© Crown copyright 2015
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: email@example.com.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-radioactive-and-nuclear-substances-and-waste/2010-to-2015-government-policy-radioactive-and-nuclear-substances-and-waste
This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/managing-the-use-and-disposal-of-radioactive-and-nuclear-substances-and-waste. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.
Radioactive substances (nuclear and non-nuclear) are used in a variety of ways that benefit people, for example in nuclear power generation, hospitals, pharmaceuticals and research. However, the hazards of using radioactive substances must be properly controlled to prevent harm to people and the environment.
Decisions we make now on the use, storage and disposal of radioactive substances will have an impact far into the future. We take this into account in our policy planning, as well as the need to safeguard the health of current and future populations.
We control the hazards of using radioactive substances by:
- providing policy for radioactive waste so that it can be safely and securely disposed of
- providing, monitoring and reviewing laws and regulations that allow regulatory bodies to regulate the storage, use and transport of radioactive substances
- making justification decisions on applications to use ionising radiation
- managing spent fuel, reprocessing and nuclear materials
- providing a system to identify and remediate (restore to a state suitable for safe use) radioactive contaminated land
Historically the properties of radioactive substances have been used to perform a variety of useful tasks. The nuclear industry has commercially provided low-carbon, affordable and dependable power as part of the UK’s energy mix since the 1950s and was the first country in the world to do so. The non-nuclear industry includes a range of different organisations that perform vital functions for society, including hospitals, the pharmaceutical sector and research and education establishments.
The hazards of the nuclear and non-nuclear industries have to be properly controlled. Governments do this by ensuring the industries comply with relevant legislation and high standards. In the UK these high standards are enforced by a number of non-departmental public bodies and regulators, and implemented through international agreements and the use of agreed industry processes.
The UK has a range of laws and regulations to make sure the UK meets its obligations under the Euratom Treaty and other international obligations and standards.
As a member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UK also observes internationally agreed protocols on nuclear safeguards and safety standards.
Bills and legislation
Radioactive substances, including non-nuclear waste, must be handled in accordance with the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA93). In April 2010 RSA93 was incorporated into schedule 23 of Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
In September 2011 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published Environmental permitting guidance on radioactive substances regulation for the regulator (the Environment Agency) and organisations that use radioactive substances.
We consider applications for the use of radioactive substances under the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004.
Managing our radioactive waste on a long-term basis
2014 White Paper: Implementing Geological Disposal
The government remains firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of higher activity radioactive waste. We favour a site selection process for a geological disposal facility (GDF) based on working in partnership with interested local communities. In preparing the White Paper – Implementing Geological Disposal – we carefully considered responses to a consultation on the site selection process, which closed in December 2013.
Who we’re working with
DECC is the lead department for managing the use of radioactive and nuclear substances and for disposal of radioactive waste. DECC works closely with Defra , which is the lead department for environmental protection and sustainable development.
The Environment Agency regulates, in England, the use of radioactive substances and disposal of radioactive waste and provides us with support and advice on wider environmental matters such as flood risk.
We sponsor the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which was created through the Energy Act 2004 to manage the decommissioning and clean-up of the civil public sector nuclear sites. It’s responsible to Scottish ministers for some of its work in Scotland.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), currently an agency of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), regulates aspects of the UK’s nuclear industry and provides us with advice and support on developing policy for implementing radioactive substance safeguards.
The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) provides us with technical advice on strategy for managing nuclear waste.
NuLeAF, the Nuclear Legacy Advisory Forum, represents local government on nuclear legacy management and takes an active part in consultations and debate on radioactive waste issues.
Appendix 1: managing spent fuel, reprocessing and nuclear materials
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
We are responsible for setting policies for the management of spent fuel and nuclear materials from all civil nuclear programmes (past, present and future).
The role of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
The NDA implements policies relating to legacy civil programmes. How it does this is set out in the NDA Strategy, which will develop over time to reflect any policy changes we introduce.
The Energy Act 2004 requires the NDA to review and publish its strategy at least every 5 years. The strategy has to be approved by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change jointly with the Scottish ministers.
Our role and responsibilities
Our role is to make sure policy is up to date and credible. Our policy for managing spent fuel from MAGNOX and AGR reactors (including on reprocessing) is set out in the 2002 white paper, ‘Managing the nuclear legacy’.
We are responsible for adapting and developing policy as required, such as in the case of changing commercial practices. For example, our policy on plutonium management was determined through a public consultation and is set out in our 2011 response to that consultation.
Find out more about the ongoing management of spent fuels and nuclear materials in the NDA strategy.
Appendix 2: making justification decisions on applications to use ionising radiation
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
Radioactive substances are integral to some technologies used in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, industry and others. It is important that people can benefit from their use without being exposed to unacceptable risks.
The UK regulatory framework for radioactive substances is based on 3 principles of radiological protection established by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP).
The principle of justification
No practice involving exposure to radiation should be adopted unless it produces sufficient benefit to the exposed individuals or to society to offset the radiation detriment it causes.
This decision is made at government level through the regulatory justification process.
The principle of optimisation
Also known as the practice of ‘ALARA’ (as low as reasonably achievable), this principle means that the radiation exposures resulting from the practice must be reduced to the lowest level possible considering the cost of such a reduction in dose.
The principle of dose limitation
This involves setting upper limits on the dose that any member of the public should receive from all man-made exposures (other than medical exposures).
These limits are imposed by regulatory agencies (eg the Health and Safety Executive).
The UK regulatory framework for justification is provided by the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/1769), which came into force on 2 August 2004.
The regulations provide the framework in which we make justification decisions in the UK to make sure no new technology (or new practice based on an existing technology) is approved unless the benefits are shown to outweigh the risks. The regulations set out, among other things, what applications need to be made, who takes justification decisions and how the regulations will be enforced.
Technologies or practices that are found to be justified may be used legally in accordance with the requirements of regulatory bodies. These requirements are designed to make sure the other ICRP principles are adhered to when the technology is in use.
The Justification Regulations transpose into UK law the justification requirements of 2 European directives that protect the health of individuals against the dangers of ionising radiation:
- Council Directive 96/29/Euratom of 13 May 1996 – sets basic safety standards to protect the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionising radiation
- Council Directive 97/43/Euratom of 30 June 1997 – protects the health of individuals against the dangers of ionising radiation in relation to medical exposure
Under the European directives, a particular class or type of practice needs to be justified rather than individual uses.
New classes or types of practice
Justification is required for those classes or types of practice undertaken for the first time after 13 May 2000. Justification must be obtained before the practices are first adopted.
Existing classes or types of practice
Those classes or types of practice undertaken before 13 May 2000 are considered as existing classes or types of practice. These may be reviewed to see if they are justified or not whenever new and important evidence about their efficacy or consequences is acquired.
Because of the difference in time between the 1996 directive entering into force (13 May 2000) and the regulations (2 August 2004), transitional provisions are also included. These relate to any new classes or types of practice carried out for the first time in the UK after 13 May 2000 but before these regulations came into force. Earlier expressly determined justifications decisions are also recognised by these regulations.
Decisions on justification are taken by a justifying authority. The justifying authority is the appropriate Secretary of State in relation to England and reserved areas or the devolved administrations in devolved subject areas.
Functions performed by the justifying authority in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales are exercised only in respect of their own countries, while those performed by the relevant Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change may be applied to the whole of the UK.
Formally, justification decisions (other than those on reserved matters) are taken separately within the devolved administrations. However, we have agreed with the devolved administrations that there should be a single mechanism for deciding whether a particular class or type of practice is justified for the whole of the UK. In this context, ministers try to reach individual justification decisions that are consistent for the UK as a whole.
In 2004, representatives of Northern Ireland, the Department of the Environment, the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Scottish Executive signed a concordat setting out the agreement on how to administer the justification process.
- Concordat on the implementation of the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004
The Justification Application Centre
We set up the Justification Application Centre (JAC) to provide a central point for all justification applications to be sent to and processed. It also provides a single source of advice on the regulations, applications and general justification process.
The JAC maintains the justification register, which provides information on:
- all applications received, including those of the Secretary of State under Regulations 9, 10, or 12
- justification decisions and decision letters (where appropriate)
- transitional arrangement determinations for new classes and types of practice and earlier justification decisions
- determinations of reviewed existing practices
- determinations of whether a practice is new or existing
- re-determinations of decisions that existing practices are not justified
Contact the JAC if you require hard copies of any of the documents referred to in the register.
Please address any enquiries about the Justification of Practices Regulations to:
Justification Application Centre (JAC) Mezzanine 55 Whitehall Place London SW1A 2EY. Tel: 0300 068 6101 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Examples of justification cases
These case documents illustrate a safety toaster technology and give a good example of a complete package of documents relating to a justification application:
- Justification case: safety toaster - application
- Justification case: safety toaster - decision paper
- Justification case: safety toaster - statement
- Justification case: safety toaster - consultation report
Documents relating to the latest justification application decision made:
- Justification decision on an application for the use of an ionising source in a gas meter as a new class or type of practice
- The Justification Of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004 (Determination)
Information about the justification application for new nuclear power stations is available in the guidance for operators of new nuclear power stations.
Appendix 3: providing a system to identify and remediate radioactive contaminated land
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
The government is responsible for providing a system to identify and remediate radioactive contaminated land in England and Wales.
The Part 2A Contaminated Land Regime was extended to cover radioactivity in 2006 in England and Wales. The extended regime for England and Wales also implements the requirements of articles 48 and 53 of Council Directive 96/29/Euratom (BSS Directive). This sets the basic safety standards to protect the health of workers and the general public against the dangers from ionising radiation.
A further modification was made in 2007 which extends the regime to cover land contaminated with radioactivity originating from nuclear installations, though to date no sites meeting this criteria have been found. Regulations implementing this amendment came into force on 10 December 2007 in England and Wales.
The relevant regulations are:
- The Radioactive Contaminated Land (Modification of Enactments) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2007
- The Radioactive Contaminated Land (Modification of Enactments) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2007
On 6 April 2012 we revised the statutory guidance on radioactive contaminated land. This guidance explains how the enforcing authority should implement the radioactive contaminated land regime, including how they should go about deciding whether land is ‘radioactive contaminated land’ in the legal sense of the term.
Separate arrangements exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Scottish and Northern Irish governments are responsible for these respectively.
Local authorities have a duty to inspect land under the Part 2A regime and have the power to determine land as radioactive contaminated land. Once they determine a site as radioactive contaminated land it becomes a special site and the Environment Agency takes over as the regulator. You can access all important documentation about radioactive contaminated land on the GOV.UK website.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is also responsible for providing the legislative framework for conventional land contamination.
Appendix 4: providing, monitoring and reviewing the regulatory system for the storage, use and transport of radioactive substances
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
The government provide the laws that regulators need to make sure practices involving ionising radiation are carried out safely, securely and with minimal impact on the environment. Regulators in the UK operate independently of government.
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) is accountable to Parliament for:
- nuclear safety
- nuclear security
- nuclear safeguards (measures to verify we’re complying with our international obligations not to use nuclear materials for nuclear explosives)
- transport of radioactive material by road, rail and inland waterway
- civil nuclear emergency planning
- radioactive waste disposal
- environmental protection at nuclear power stations and other licensed civil nuclear sites in the UK
The principal regulators of the nuclear industry are:
- the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for nuclear safety, nuclear security, nuclear safeguards, the transport of radioactive material by road, rail and inland waterway, and health and safety on nuclear sites
- the 4 UK environment agencies for radioactive waste disposal and environmental protection (the Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Northern Ireland Environment Agency)
The ONR is the main regulator for the nuclear industry in the UK. It was established in April 2011 as an agency of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) pending legislation to establish it as a statutory body.
In 2007 the HSE extended its Nuclear Directorate to include the Office for Civil Nuclear Security and the UK Safeguards Office alongside the existing Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). The Department for Transport’s Radioactive Materials Transport Team also joined ONR in October 2011 bringing the 2 regulatory activities together for the first time.
The Energy Act 2013 includes provisions to establish the ONR as a statutory body.
Radioactive substances (including radioactive waste)
The Department for Energy & Climate Change is responsible for the regulatory regime for radioactive substances to protect the public and the environment from the effects of ionising radiation. Sites where radioactive substances are kept and/or used, or where radioactive wastes are produced, are required to hold a permit.
This requirement applies both to nuclear sites and also to thousands of other sites where radioactive substances are used. This includes everything from hospitals to industrial sites, from schools to pharmaceutical laboratories.
The UK regulators of radioactive substances are:
- the Environment Agency in England
- the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
- the Northern Ireland Environment Agency
- Natural Resources Wales
These regulators are responsible for issuing permits and working to minimise the impact on human health and the environment from radioactive material and waste in the UK.
Radiation levels in the UK are monitored regularly by the Radioactive Incident Monitoring Network (RIMNET), the Environment Agency, the Health Protection Agency (HPA), SEPA and operators of nuclear sites
Permits set out the conditions for the safe handling of materials and the limits and conditions on the production, management and disposal of radioactive waste.
The environment agencies also regulate aspects of the keeping and use of radioactive substances on nuclear sites. They check-up on sites to ensure they’re not exceeding their limits and are releasing as little radioactive waste as possible into the environment. They assess proposals from an environmental perspective to ensure packaged wastes are suitable for storage and final disposal.
Permits are granted under Schedule 23 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 in England and Wales (which repeal the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 in England and Wales only) and the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Environmental Permitting Amendment Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/2043) amended the regulatory framework in England and Wales to include to the exemption orders system following a UK-wide review of the regulation of radioactive substances. In Scotland and Northern Ireland equivalent changes were achieved by regulations that amended RSA93 and replaced the existing 18 Exemption Orders with a single order. The guidance on the scope of and exemptions from the radioactive substances legislation in the UK sets out the rationale underpinning the exemptions regime, the government’s intentions for the legislation, and how government intends the regime to be interpreted and implemented. It provides information to the environmental regulators and users on the means by which the objectives of the exemptions regime should be delivered.
Appendix 5: international standards on radioactive substances
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
UK radioactive substances policy is influenced by a number of international agreements. The UK is also a member state of several international organisations with an interest in radioactive substances.
Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)
UK regulation of radioactive substances is underpinned by the 1957 Euratom Treaty and subsequent EU Directives.
Shipments Of Radioactive Waste (Directive 2006/117/Euratom)
These Regulations came into force in December 2008 transposing European Commission Directive 2006/117/Euratom into UK legislation. Draft regulations were the subject of a public consultation earlier in 2008. The current Regulations replace the Transfrontier Shipment of Radioactive Waste Regulations 1993.
The new regulations cover shipments of spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing as well as for radioactive waste. Other changes include requirements for a compulsory automatic consent procedure and the inclusion of technical aspects of other legislation, principally the Basic Safety Standards Directive. Exports of waste or spent fuel from the European Community will now require the consent of the destination country.
You can download this correction slip for the regulations:
- For further information on how to ship radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel, read the Environment Agency’s guide on Radioactive waste, spent fuel or sources.
Standardised reporting of radioactive discharges
In 2003, the European Commission published Recommendation 2004/2/Euratom. This proposed a standardised approach by member states for reporting radioactive discharge data, so that it could be comparable on a community-wide basis. Following a public consultation in 2007, the Environment Agency (EA) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) jointly published guidance on standardised reporting of radioactive discharges from UK nuclear sites.
Euratom Treaty in detail
Chapter 3 of the treaty, covering health and safety provisions, is particularly significant to radioactive waste management. The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has lead responsibility on a number of articles:
Article 31 – Basic safety standards
This part of the treaty sets out the mechanism by which basic safety standards for exposures to radioactive substances are arrived at, both to protect the general public and those people working with radioactive materials. The commission has set up a standing committee, known as the Article 31 group of technical experts, to consider these standards and other issues. This is made up of scientific experts, and in particular public health experts, from the member states, who advise the commission on a regular basis. The commission consults the Economic and Social Committee and the European Parliament on any proposed amendments to the standards. The commission then presents its proposals to the council. The council considers them and can agree to them through a qualified majority vote.
Article 35 – monitoring
Each member state must establish the facilities necessary to continually monitor the level of radioactivity in the air, water and soil, and ensure compliance with the basic standards. The commission has the right of access to such facilities, in order to verify their operation and efficiency.
Article 36 – reporting
This article sets out an obligation for each member state to provide the commission with periodic reports on the data collected under Article 35 so that it is kept informed of the level of radioactivity the public is exposed to.
The Environment Agency manages a programme of air and rainwater monitoring on behalf of DECC, using 7 sites in the UK. The results are provided to DECC on an annual basis for onward transmission to the European Commission.
You can download the:
- Monitoring of radioactivity in air and rainwater in the UK: annual results report 2011
- Monitoring of radioactivity in air and rainwater in the UK: annual results report 2010
- Monitoring of radioactivity in air and rainwater in the UK: annual results report 2009
Article 37 – changes in emissions
Every time a member state alters the way it plans to dispose of radioactive waste or has a new facility that may increase emissions, it must make a submission to the commission, known as an Article 37 submission. This has to include enough data to determine whether such plans are liable to result in the radioactive contamination of the water, soil or airspace of another member state. The commission provides its opinion within six months, after consulting the group of experts referred to in Article 31.
An authorisation or permit to carry out the work cannot be given until the commission gives its opinion. The details of how this system operates are set out in ‘Commission Recommendation 2010/635/Euratom of 11 October 2010 on the application of Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty’.
International Commission On Radiological Protection
The International Commission On Radiological Protection (ICRP) is an independent UK registered charity and currently has its Scientific Secretariat in Sweden.
It was set up in 1928 to advance the science of radiological protection, for the public benefit, in particular by providing recommendations and guidance on all aspects of protection against ionising radiation. ICRP is generally regarded as the authoritative international body in this field.
Although not mandatory, the ICRP’s recommendations are very influential and form the basis of regulation of the risks from radiation in most countries of the world.
Providing advice on how the UK should apply ICRP recommendations is a statutory responsibility of the Radiation Protection Division of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) – formerly the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB).
ICRP publication 60
The ICRP’s most recent recommendations for a system of radiological protection are set out in Publication 60, published in 1991. These take account of research into the risks posed by radiation exposure and also extend the conceptual framework of radiation protection.
ICRP review of the 1990 recommendations
ICRP completed their review and published their new recommendations in 2007 as Publication 103. The government is currently considering, with advice from the HPA, any change to policy or legislation that may be needed to reflect the new recommendations.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the joint convention
The IAEA was set up by the United Nations in 1957, as the world’s ‘Atoms for peace’ organisation. It is the international centre of cooperation in the nuclear field, working with its member states and partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies. UK joined the IAEA as a member state in 1957.
The IAEA and radioactive waste management
The IAEA promotes the safe use of radioactive substances through its Safety Standard documents, which set out best practice in the fields of nuclear energy production, radioactive waste management, radioactive materials transport safety and radiation protection.
See the IAEA: Safety Standards web page for more information.
Four IAEA sponsored committees, the Nuclear Safety Standards Committee (NUSSC), Waste Safety Standards Committee (WASSC), Transport Safety Standards Committee (TRANSSC) and Radiation Safety Standards Committee (RASSC), oversee these separate work areas. These in turn report to the Commission on Safety Standards (CSS). DECC’s Radioactive Waste Policy team provides the UK representative on WASSC.
See the IAEA: Waste Safety Standards Committee (WASSC) web page for more information.
The IAEA and the Joint Convention
The Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, the first legal instrument to address these issues directly on a global scale, was opened for signature on 29 September 1997. It entered into force on 18 June 2001.
There are currently 63 Contracting Parties to the Convention, including the UK and the European Commission, with further countries signalling their interest in joining. Each Contracting Party is required on a triennial basis to submit a detailed written National Report and undergo peer review explaining the measures taken to implement each of the obligations of the Convention.
Appendix 6: providing policy for the safe and secure disposal of radioactive waste
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
We are responsible for setting the policies and providing laws and regulations for making sure wastes produced from processes involving radioactivity are managed in a safe and secure manner. This waste comes from a number of sources ranging from paper towels used in hospitals to nitric acid solution formed from reprocessing nuclear fuel.
As radioactive waste management is a devolved matter, the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for developing their own policies.
Further information on policies in the devolved administrations:
The government publishes annual reports on the ‘managing radioactive waste safely programme’.
- 3rd Annual Report 2012-2013
- 4th Annual Report 2013-2014
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) was established under the Energy Act 2004. It is responsible for decommissioning and cleaning up of the civil public sector nuclear sites. It is sponsored by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), and for some aspects of its functions in Scotland is responsible to Scottish ministers.
The Decommissioning of the UK Nuclear Industry’s Facilities was published in September 2004. This statement of the UK Government and devolved administrations’ policy on the decommissioning of nuclear facilities covers all (existing and new) UK nuclear industry facilities and their sites.
Radioactive waste categories
Solid radioactive waste is divided into 3 categories according to its radioactivity content and the heat it produces. The categories are:
- high level waste (HLW) – has high levels of radioactivity that generate heat and require cooling as part of safe storage prior to disposal
- intermediate level waste (ILW) – may have the same or lower levels of radioactivity as HLW but does not generate sufficient heat for it to be considered in the design of storage or disposal facilities
- low level waste (LLW) – has a much lower potential hazard than other categories (LLW makes up more than 90% of the UK’s radioactive waste legacy by volume but contains less than 0.1% of the total radioactivity)
Radioactive Waste Inventory
The inventory is routinely updated, and published every 3 years.
We published the last one, the 2013 Radioactive Waste Inventory, on 13 February 2014. This describes the stocks of radioactive waste and radioactive materials held in the UK at 1 April 2013. It also predicts wastes and materials that could arise from the operation and decommissioning of facilities in the future.
Higher activity radioactive wastes
Higher activity waste is the more radioactive waste that comes from sources such as the nuclear industry, military and medical uses and academic research. Higher activity waste comprises all 3 categories of waste (HLW, ILW and LLW).
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.
Long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste
Government remains firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of higher activity radioactive waste and continues to favour a site selection process for a geological disposal facility (GDF) based on working in partnership with interested local communities.
This approach is consistent with similar programmes ongoing in other countries.
Government published a new White Paper in 2014, Implementing Geological Disposal. The White Paper details a renewed approach to implementing a GDF in the UK following a consultation in 2013.
Low-level radioactive waste
Policy for the long-term management of solid LLW in the UK
Following a review of the long-term management of the UK’s solid LLW, we published a revised policy statement on 26 March 2007.
The purpose of the policy statement is to set out principles for the long-term management of LLW.
Nuclear industry radioactive waste strategy
The policy statement required the NDA to develop a UK-wide strategy for the management of solid LLW arriving from the nuclear industry.
The NDA consulted on a draft strategy from 5 June to 30 November 2009. You can find all the documents related to the consultation on the NDA website.
You can also read the UK strategy for the management of solid low-level radioactive waste from the nuclear industry (August 2010).
Non-nuclear industry radioactive waste strategy
The policy statement also acknowledged that a UK-wide strategy was needed for solid radioactive waste arising from the non-nuclear industry (NNI).
A data collection exercise was undertaken in 2008. The output of this data collection project was used to prepare a nationwide strategy for LLW and VLLW disposals from the non-nuclear industries.
*Please note: the data and tables are part of a separate file that is too large to publish online or email but you can request a hard copy (telephone 0300 068 6101).
We also produced a scoping report for the sustainability appraisal and carried out an informal consultation on this report from 9 January to 13 February 2009.
Taking on board this information it was decided to split the strategy into 2 parts:
Part 1 of the NNI LLW strategy deals with small users producing relatively low-volume arisings of wastes containing mainly anthropogenic radionuclides.
We formally consulted on this part of the NNI LLW draft strategy between 7 December 2010 and 8 March 2011. You can read more about the consultation exercise, including the summary report.
- provides information on this type of waste to help planning authorities make informed decisions on planning applications and respond to concerns
- clarifies the respective roles of waste producers, environment agencies, planning authorities and the NDA to enable them to make decisions that properly recognise the responsibilities of others
- makes sure waste producers and regulators are aware of how regulations should be applied to LLW, particularly the need for waste management plans, waste minimisation at source and use of the waste hierarchy
Part 2 of the NNI LLW strategy specifically deals with high-volume arisings of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) wastes.
We consulted on this strategy between February and May 2014 and Scottish Government published the ‘Strategy for the management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) waste in the United Kingdom’ on 24 July 2014. The aim of the strategy is to ensure that there are safe, sustainable and resilient NORM waste management arrangements in place in the UK.
Also, the strategy will identify and take steps to try to overcome obstacles preventing those managing NORM waste from contributing to sustainable economic growth.
- The Strategy and associated documents can be found on the Scottish Government website.
Strategy for radioactive discharge
Radioactive waste resulting from practices involving radioactive substances is discharged into the environment from nuclear licensed sites and non-nuclear operators. Discharges may be in the form of gases, mists and dusts, or liquids. All radioactive discharges in the UK are regulated by the UK’s environmental regulators under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 and the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Site operators are required to ensure that the authorised discharge limits and conditions are met.
The UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges aims, in part, to meet the UK’s obligations under the OSPAR Convention’s Radioactive Substances Strategy. The UK’s revised Strategy, published in July 2009, builds on and widens the scope of the 2002 Strategy by bringing all information on radioactive discharges into one place. The revised Strategy provides a clear statement of UK policy and a strategic framework for progressive and substantial reductions of radioactive discharges, sector by sector, to inform decision making by industry and regulators based on a set of environmental principles. It also highlights the move in England and Wales to Best Available Techniques (BAT) which provides more consistency with other environmental protection regimes and with other Contracting Parties to the OSPAR Convention. BAT is broadly equivalent to Best Practicable Means (BPM) and Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) which continue to be used in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The intended effects of the UK Strategy are:
- progressive and substantial reductions in radioactive discharges taking into account any uncertainties
- progressive reduction in concentrations of radionuclides in the marine environment from discharges, emissions and losses such that by 2020 the additional concentrations above historic levels are close to zero
- progressive reduction in human exposure to ionising radiation resulting from radioactive discharges, as a result of planned reductions in discharges
- delivery of the UK’s commitments to OSPAR without compromising UK energy policy
The revised strategy is supported by Statutory Guidance to the Environment Agency on the implementation of the UK Strategy including the move to BAT. Similar guidance to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has been published by the Scottish Government.