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Radioactive Waste: Waste Management

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what the baseline planning assumptions are for the proposed national deep-level geological repository for radioactive waste. (285519)

[holding answer 9 July 2009]: The “Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal”, published in June 2008, outlined the role of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as the body responsible for planning and implementing geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.

The White Paper sets out a staged decision-making process to site a geological disposal facility and the NDA are proceeding with early planning. The process is driven by discussions with potential host communities but early assumptions will need to be made for planning purposes on a wide range of technical issues that will not become clear for some time, such as the potential geological characteristics of a site and the amount of waste to be disposed of. The NDA plans to publish a document outlining and explaining its early planning work on this subject later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what discussions (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department have had with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority on (i) the earliest and (ii) latest dates for the proposed national deep-level geological repository for radioactive waste to open to receive waste deposits; and what discussions have been held on the operational opening dates. (285520)

[holding answer 9 July 2009]: Ministers and Officials meet the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) regularly to discuss its responsibilities for decommissioning and clean-up of the UK’s public civil nuclear sites including the geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.

The process to site a geological disposal facility is driven by discussions with potential host communities. The programme is flexible and able to incorporate both robust technical site investigations and ongoing interactions between the project and potential host communities. The Government have therefore not set a fixed delivery timetable, but the NDA, as part of its baseline delivery strategy, has a current planning assumption that the disposal facility could be available to receive the first waste in 2040. In the event that geological disposal facilities are not available until after this date, interim stores will have their lives extended as required, in order to provide safe and secure interim storage throughout the geological disposal facility development programme.