waste inventory: information on quantities and the nature of radioactive waste

Integrated waste management

Strategic development and implementation are informed by the following principles:

  • supporting risk and hazard reduction initiatives by enabling a flexible approach to long- term waste management. For some wastes it may be necessary to adopt a multi-stage process to achieve a final disposable product; this could include the separate management of bulk retrievals and residual material to support hazard reduction programmes
  • taking into consideration the entire waste management lifecycle, including how waste management is needed to support other NDA strategic or wider-UK initiatives such as large scale decommissioning programmes
  • applying the waste hierarchy, which is recognised as good practice and should be used as a framework for waste management decision-making. This enables an effective balance of priorities including value for money, affordability, technical maturity and the protection of health, safety, security and the environment
  • promoting timely characterisation and segregation of waste, which delivers effective waste management
  • where appropriate, provide leadership giving greater integration across the estate and the supply chain, in particular by seeking opportunities to share treatment and interim storage assets, capabilities and learning
  • supporting and promoting the use of robust decision-making processes to identify the most advantageous options for waste management
  • enabling the availability of sustainable, robust infrastructure for continued operations, hazard reduction and decommissioning
  1. Integrated waste management: strategy development programme

    • Corporate report
  2. Integrated waste management overview

    • Corporate report

Higher Activity Wastes

Higher Activity Waste (HAW) includes High Level Waste (HLW), Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) and some Low Level Waste (LLW) that is unsuitable for disposal in the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR). HAW arises from activities such as:

  • reactor operation
  • reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and
  • decommissioning

Most higher activity radioactive waste is stored safely on major sites under licence from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and is subject to strict regulatory control.

The current HAW strategy is to achieve passive safety as soon as reasonably practicable for interim storage and eventual disposal in a Geological Disposal Facility (* or long-term management in near-surface facilities for wastes in Scotland).

The different classes of HAW for which sub options exist or are being developed, are:

  • UK-owned HLW – interim storage followed by disposal in a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF)*
  • Overseas-owned HLW – returned to country of origin
  • Overseas-owned ILW – substitution of additional HLW returned to country of origin
  • Wet ILW – retrieval and waste conditioning followed by longer-term interim storage and disposal in a GDF*
  • Solid ILW – retrieval, conditioning and interim storage followed by conditioning and disposal in a GDF* – facility decommissioning followed by disposal in a GDF*
  • Graphite – retrieval, conditioning and interim storage followed by conditioning and disposal in a GDF* – facility decommissioning followed by disposal in a GDF*

  • or long-term management in near-surface facilities for wastes in Scotland

The reference strategy, which will be actively pursued for the majority of the HAW inventory, aims to achieve passive safety as soon as reasonably practicable, for longer-term storage and eventual disposal, or management in near-surface facilities for HAW in Scotland. Depending on the timing of waste arisings, some decades of interim storage may be required. To this end, the NDA is working to optimise the programme for retrieval, treatment and storage by considering:

  • strategic opportunities – e.g. alternative disposal scenarios and decay storage
  • strategic risks – a flexible approach to waste management that recognises the need for progressive risk and hazard reduction
  • baseline improvement initiatives – securing an NDA-wide approach to waste processing and storage and, where appropriate, co-ordinating with other waste producers
  1. Higher Activity Waste treatment framework

    • Corporate report
  2. Overview of Higher Activity Waste

    • Corporate report
  3. Interim storage of Higher Activity Waste packages

    • Guidance
  4. Higher Activity Waste: credible options

    • Corporate report
  5. UK radioactive Higher Activity Waste storage review

    • Corporate report
  6. Strategic position paper on the management of waste graphite

    • Corporate report
  7. The long-term management of reactor core graphite credible options (Gate A)

    • Corporate report
  8. Operational graphite strategy: credible and preferred options

    • Corporate report

Solid Low Level Wastes

The UK Nuclear Industry Low Level Waste (LLW) Strategy was published jointly by UK government, Scottish government, Welsh government and the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment in February 2016. It is being implemented, both by individual waste producers and through an NDA National Programme.

The guiding principle is the application of the waste hierarchy to provide continued capability and capacity for LLW management. This underpins optimised use of the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR), reflecting its role as a critical UK asset, with a view to avoiding the need to construct a successor facility.

The 2007 policy for the long-term management of solid Low Level Radioactive Waste in the UK covers all aspects of the generation, management and regulation of solid LLW and applies to the following organisations:

  • those responsible for the production and management of wastes (waste producers and managers)
  • the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
  • the regulatory bodies
  • the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
  • waste disposal facility operators
  • regional planning bodies
  • planning authorities
  1. Consultation on an update of the UK Strategy for the Management of Solid Low Level Radioactive Waste from the Nuclear Industry

    • Consultation outcome

Liquid and Gaseous Discharges

Liquid and gaseous discharges are generated by SLCs during operations and decommissioning. Such discharges are generated at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. Discharges are primarily associated with fuel fabrication, spent fuel storage, decommissioning and most significantly spent fuel reprocessing.

In June 2009 the government published its revised [UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges](Liquid and gaseous discharges are generated by SLCs during operations and decommissioning. Such discharges are generated at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. Discharges are primarily associated with fuel fabrication, spent fuel storage, decommissioning and most significantly spent fuel reprocessing.

In June 2009 the government published its revised UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges to inform decision-making by industry and regulators. This sets out how the UK will Implement its obligations in respect of the OSPAR Radioactive Substances Strategy 2020. We have a significant role in its implementation and our SLCs apply this strategy. Government is currently undertaking a review of this strategy and our SLCs are supporting this review and will address any strategic changes as required. ) to inform decision-making by industry and regulators. This sets out how the UK will Implement its obligations in respect of the OSPAR Radioactive Substances Strategy 2020. We have a significant role in its implementation and our SLCs apply this strategy.

Government is currently undertaking a review of this strategy and our SLCs are supporting this review and will address any strategic changes as required.

  1. Developing guidance for setting limits on radioactive discharges to the environment from nuclear-licensed sites

    • Research and analysis

Non-Radioactive Hazardous Wastes

In addition to radioactive waste, our sites generate conventional and hazardous waste as a result of both decommissioning and operational activities. The majority is non-hazardous, for example demolition rubble, packaging, paper and food waste.

Non-radioactive hazardous wastes include the following:

  • asbestos
  • process chemicals
  • oil

Waste regulation and strategy is well established in the UK. The relevant legislation operates in a tiered framework, from European, to national and then local waste planning. The UK and devolved governments have developed strategies for the management of non-radioactive and hazardous wastes and are at various stages of implementing them.

The current strategy is that NDA sites include these wastes as part of their integrated waste planning. Management plans need to take account of national policy and strategy and be compliant with all relevant UK waste regulations relating to (non-radioactive) hazardous waste.

Mature regulation is implemented through national strategies:

Scotland

England

National Policy is implemented through:

Wales

National policy is implemented through: Toward Zero Waste – One Wales: One Planet (June 2010)

  1. Waste strategy for England 2007

    • Policy paper