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Nuclear Waste

Volume 983: debated on Wednesday 23 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will itemise the quantities of categories of nuclear waste stored in the United Kingdom and estimate the length of time required before such waste can be safely released in the environment.

Current holdings for nuclear waste, as categorised in my reply of 17 January to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), are as follows:

Holding at 1979 (Cubic metres)
Concentrated high level waste in liquid form1,000
Fuel cladding, sludges and miscellaneous waste from earlier processes19,000
Plutonium contaminated wastes3,500
Wastes stored at power stations20,000
Liquid high-level waste will be vitrified and stored for a further period to permit cooling. The time scale for disposal depends upon establishing the route and on the optimum storage period, but it will not be before the beginning of the next century.In general, the other categories of waste also need to be retrieved from storage, treated and packaged, before disposal. Some, including some of the plutonium contaminated waste, is being disposed of to the deep ocean under the London dumping convention. Disposal of other wastes of higher activity depends upon the development of treatment processes, the radioactivity of the treated waste, and the identification of disposal routes. Current research should enable disposal routes to be developed before the end of the century.The safe management and disposal of nuclear waste is a matter to which the Government and the nuclear industry give the highest priority.