For over 60 years our country has benefited from nuclear technology. It provides clean energy to our homes and businesses and will continue to play an important role as we transition to a low carbon economy. We also have a long history of using radioactive materials to treat and diagnose serious illnesses, to deliver research and development and to help deliver industrial processes. Radioactive waste is created from a variety of sources including electricity generation, defence and healthcare. Most of this waste is low in radioactivity and is disposed of safely every day by skilled nuclear engineers across the country. However, some materials remain radioactive for thousands of years and require more specialised disposal facilities. Currently this waste is held safely in stores above ground. But this is only an interim measure, a permanent solution is needed. Geological disposal is internationally recognised as the safest and most secure means of permanently managing this type of waste.
A geological disposal facility will contribute to the Government’s industrial strategy, which identified the key role the nuclear sector has in increasing productivity and driving clean growth. It is a multi-billion pound infrastructure investment and will provide skilled jobs and benefits to the community that hosts it for more than 100 years. It is likely to involve major investments in local transport facilities and other infrastructure.
I am today laying before Parliament the revised national policy statement for geological disposal infrastructure for the relevant period ending—21 sitting days post lay date—pursuant to section 9 (8) of the Planning Act 2008. At the same time, I am also laying, pursuant to section 9 (5) of the Planning Act 2008, the Government’s response to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and publishing the Government response to the public consultation on the draft national policy statement.
The national policy statement for geological disposal infrastructure sets out the need for such disposal infrastructure to safely and securely manage the UK’s inventory of higher activity radioactive wastes. It provides an appropriate and effective framework for the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to examine and make decisions on development consent applications for geological disposal infrastructure in England. The statement is based on existing Government policy for managing higher activity radioactive waste. This national policy statement sits alongside the “Working with Communities” policy document that was published in December 2018 and sets out the framework for managing this type of waste through geological disposal and the process for how we will work with communities to find a location for this facility. That process is now under way.
A public consultation on the draft national policy statement was undertaken from 25 January 2018 to 19 April 2018 and the statement was also scrutinised by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, which considered written evidence as well as information from oral evidence sessions. I would like to thank the Committee for its very helpful report and recommendations, and also those who contributed to the subsequent debate on this issue in the House of Lords in September 2018.
The Government have considered the consultation responses and the report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in producing this revised version of the national policy statement.
Copies of the national policy statement for geological disposal infrastructure and Government’s response to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee will be laid before Parliament. I am also publishing these documents on the Department’s website, with the Government’s response to the public consultation on the draft national policy statement and the equality analysis for the national policy statement.