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Nuclear Waste

Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many cubic metres of low-grade nuclear waste from decommissioned power stations have recently been identified by the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee. [109621]

The Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee's (RWMAC's) Advice to Ministers on the Management of Low Activity Solid Radioactive Wastes Within the United Kingdom was published in March 2003. What the Committee pointed out is that as nuclear site decommissioning plans, including those on which nuclear power stations have operated, progress, and radioactive contamination is identified and characterised, substantial volumes of building rubble and soil with levels of contamination at the bottom of the low level waste activity range—of the order of that of the very low level wastes produced by small users—are being identified. Initial estimates of volumes are set out in Annex 4 of the RWMAC report and amount in total to more than 3,300,000 cubic metres, of which more than 3,000,000 cubic metres is attributed to the Sellafield site. The Committee believe that a substantial proportion of this very low activity waste from nuclear site decommissioning and clean-up activities has not been included in past inventories, although they acknowledge that, at this stage, estimates are very approximate.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what definition of nuclear waste was used as the criterion for inclusion in the Government inventory of nuclear waste. [109622]

The latest 2001 United Kingdom Radioactive Waste Inventory describes four categories of waste—high level wastes, intermediate level wastes, low level wastes and very low level wastes. The definitions of these categories correspond with those given in the 1995 White Paper, "Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy: Final Conclusions" (Cm2919). The inventory records total UK stocks and projected future arisings under the first three of these categories, based on latest estimates provided by those responsible for the wastes. The fourth, the very low level wastes category, which is intended to apply in particular to wastes produced by "small users" of radioactivity—such as hospitals, universities, research laboratories and non-nuclear industries—contains very little radioactivity, and no central records of arisings are compiled or contained in the inventory.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what method is to be used to dispose of the low-level nuclear waste recently identified by the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee. [109623]

This is a matter for those responsible for the waste to propose, and to secure, regulatory agreement. All disposals of radioactive waste must be the subject of application to, and authorisation by, the environment agencies—the Environment Agency in England and Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland—operating under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 and in accord with current UK Government and Devolved Administration radioactive waste management policy.