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Radioactive Materials: Waste Management

Volume 505: debated on Friday 5 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what evidence his Department is using to decide on the minimum burial depth for each grade of nuclear waste. (314721)

[holding answer 1 February 2010]: The depth of the facilities for the disposal of radioactive waste are considered on a facility by facility basis by the operator, who will need to satisfy the independent safety and environmental regulators that people and the environment will be protected.

The White Paper ‘Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal' states that the

“depth at which the underground vaults and disposal tunnels will be located is likely to be somewhere between 200 and 1000 metres, but this will depend on the geology at the site in question”.

This statement is drawn directly from recommendations of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management released in 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what account was taken of scientific predictions of future rising sea levels in the process of deciding upon nuclear waste storage sites; and if he will make a statement. (314723)

[holding answer 1 February 2010]: The bulk storage of nuclear fuel or nuclear matter (including waste) is a licensable activity under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965. The holder of a nuclear site licence to undertake such activities is required to make and implement adequate arrangements for the production and assessment of safety cases consisting of documentation to justify safety of the installation throughout its life.

This requirement includes demonstrating the safety of any storage facilities from a range of external hazards including sea flooding whatever the cause. These assessments take account of anticipated changes in the nature of external hazards including those as a result of climate change. These assessments are maintained under periodic review to demonstrate the continuing safety of the site.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps have been taken to ensure that geological disposal of nuclear waste is safe in relation to the possibility of a seismic event in the future. (314724)

[holding answer 1 February 2010]: The White Paper ‘Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal' (Cmd. 7386) sets out the process to select a site for geological disposal. As part of that process geological stability will be considered in the site specific assessments to be undertaken during desk based studies and site investigations before a site is finally selected.

Before a disposal facility can begin to operate, the developer will have to demonstrate to the independent safety and environment regulators that it will be safe during operation and following closure, including considerations of geological stability. No facility will be built unless it can meet the demanding safety case requirements of the independent statutory regulators.