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Nuclear Waste

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether it is her policy to allow indefinite disposal of low-level radioactive waste at landfill sites. [109625]

Current policy for controlled burial of low level radioactive wastes at landfill sites is set out in the 1995 White Paper "Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy: Final Conclusions" (Cm2919). The White Paper concluded that controlled burial to landfill should continue to be available as a disposal route, particularly for "small users" of radioactivity— such as hospitals, universities, research laboratories and non-nuclear industries—subject to agreement of the site operators and the necessary regulatory requirements being met. In addition, I accept that the agreement of local residents is also important. Despite acknowledging that there might be sound economic and radiological grounds for encouraging greater use of controlled burial to landfill, Cm2919 concluded that its greater use by the nuclear industry should not be encouraged due to genuine anxieties that the proposal aroused among local residents.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the (a) public health and (b) environmental risks posed by the disposal of low-level nuclear waste in landfill sites. [109626]

An assessment of the radiological impact of disposals of radioactive waste from nuclear sites to Clifton Marsh was carried out in 2002 as part of the Environment Agency's review of radioactive waste disposal authorisations from the BNFL Springfields site. This showed that the operational and post-closure risks were acceptable and in line with regulatory guidance.An assessment of the impact of disposals to Hilts Quarry will be carried out in 2003 as part of the Environment Agency's review of the radioactive waste disposal authorisations for the Rolls-Royce Derby site.The Environment Agency has an established programme of environmental monitoring at current and disused landfill sites, focusing on levels of radioactivity in leachate which might arise at landfill sites. The results of this programme are included in the Agency's annual Radioactivity in the Environment report, copies of which are available in the Library of the House. In most cases results show that radioactivity concentrations are not elevated above levels expected to be found naturally.