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Radioactive Waste: Transport

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether trains carrying nuclear waste use the (a) Lea Valley and (b) Barking to Gospel Oak line. (322511)

I have been asked to reply.

Irradiated nuclear fuel (often referred to as nuclear waste) is transported by rail from nuclear power stations to Sellafield in Cumbria. Because of the nature of the UK rail network these shipments regularly use railway routes in and around London. However, the Department for Transport does not hold data on the precise routes taken.

The transport of radioactive material, including irradiated nuclear fuel, is governed by stringent internationally-agreed standards recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency appointed by the United Nations to oversee all aspects of the peaceful uses of atomic energy worldwide. The safety of the transport of radioactive material is secured by the design and build quality of the packages used. In particular, packages used to transport irradiated nuclear fuel are designed to withstand a severe impact and fire without releasing their radioactive contents.

Organisations consigning radioactive materials are free to choose the most appropriate route and mode of transport for their purposes and rail transport represents the best option for very heavy items such as irradiated nuclear fuel flasks.