Press release

Views sought on managing radioactive waste safely site selection process and Government responds to plutonium reuse consultation

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Government issues call for evidence on MRWS

Press notice:13/043

Views are sought on the site selection process elements of the UK’s on-going Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme, as the Government today issued a call for evidence.

This forms part of the on-going “lessons learned” exercise following the conclusion of west Cumbrian involvement in the existing site-selection process. Responses to the call for evidence will inform a public consultation later in the year.

Energy Minister Baroness Verma said:

“The Government remains firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the safe and secure long-term management of higher-activity radioactive waste. We also continue to hold the view that the best means of selecting a site for a geological disposal facility is an approach based on voluntarism and partnership.

“Evidence from similar waste disposal programmes abroad, for example in Finland, Sweden and Canada, shows that this approach can work.

“The fact that two local authorities in west Cumbria voted in favour of continuing the search for a potential site for a GDF demonstrates that communities can recognise the substantial benefits associated with hosting such a facility – both in terms of job creation and the wider benefits associated with its development”.

DECC has separately today published the consultation response and guidance on the regulatory justification process for the re-use of plutonium. The guidance sets out the process for submitting applications for the re-use of plutonium, and outlines the regulatory decision-making process. This guidance supplements the existing regulations.

On plutonium, Baroness Verma said:

“It is prudent to produce generic guidance to those wishing to apply to re-use plutonium, and this document will cover applications from a wide range of re-use technologies”.

Notes to editors:

  1. The UK Government’s policy for the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste is geological disposal. In 2008 the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) White Paper was published, which outlined the framework for implementing this policy. Chapter 6 of the MRWS White Paper set out Government’s preferred approach to site-selection based on the principles of voluntarism and partnership.
  2. To date, three local authorities have formally expressed an interest in the programme: Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils, and Cumbria County Council. In January 2013, the three local authorities voted on whether to proceed to stage 4 of the process. The two boroughs voted in favour, but the county voted against. The Government had in 2011 reached an agreement with the three Cumbrian authorities that the programme would only continue in west Cumbria if there was agreement at both borough and county level. The county’s decision therefore ended the existing site selection process.
  3. Shepway District Council in Kent had also taken soundings from local residents, although subsequently decided against making a formal expression of interest in the current MRWS process.
  4. In line with Secretary of State Edward Davey’s written Ministerial statement of 31 January 2013, Government has been considering what lessons can be learned from the experiences of the MRWS programme in west Cumbria and elsewhere. In order to further inform this review, we are now inviting views on the site selection aspects of the ongoing MRWS programme in this call for evidence, particularly from those who have been engaged in (or have been interested observers of) the MRWS process to date. The responses to this call for evidence will inform a consultation in the autumn.
  5. MRWS Call for Evidence on the GOV.UK/DECC website
  6. The Government has previously produced guidance on the Justification Regulations1, and more recently, guidance specifically relating to justifying nuclear power2.
  7. This Guidance is aimed specifically at applicants wishing to seek a decision to justify the reuse of plutonium and sets out the process for submitting applications and outlines the decision-making process. The purpose of this guidance is to supplement the existing Regulations and provide clarity on the information that will most likely be required for all end-to-end reuse scenarios.
  8. Guidance on managing plutonium stocks