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Energy Frameworks

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 25 January 2018

I am today launching a public consultation on the draft national policy statement and supporting environmental appraisals for geological disposal infrastructure for higher activity radioactive waste. I am also laying the draft national policy statement before this House which will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, including review by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.

A second consultation “Working with Communities” proposes how local people should be engaged if they express an interest in hosting a disposal facility. A facility will only be approved for construction with the consent and support of the local community affected.

In 2014 the Government set out a renewed approach to finding a site to host a geological disposal facility in the “Implementing Geological Disposal” White Paper which was developed following consultation with stakeholders and the public. In it, the Government committed to bringing geological disposal facilities and the deep investigatory boreholes necessary to characterise sites within the definition of nationally significant infrastructure projects and to producing a draft national policy statement for this type of infrastructure in England. The relevant secondary legislation to designate geological disposal facilities and deep investigatory boreholes as nationally significant infrastructure projects was passed in March 2015.

The draft national policy statement sets out a clear route for future planning decisions in respect of geological disposal infrastructure in England, as well as providing planning guidance for developers of such projects and for the Planning Inspectorate and Secretary of State in their consideration and determination of any such applications. The national policy statement will give greater certainty to developers and lead to faster and more transparent delivery of planning decisions. The Government have appointed Radioactive Waste Management Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, to develop this infrastructure. It does not prevent any other developer from bringing forward an application for development consent for a geological disposal facility or deep investigatory boreholes; however, we are not aware of any other developers showing an interest in developing a geological disposal facility and do not expect this to occur.

In this consultation we are actively looking for views and suggestions on the draft national policy statement and the related environmental and sustainability appraisal documents to enable us to meet our objective of delivering a clear planning process for a geological disposal facility in the most effective and efficient way.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks, and will include a series of regional events and technical workshop with interested parties. In parallel with this consultation, we are also running another consultation seeking views on a draft framework for Radioactive Waste Management Ltd’s engagement with willing communities as part of the separate process of finding a suitable site for a geological disposal facility. The approach of working with a willing community to host a geological disposal facility, as set out in the 2014 White Paper, gives communities an opportunity to decide whether or not they wish to proceed with the development of a geological disposal facility. The working with communities policy sets out how Radioactive Waste Management Ltd will work with a community throughout the siting process. Once a community has indicated its support for hosting a geological disposal facility the national policy statement sets out how a geological disposal facility application will be assessed through the planning system. It is important to stress that all the usual opportunities for the public to have a say in the development of a facility like this through planning, safety, security and environmental permitting processes will also be in place.

Planning is a devolved issue and so this draft national policy statement provides the framework for the decision making on development consent applications for geological disposal infrastructure in England only. The planning process in Wales and Northern Ireland is to be decided by their respective Administrations. Scotland has a different policy for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste.

Following our analysis of the responses to this consultation and the consultation on working with communities and feedback from the Select Committee, we will finalise our policy approach.

The “relevant period” for parliamentary scrutiny of the national policy statement will be from 25 January 2018 to 28 September 2018.

The consultation document and supporting papers will be laid in the Libraries of both Houses.

Today I am also publishing the seventh and latest annual report on the geological disposal programme covering the period April 2016 to March 2017. The report can be found at: and I have made available copies in the Libraries of both Houses.