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Radioactive Materials: Floods

Volume 458: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment the Government has made of the potential (a) environmental and (b) public health consequences of (i) storm-related and (ii) sea-related flooding of a (A) nuclear power plant and (B) radioactive waste storage site. (123412)

Assessments of these flood risks are addressed as part of standard regulatory processes.

The safety of nuclear installations in the UK is regulated by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), which is part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Nuclear installations include all UK nuclear power plants and the Low Level Radioactive Waste Repository (LLWR) near to Drigg in Cumbria. Such installations must be licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act (1965). The safety of a nuclear plant is the responsibility of the licensee, who is required to submit to the NII a written demonstration of safety, the ‘safety case’.

NII requires that operators’ safety cases address internal and external hazards, including various types of flooding. NII assesses the operators’ safety cases to establish whether they are adequate. Safety cases are ‘living documents’ which are periodically reviewed and updated to reflect changing conditions. Changes in flood risk, whether due to changes in natural phenomena or man-made, are taken into account during such reviews.

The environment agencies (the Environment Agency in England and Wales, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland) regulate disposals of radioactive waste. The environment agencies would require any applicant wishing to develop a proposed disposal facility to assess impacts from a wide range of events and processes including those such as coastal erosion. This is in order to demonstrate that risks associated with radioactivity and other potential hazards would be acceptably low. Impacts from coastal erosion were considered in some detail during a recent review of the radioactive waste disposal authorisation for the LLWR near to Drigg in Cumbria.