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Radioactive Waste Management

Volume 542: debated on Monday 12 March 2012

I am pleased to inform the House of three announcements from my Department—the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)—with regard to the safe management of radioactive waste. First, DECC is today publishing its response to the public consultation on the “Desk-based Identification and Assessment of Potential Candidate Sites for Geological Disposal”.

Alongside the response we are also publishing a high-level framework—informed by our consultation—that sets out the process for identifying and assessing potential candidate sites within volunteer areas in England. The framework more clearly defines stage 4 of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process for implementing the geological disposal of higher-activity radioactive waste.

The consultation, which ran from June to September last year, considered how desk-based studies would be used by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to identify potential sites following a decision to participate by a local community at the end of stage 3 of the MRWS process. It also set out how potential sites would be assessed against agreed criteria and how decisions would be made—both at the local and national level—on which potential sites should go forward for detailed geological assessment in stage 5.

Having considered all responses received during the consultation the Government have concluded there was general support for our proposals for site identification and assessment and for the criteria which will be used to identify and evaluate potential candidate sites.

To accompany the Government response we have produced a framework document which contains the agreed criteria and a high-level description of the desk-based site identification and assessment process for England. It reflects the proposals presented in the public consultation including a number of additions and clarifications to the criteria, in response to comments we received. It confirms that sites will be assessed using multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) as a tool to aid decision making and it sets out the next steps to develop this methodology, including the development of scoring scales and the weighting of the criteria.

The Government are committed to a staged siting process based on voluntarism and partnership and the invitation for more communities to come forward to find out more about the siting process remains open. The documents published today demonstrate continuing progress in the process for siting a geological disposal facility for the long-term management of higher-activity radioactive waste. I am placing copies of the documents in the Libraries of both Houses. The documents are also available on the DECC website at: siting/mrws_siting.aspx.

Secondly, I am announcing today the triennial review of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability in public life. In common with all such reviews, this has two aims:

to challenge the continuing need for an NDPB to carry out this role—both its functions and form; and—if it is agreed it should remain as an advisory NDPB;

to review its control and governance arrangements to ensure it is complying with recognised principles of good corporate governance.

I will announce the findings of the review later this year. If you would like further information, or to contribute to the review, please contact my Department at:

Thirdly, I am publishing today a strategy for waste planning bodies, regulators and waste producers on solid low-level radioactive waste (LLW) from the non-nuclear industries (such as hospitals and universities). The strategy provides further guidance on our policy to encourage the disposal of such low-level waste locally where suitable permitted facilities exist. It complements an existing strategy on LLW from the nuclear industries which was published by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in 2009. The new strategy is available on the DECC website at: