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Radioactive Waste (Disposal)

Volume 462: debated on Monday 25 June 2007

I am pleased to announce that the UK Government, along with the Welsh and Northern Irish devolved Administrations have today published a framework for the long term management of higher activity radioactive waste. These are set out in a consultation document entitled “Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: a Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal”. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The UK Government and devolved Administrations' response to the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) on 25 October 2006 committed to consult on how implementation of the geological disposal programme can be taken forward. We are seeking views not only on the technical aspects of developing a disposal facility, but how we can engage most effectively with those communities that might have a potential interest in hosting the facility.

The consultation is not about potential new nuclear build. That is the subject of a separate consultation announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 23 May 2007. Irrespective of whether or not there is any new build, the UK has a radioactive waste problem that must be solved.

The proposed disposal facility will not only help to solve a major national environmental problem for future generations but will be a high-technology, multi-billion pound project that will bring investment and high quality jobs for generations. It will also provide significant economic and social spin-off benefits for both the host community and the surrounding area. It is a means of dealing with the radioactive waste problem that many other countries are also following.

Planning and development of geological disposal will be based on four pillars:

Partnerships with potential host communities for disposal facilities that allow issues and opportunities to be fully discussed and evaluated.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, NDA, acting as a strong, effective implementing organisation with clear responsibilities and accountabilities;

Strong independent regulation by the statutory regulators: the Health and Safety Executive, the environment agencies and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security;

Independent scrutiny and advice to Government by a reconstituted CoRWM carrying forward the original committee's commitment to openness and transparency.

We recognise that, despite the work CoRWM has done, there will be those who may still harbour doubts about the geological disposal of radioactive waste. We shall address such concerns in an open and transparent way, on the basis of sound scientific and technical evidence, as the process moves forward. CoRWM has set the standards for openness and transparency, and we are committed to maintaining them.

I must stress that there is no site selection or voluntarism process underway at this point nor will there be until the outcome of the consultation is available and Government have established and published their view of the way forward in light of it. That said, we are happy to discuss the issues set out in the consultation document with any community with an interest.

The date for response to the consultation document is 2 November 2007. Although the Scottish Government have decided not to sponsor this consultation, organisations or individuals in Scotland who wish to respond may do so and UK Government will discuss these responses with the Scottish Government through the appropriate devolution mechanisms.