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Thorp

Volume 227: debated on Monday 28 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library a copy of the report submitted towards the end of 1992 by the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee on waste issues arising out of the proposed thermal oxide reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) pursuant to his answer of 7 June Official Report, column 108, when he expects to reply to the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee's proposals on nuclear waste management from reprocessing at Sellafield;(2) pursuant to his answer of 27 January,

Official Report, column 769, if he will publish the letter sent to him in October by the chairman of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee about radioactive waste arising from the reprocessing of foreign spent nuclear fuel at Sellafield.

Since 1976, contracts by British Nuclear Fuels plc—BNFL—to reprocess overseas spent fuel have contained return of waste options. In 1986, the Government confirmed that it was their intention that the options should be exercised and waste returned. However, they indicated that the option of substituting an equivalent quantity, in radiological terms, of more highly radioactive wastes in place of wastes of lower radioactivity was worthy of study.British Nuclear Fuels plc has made proposals to implement the waste return options. These involve returning to each customer their allocation of vitrified high-level waste arisings, plus an additional quantity of vitrified HLW radiologically equivalent to the arisings of intermediate and low-level wastes which would be retained in the United Kingdom. British Nuclear Fuels plc has also made clear that its plans to operate the thermal oxide reprocessing plant at Sellafield are not dependent on these proposals for substitution being agreed; nor would it wish to proceed with substitution if there were environmental detriment to the United Kingdom.The Government consider it important that the basis on which substitution might proceed is sound. Accordingly, the views of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee were sought on the technical basis of BNFL's proposals, and in particular on their likely radiological and environmental impact for the United Kingdom.The committee has produced a first report on substitution, and I am placing a copy in the Library. However, there remain a number of technical points on which we require further information before the Government can draw any conclusions and the committee will be asked to carry out further work and submit further advice. The technical advice of the Committee will be taken into account by the Government in deciding whether BNFL should be allowed to proceed with waste substitution.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he made of the corporate plan of BNFL in considering the authorisation of radioactive discharge from THORP.