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Our work with radioactive waste producers

We work with organisations across the UK that produce radioactive waste.

Contents

Working with waste producers

We work with organisations across the UK that produce radioactive waste to help ensure that the waste being produced now is suitable for geological disposal. This includes working with them on:

  • their plans for packaging higher-activity radioactive waste
  • the interim storage of radioactive waste packages prior to geological disposal

This involves:

  • reviewing the properties and performance of proposed packages, known as the Disposability Assessment process, which can result in issuing Letters of Compliance (LoC) that signify compliance with our packaging standards and specifications which provide guidance on a wide range of packaging issues
  • periodic review to ensure that manufactured waste packages remain disposable

We also work with waste producers to see if there are opportunities to improve the existing plans in the light of new technology or innovation. We call this work “upstream options” as it includes all waste management activities up to and including geological disposal.

We advise waste packaging organisations and nuclear site operators on:

  • their plans for packaging higher-activity radioactive waste
  • the interim storage of radioactive waste packages prior to dispatch to a geological disposal facility

This involves:

  • reviewing the properties and performance of proposed packages through the Letter of Compliance (LoC) disposability assessment process
  • providing guidance on a wide range of packaging issues
  • periodic review to ensure that manufactured waste packages remain disposable

We summarise interactions with waste packaging organisations annually:

Packaging solutions

We are leading a project called “upstream options” as part of our objective “to identify and deliver solutions to optimise the management of higher activity waste”. We will undertake the work in conjunction with waste producers.

The improvements for the management of higher activity radioactive waste could lead to:

  • quicker and more cost effective hazard reduction
  • reduced environmental and safety impacts
  • other benefits

We call this “upstream” because it includes waste management activities up to and including geological disposal.

Who we’re working with:

The Upstream Options project team works with:

  • the NDA
  • the Site Licence Companies and
  • other UK radioactive waste producers

Our Letter of Compliance process

Our Letter of Compliance (LoC) disposability assessment process aims to help nuclear sites to carry out their clean-up and hazard reduction mission.

We check that higher activity wastes will be packaged in a passive and disposable form so that any wastes packaged today should be compliant with future transport and disposability requirements.

We work with sites to review and update our disposability assessments on a periodic basis.

We provide packaging standards and guidance based on our concepts and safety cases for transport and geological disposal of these wastes.

Our disposability assessments may identify the need for further information, research and technology development. Where proposed packages are found to be compliant with packaging standards and associated safety and environmental assessments, a Letter of Compliance (LoC) is issued. This indicates, to the best of our knowledge, that it would be possible to dispose of the packaged waste in a geological disposal facility.

How it works

The LoC disposability assessment process is in line with regulatory guidance for higher activity wastes and requires site licensees to justify waste packaging proposals with a radioactive waste management case.

Our disposability assessment reports are an important input for radioactive waste management cases, although receipt of a LoC does not provide a safety justification for waste packaging because the relevant regulators still need to satisfy themselves that a packaging proposal is adequate.

The LoC disposability assessment process is generally applied in stages corresponding to the key development stages of the waste retrieval and packaging project:

  • pre-conceptual stage when the site is considering different options for retrievals and packaging
  • conceptual stage when the packager is looking to define a preferred conditioning and packaging option
  • Interim stage prior to placing “design and build” contracts
  • final stage when the plant is constructed and prior to commencement of waste packaging operations
  • periodic review to maintain the currency of the LoC and to ensure that it is up to date, typically performed on a 10 yearly cycle.

Specifications

We produce a hierarchy of packaging specifications to satisfy the needs of a wide range of stakeholders.

The highest level document in the hierarchy is the generic waste package specification (GWPS) which defines the requirements for all waste packages destined for geological disposal. The GWPS forms the basis for the definition of the standards and specifications for waste packages containing specific categories of waste, which are published as generic specifications.

For specific designs of waste package, which are manufactured using standardised designs of waste container, we produce waste package specifications (WPS) which form part of the waste package specification and guidance documentation (WPSGD).