NDA sites have wastes which are not suitable for treatment in existing processing plants (or those currently planned at a detailed level). These wastes can be referred to as ‘problematic wastes’. Currently, all nuclear Site Licence Companies and non-NDA estate radioactive waste generating organisations manage their own problematic radioactive wastes to fit with their own Lifetime Plans and business plans.
Collaboration between waste producers, on technical issues, has improved in recent years, but there may be a potential to introduce further efficiencies when considering waste management across the nuclear industry as a whole. If an estate wide strategy for problematic radioactive waste is developed in the near-term, there is a potential to not only save time and money on the treatment of these wastes, there is also a potential to remove these activities from the site critical path, bringing further significant savings and earlier solutions.
For some categories of problematic radioactive waste, the majority of waste producers have a fairly small volume (e.g. batteries, solvents and pyrochemical waste), which would make the development of treatment capability at each site disproportionately expensive per unit volume.
Individual projects at sites may not be able to afford a solution, but an estate wide approach could potentially be utilised to develop a cost effective process. If the development, or the provision, of a treatment facility occurs at an estate wide level rather than at a project or site level, then the opportunity and therefore the incentive is likely to be greater for the supply chain. By taking a strategic overview of problematic radioactive wastes, decommissioning programmes can be de-risked if waste management does not become a critical path project. Non-NDA estate waste volumes and commercial drivers can contribute to economies of scale and development of timely solutions. The strategic overview allows us to make best use of current and future facilities.
This paper presents the strategic and economic case, and presents a range of credible options that would enable improved management of problematic radioactive waste.