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Energy: Radioactive Waste Management

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

My Lords, with permission, I shall repeat a Statement made earlier in the other House by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the report of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management—CoRWM—which was published on 31 July. Similar Statements have been made in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. I thank the chair, Gordon MacKerron, and the members of the committee for the outstanding effort that they put into arriving at their unanimous report.

“The issue of nuclear waste disposal has dogged successive Governments. CoRWM was asked to recommend the best option, or combination of options, for the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste to provide protection for people and the environment. The Government believe that CoRWM's report provides a very strong basis for moving forward with clarity and consensus. We accept CoRWM's recommendations that the UK's higher activity waste should be managed in the long term through geological disposal, and the continuing need for safe and secure interim storage until the geological disposal is available. We also agree with CoRWM that we must continue to build on the momentum that it has helped establish.

“As CoRWM’s report observes, geological disposal is the approach being adopted in many countries, including Belgium, France, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. Nevertheless, securing geological disposal represents a major challenge and will require a commitment over many decades. We accept CoRWM's recommendation that the process for developing a geological disposal option should be undertaken on a staged basis, with clear decision points. This will allow Government to review progress, assess costs and value for money and environmental impact before decisions are taken to move to the next stage.

“Planning and development of the geological disposal option must be based on four keypillars. First, it must have a strong and effective implementing organisation, with clear responsibilities and accountabilities. Secondly, there must be strong independent regulation by the statutory regulators—the Health and Safety Executive, the environment agencies and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security. Thirdly, there must be independent scrutiny and advice to Government on implementation. Fourthly, there should be a partnership with the host community.

“The CoRWM report observes that the safe and secure storage of civil legacy radioactive waste already falls within the remit of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority established under the Energy Act 2004. The NDA also has responsibility for disposal of low-level radioactive waste in its current remit. We have decided that responsibility for securing geological disposal of higher activity waste should also fall to the NDA, to create one organisation able to take a strategic view through all stages of the waste management chain, accountable in a clear and transparent way to independent regulators and Government.

“The NDA is already subject to statutory safety, environmental protection and security obligations under the Energy Act 2004, and its contractors are subject to regulation by the environment agencies, the Health and Safety Executive and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security. Its strategy and annual plans are subject to approval by Government. We will ensure that in future the longer-term radioactive waste management interests of Government are appropriately represented in the NDA’s strategy, and that it has governance arrangements to reflect its increased responsibilities.

“Nirex has played an important role in maintaining and developing the UK's knowledge on geological disposal, including the provision of advice to industry on waste conditioning and packaging, since the demise of its own geological disposal development programme in 1997. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I, as joint shareholders in Nirex, are grateful to the successive chairs and the board for their hard work, and of course to the expert staff involved. None the less, the Government believe that having two organisations on the same playing field with potentially overlapping responsibilities has the potential to confuse and blur accountability. Instead we are determined to harness the skill and commitment of the staff involved within the NDA. Following the Statement we shall allow Nirex a short period to comment on the proposed ownership transfer and how it could best be brought about.

“The independent environment and nuclear safety regulators believe that this proposal will provide a framework that they can regulate in a strong and effective manner. They are content that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will be responsible for implementing the geological disposal programme, within the constitutional arrangements which I described earlier. The regulators’ support is of major importance, as strong independent regulation is key both to ensuring the safety of people and the environment and to securing confidence and trust in the delivery arrangements.

“Coming to the third key pillar of our approach, we remain committed to independent advice. Accordingly, a successor independent committee will be appointed to give advice on the plans for the long-term management of radioactive waste. CoRWM has set the standards for open and transparent advice that takes into account not only the best available scientific and other expert input, but the views of the public and stakeholders. It has also built up support and brand recognition.

“The new committee will therefore maintainthe current name, but its membership will be reconstituted to reflect its role in the next stageof the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme. The committee will be sponsored by Defra, the DTI and the devolved Administrations. Its primary functions will be to advise onthe implementation of a geological disposal programme, including considering the strategy and delivery plans and the site selection process. It will make its advice available to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, as has been done by CoRWM.

“The circumstances surrounding the long-term disposal of higher activity radioactive waste are unique. We have made it clear that we are not seeking to impose radioactive waste on any community. In this context, we are strongly supportive of exploring the concept of voluntarism and partnership arrangements with the local authorities serving communities that might be affected. As CoRWM recognises, there is a need to consider further how such arrangements could work in practice. Accordingly, we will look to further develop a voluntarist and partnership approach including the stages and decision points, how communities would be involved, the role of democratically elected bodies, and the potentialfor involvement and community packages, as suggested by CoRWM.

“Disposal facilities will be built only in a geologically suitable area, and we will consider how geological and scientific considerations will be meshed with other societal considerations as, for a successful programme, all criteria will need to be met. I invite any local authority or group of local authorities that wishes to be involved in these discussions to contact myself, my honourable friend the Member for Dudley South or officials directly. Similar invitations are being extended by my colleagues in the devolved Administrations.

“It must be stressed that any future facility-siting process will be a wholly new process, divorced from the historical Nirex process. Lessons have been learnt from that. We are also determined that the new approach will be carried out fromthe beginning in an open and transparent waywith appropriate opportunity for public and stakeholder as well as expert involvement.

“In the light of this further work, the Government will produce an implementation framework and publish it for consultation as soon as possible next year.

“This announcement, and the more detailed response which I am publishing today, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House, completes stage 2 of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme. We are now entering stage 3 on planning for implementation. We aim to be able to move to stage 4—the final implementation stage—in 2008, confident that the sharing of information and viewpoints and the transparency of the CoRWM process has been maintained.

“The CoRWM report says that,

‘for over three decades, efforts to find solutions to the problem of long-term radioactive waste management in the UK have failed’.

Governments of all parties have struggled to develop a long-term approach to this issue founded on science and driven by openness and transparency. I believe my Statement today combines scientific rigour and clear accountability, and I commend it to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister for repeating the Statement by his right honourable friend in another place. I add my thanks to his to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management for its work and the completion of its report, which is now clear. As it says, this problem has been around for more than 30 years. Interestingly enough, it is still the same problem today as it was30 years ago. The solution has been around throughout that period, and has not changed in those 30 years.

There has been a culture of prevarication and obfuscation over that time, and I regret that there is no political honour for anybody in our discussing this matter today. The real question is: do the Government actually mean business? I note what is said at the end of the Statement about moving through the stages to implementation, but regrettably the possibility of further prevarication exists.

I welcome the decision that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will take responsibility for disposal of nuclear waste, and that body’s proposed absorption of Nirex. I also welcome the continuation of CoRWM to provide independent advice. However, the Statement is not clear on what happens if the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and CoRWM disagree on the strategy. Is there a mechanism to resolve that disagreement, or would such disagreement impose further delay?

I would be grateful if the Minister could explain the cryptic remark that occurs on the top of page 5,

“exploring the concept of voluntarism”.

Is that, in effect, a bidding process for local authorities that have suitable geology to, shall we say, advance themselves as possible candidates when sites are considered? That prompts a further question: what happens, as seems perfectly possible, if nobody volunteers? How is that to be resolved, or will we come back to someone having to say, “In this situation we will have to look and act without a volunteer”?

I am not quite sure what,

“divorced from the…Nirex process”,

means. Nirex considered all types of disposal and the whole of the country. I even remember a consultation, sometime in the late 1970s, about a possible disposal site in Essex. Since we know that its work must have been very thorough, is all that work to be disregarded? Are we really to do it all again?

The final question that is not clear in this paper—inevitably so, I suspect—is the little matter of finance. Is sufficient funding already provided to enable the planning process to be fully undertaken, because it will still involve a great amount of detailed work that will incur expense? Some assurance on that would certainly help. Even more importantly, deep geological repositories, which are a major long-term development, will involve a long-term financial commitment. The horrible reality of 30 years of delay means that the cost of that work is now grossly inflated from the figure that it might have been had the job been undertaken 30 years ago. Will the Government therefore establish a fund now—not putting in all the money, but some funding? Will they start building a fund so that when we come to construction some of the money will be there? That would provide two assurances: first, that the Government are absolutely determined to get this through; and, secondly, that the planning work cannot possibly impose any additional delay. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Statement as a small but very important step on the road to dealing with the immense legacy of nuclear waste from the second half of the 20th century. As has been said, the solution has been around for a long time. It has been accepted that the waste should be buried. I know that CoRWM was set up to reconsider all the options, but it has returned to the same conclusion. The issue has always been: where? If there is a weak point in the Statement it is: what happens if no community is willing to take the waste? Although fine words are said about democracy and that a community will be allowed to say no, what if a local council in Wales, for the sake of argument, says yes—obviously, the Government will have to offer considerable benefit to go with the acceptance of waste—but the Welsh Assembly says no? The issue is fraught with questions. I hope that it can be worked through, because it is essential just to deal with the legacy of waste. I am glad that the terminology is “managing” now, because it certainly still cannot be viewed as disposal. The waste is not being disposed of; it is simply being managed underground.

One of the most interesting recommendationsand government responses comes under recommendation 7, which states:

“If a decision is taken to manage any uranium, spent nuclear fuel and plutonium as wastes”.

That is one of the biggest items in the whole report. First, there is a fair amount of such material and, secondly, there is an enormous budget implication well beyond what the Government have already costed. Will the Minister repeat the estimated cost of disposing of nuclear waste as envisaged by CoRWM? If recommendation 7 is taken on board to include all those materials, the spent plutonium will have to be moved in budgetary terms from an asset column, as it is now classified by the Government, to a cost column, with considerable implications for budgeting. I hope that safety issues will be paramount rather than accountant-speak—being worried about the shifting of figures, which will have to happen.

The industry has been subject to constant change. Only yesterday, the formation of the new nuclear research body and the break-up of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd were announced. Reorganisation undoubtedly brings difficulties. The Government have accepted that there is an ever decreasing pool of expertise in this area. Although the Statement talks of independence, it will be very hard to get people who are truly independent, in the sense that they are likely to have worked for a long time in the industry. The democratic process will have to bring the checks and balances of that independence into being. I certainly hope we will have the time to examine that in this House.

The creation of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which we debated in your Lordships’ House during consideration of the Energy Act 2004, was a very positive move, and I hope that, in tandem with the other changes announced today, it will add impetus to dealing with the legacy of waste. None of this Statement can be taken as encouraging us to think that a future nuclear-build programme, in the unlikely event that we get there in our lifetimes, will be any more possible or likely until all these enormous questions about waste are dealt with.

Finally, I hope that the House will now welcome CoRWM’s work more than it did in a memorable debate in which I was probably the only person in your Lordships’ House, apart from the Minister, to defend its work, because the committee involved had produced such a damning report on it. I hope that we can be a little more welcoming today.

My Lords, I am grateful for the responses from noble colleagues. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said that the problem has been around for 30 years, and so have the solutions. I am not sure whether that is literally correct, but he is generally correct that many people have considered the problem.

Regardless of whether there is an issue between CoRWM and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Government must agree the plans. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority was set up under the Energy Act, so there are constraints. Indeed, we are considering the Government’s arrangements, as the Statement said. We need a public discussion on the matter. I do not want to go over the past, because things can be misunderstood, but we also need a clear and transparent audit trail, exactly as the CoRWM process has shown. CoRWM has produced a first-class report with a first-class audit trail, and there can be no criticism of that. In some ways, that is where the answer lies in relation to the new facility siting process being divorced from the Nirex process. We must discuss how voluntarism and partnership can be linked to the scientific assessment of sites. The Nirex site list is, however, disregarded. That is what was meant by the new process being divorced from the Nirex process. One cannot wipe out what happened, but we now have a different arrangement. There is no question of going over the Nirex sites.

I cannot answer the financial question about possible start-up costs, but point to evidence from other countries—I listed six, seven, or eight of them; I forget the exact number. We do not want to look as though we will fail. The Statement was made only today. I would not be surprised if the odd local authority had not made inquiries, because that is the way in which things will be done. We must set up a process in 2007, as we have said, so that we can assess the voluntary approach. We want an assessment and a solution based on partnership and a willingness to participate. As I have said, international experience indicates that this approach is the one that is most likely to succeed. So I do not envisage failure at the moment. It is true that the costs are large. We are talking about huge sums of money, as nobleLords know better than I do. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, funded by the Government, deals with historic waste. Any new operators must share the costs of their work.

The Written Statement yesterday is, in a way, quite separate from today’s Statement, and I am not briefed to answer questions about it. Moreover, as always, in this narrow and specialist area as in other areas where science is involved, there will be debates about the independence of the people involved. One has to be realistic. Expertise probably will come from a specific area of scientific and academic research, and one of the practicalities of the industry is that you draw on that advice. I cast no aspersions on what the noble Baroness said, but while there must be checks and balances in the governance arrangements to weigh up the risks involved in taking independent advice, just because a person has worked in the industry does not mean that their advice on the best way forwardin another context—advice based on their experience—is not valuable or not independent. We are talking about an issue where no one around now will ever be accountable for their advice. This is decades of work.

On the question about cost implications if plutonium is declared a waste material, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will consider this as part of its strategy and planning, which will require government approval. It goes without saying that the Government are accountable to Parliament. Parliament would be involved in terms of scrutinising government actions. The planning I have referred to will include carrying out further important work to determine the costs. To be honest, I cannot go down the road of costs. All kinds of figures are bandied about and these costs will run over decades. Whatever ballpark figure one puts out, whether it is hundreds of millions or indeed billions, the costs will stretch over an indeterminate number of decades that neither I nor anyone else can begin to predict at present. Further work has got to be done.

Finally, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, we are determined to proceed on this and to secure as wide a consensus and partnership as possible. Previous approaches have failed, and that is no criticism of either Government. But the fact is that it is now time for action and we have to make some progress. The voluntary partnership approach seems to work elsewhere in the world and there is no real reason why it should not work here.

My Lords, perhaps I may advise the Minister that my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith is absolutely right about the time span of 30 years. Some 27 years ago I had ministerial responsibility in this area, and if one is inclined to be cynical, one would say that the only thing which has changed is that the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC) has become CoRWM. I inherited a situation in which the previous Labour Government’s attempts to develop geological storage had failed in the face of strong public opposition in several different places. I formed the view then that interim storage, as it is described in this paper, was much the most likely outcome and that it would be built in places which had a strong economic interest in the future of the nuclear industry. Moreover, vitrification would be a good way of making safe these materials and would therefore be the most likely process.

Is the position of the Government still the one recommended I think by the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, that there should be no more nuclear power plants before we have an established means of nuclear waste disposal? Is that still the position and is it the reason for the Statement today? Does it open up the opportunity to introduce more nuclear power provision, which I certainly support? However, I should say that the one very sensible statement made in the longer document to which the Minister referred is that local authorities should plan for interim storage to last for at least 100 years.

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord’s confirmation. I asked my officials aboutthis because in the past a lot of people involved in this area would come to round to my house about this subject—and not just those in the industry, but Ministers. So I respect what the noble Lord has said. The energy White Paper made the position abundantly clear. I am well aware of the allegations that nuclear waste would somehow not be dealt with, thus making it much easier for us to oppose new nuclear build. But we have to deal with nuclear waste whether there is new build or not; that is the reality. We owe it to future generations to deal with this waste. The people of this country want the lights to come on when they turn on the light switch. Approximately a fifth of that power is from nuclear energy.

I do not want to get into new plants, but we have to deal with the waste whether or not there is a new build. The position on that was wrapped up more in the energy White Paper, quite separate to the CoRWM report.

My Lords, this partnership with host communities was the pipedream of Nirex, which tried to impose the repository on West Cumbria, where I live. It was a disastrous proposition which met universal hostility in the local community. From this we should learn a clear lesson: it is highly unlikely that anyone will volunteer. I might change the phrase from nimby to wimby—“Welcome in my back yard”—but this will not be welcome in anyone’s back yard.

Is not the real answer the one that people simply refuse to examine, which we concluded at the time was the solution; that is, to have an international settlement or site somewhere in the world where everyone sends their nuclear waste? That is the long-term solution that will survive a century; it is not for every nation state to somehow deal with the matter in a local way which offends local communities.

My Lords, I will not go down that road. I do not know the details and am going on advice here, but I read out a list of countries where this process appears to work. The evidence is that we ought to be able to find a site—I do not know whether a site or sites will be involved—based on international experience. I fully respect what my noble friend says about what happened under the previous proposals, which is probably why the voluntary route is the only way we can go down now.

My Lords, as the Minister repeated the Statement, I was struck by how many of the recommendations that form part of it closely mirror what the Select Committee of this House said some seven years ago, in a report under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Tombs. However, there is one exception: our report recognised, as the Minister said today, that Parliament has to be involved. The recommendation we made was that at least once in every Parliament, there should be an opportunity for both Houses, with a Statement of progress in front of them, to have a debate and to support the continuation of the process. I hoped that this line would be supported by all parties.

The Minister is right: this problem has to be dealt with and it will take decades. It is not enough just to say that Ministers are accountable to Parliament. The opportunity for a regular parliamentary debate at least once in every Parliament was seen by that Select Committee as an important measure in giving democratic accountability, so that Governments and those involved—the NDA and the new forum, which I hope will have lots of scientists and engineers on it—have the support of Parliament as the voice of the nation. I do not want a categorical undertaking but I ask that the Minister will take that away and discuss it with his colleagues.

My Lords, I can give a more specific answer. I am not familiar with the advice that the Select Committee gave seven years ago. However, only two years ago when Parliament pressed the Energy Act, it gave the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority the status of a non-departmental public body. It is subject to scrutiny by Parliament, it can be and is called before the Select Committee in the other place that looks after the DTI, and there are Select Committees here. It seems quite normal that Parliament would want to have regular check-ups or stock-takes on such a long-term process, and that Parliament would do so in the way that it thought appropriate. This matter affects everybody, and if it goes wrong we get the blame. Government are accountable to Parliament.

My Lords, I have two questions. My first question relates to devolved Administrations. I am not clear what the position would be if it proved impossible to find a geological site in Scotland or Wales but one was found in England, or vice versa. Would the waste from one part of the United Kingdom go to the other part which had accepted it, or is it intended that there will be self-containment, as it were, within each of the units of the United Kingdom?

Secondly, like other noble Lords, I am fascinated by the idea that we are not seeking to impose radioactive waste on any community. That is made very clear in the Statement. To discover what the Government mean by “community” I looked inthe report, but all it has, on page 13, is a list of all the fairly obvious and interesting questions.

It may be unrealistic but let us assume that support could be found to revisit the proposal for a site in west Cumbria. What is a community? What would happen if the parish councils were against the proposal—and perhaps parish polls voted against it—but the district council could be bribed to be in favour of it; if the National Park Authority and the county council were against it, but the North West Regional Assembly voted in favour of it? What do the Government mean by “community” in this sense?

My Lords, as I understand it, most of west Cumbria and the coast are not within the park authority in the first place, so that issue does not arise. But that is a minor point; the central point of the noble Lord’s question relates to devolved Administrations. Today’s Statement has been agreed with the devolved Administrations. The CoRWM report was published on 31 July, just after Parliament went into Recess. We are making the Statement today because this is the first available opportunity when all three bodies have been sitting. It has not been possible since we have been back because I understand the Welsh Assembly has been in Recess, having come back earlier. If the noble Lord checks the legal arrangements he will find that nuclear waste is a devolved issue—and that, therefore, should answer the first part of his question.

My Lords, when covering CoRWM, the Statement referred to the views of the public and the Minister spoke about public discussion. Whenwill the Government start the process of educating the public about the nature of radioactivity and the problems we face, as advocated in the report of the Select Committee of your Lordships’ House in 1999? At present, the general public believe that the problem is insurmountable, that there is no technical solution that works. Clearly such a process will take some time, not a few months—I think the report stated that it will take at least a year or maybe 18 months—so when will we start work on educating the public?

My Lords, attempts have been made all along. It is true that most people just want to get on with their lives without any interference from the Government. By and large, this issue affects people when it affects them—either through their jobs, their communities, their locality, their family and so on. CoRWM has gone through an incredible process of consultation around the country which has been open and transparent. For those areas the process is under way. There is no single magic policy or annunciation or statement that will convince everyone. Surely people by now are wised up to the fact that we are losing control over our supplies of gas because the North Sea is running out; that there are some parts of the world that are politically unstable so where are we going to get our energy from? The issues of climate change are beginning to impinge on people. The process goes forward on a daily basis.

My Lords, having had, for the second time this year, a three-hour black-out at home, which again reminded me of the 1960s, I have some idea of what could happen in not too many years time unless we move forward on this question. It is absolutely essential that the message is got across to the public and, in that sense, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has raised a very important point. Certainly two of the countries which come to mind, to which my noble friend referred in his list, carried out immense work with the public. The Canadians were outstanding and got a great deal of support. Admittedly it is a very large country and it is not unsurprising that some interest has been shown. But Finland, which is smaller, I think had three competitors for its storage plant. It is important that the public should understand that a number of countries have done this and how they have done it.

Secondly, the general public’s perception of nuclear waste is grossly misleading. We have heard it described in this House this afternoon as “immense”. That is in the eye of the beholder. I think the last spokesperson for Greenpeace described it as “mountainous,” which it is not. Therefore, it would be helpful if some very clear information could be provided to the public, to remove from people’s minds what is being fed to them by those who are, I think, pushing another agenda: that of not having any further nuclear power plants.

Maybe I am anticipating something that will come along, but most countries have offered incentives. It would be extremely encouraging for local authorities to know that there is a benefit beyond creating employment for those who do not have it. The French did remarkably well in this, but, again, that is a differently run country, although they run my electricity supply. Lastly, presumably it is possible to indicate that some parts of the country are unsuitable. Why have greater anxiety in those parts if we can say, as I am sure Mr Livingstone will say of London, that they are not suitable?

My Lords, I take my noble friend’s point about needing to overcome an anti-science climate. It does not apply just to this area of activity; there are others. Most people go to hospital without thinking about what happens to the low-level waste. I remember, some years ago, my former colleague, now a Member of this place, the noble Lord, Lord Cunningham, receiving letters which said, “You should have this stuff put in your constituency”. Of course, that is where it now is: at Drigg, in Cumbria—tonnes of low-level waste from hospitals all over the country, looked after perfectly adequately. If we were not going to do that, we could not use X-rays in our hospitals. We have to make clear to the public the connection between the benefits they receive from our use of science—including electricity and medical attention—and the need to deal with the consequences. We must explain it properly.

In the past, I suspect this industry has probably been its own worst enemy, by not discussing matters openly enough. When HIV became a problem, the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, broke all precedent for the Conservative Party by having all those leaflets that talked about sexual practices put through 20 million doors. No one ever dreamed of doing that. If you explain these things to people, they begin to understand why other policy actions are being taken. If we do not explain, we have only ourselves to blame.

My Lords, my memories of this issue also go back a considerable time. I seem to remember a proposition that nuclear waste should be buried at sea. That was very soon thrown out. While we have considerable experience of this issue, and of the general opposition to it over the decades, the Government are now quite optimistic. I wonder what has persuaded them that certain local authorities will come forward and volunteer to have suitable sites within their boundaries. Secondly, while we have been very much involved with this issue over the years, it will be new to the devolved authorities: the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. I wonder whether they will not take the traditional view of this issue.

My Lords, I have had no personal involvement with the devolved Administrations over this, but all the signs are that this is an agreed Statement. The devolved Administrations have been part and parcel of this. This is not a question of abdicating responsibility. The Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly have dealt admirably with the issues that they have been faced with since devolution. There was a time when material was dumped at sea, around our coast by the MoD, and had to be dealt with. This Statement is agreed with the devolved Administrations and I have every reason to believe that they are part and parcel of dealing with this issue.

My Lords, that last aspect to which the noble Lord referred seems very optimistic. It is very good news indeed that the devolved Administrations have been involved in this Statement. Does the noble Lord see signs thatthe political parties across those devolved Administrations recognise that they have a responsibility to take a lead on this, that their country’s future depends on it and that playing politics with people’s fear and ignorance about nuclear power is simply irresponsible? Does he see any sign that the political parties want to give a lead?

My Lords, I am not going to comment on the political parties. It is exactly the same with the non-governmental organisations, some of which have misused science to play on people’s fears to achieve their policy objective or raise funds. We have to let the science speak, take the risks and assess them, listen to independent voices, see what is produced by the CoRWM committee—which no one has criticised—and take matters forward in an open and transparent way.