Guidance on low-level nuclear waste

The Environment Agency has issued guidance for landfill operators that wish to accept low-level nuclear waste (LLW).1

The guidance builds on an LLW management policy released by the Environment Department (DEFRA) in 2007 (ENDS Report 387, pp 49-50 ). This heralded a less prescriptive approach to disposal due to shortage of capacity at the Drigg repository in Cumbria. It defined high-volume very low-level waste (VLLW) as a subset of LLW with very low activity that can be disposed to landfill with due attention to safety.

The Agency expects VLLW going to landfill will rise as nuclear power stations are decommissioned and that the public will take an interest.

The Agency authorises all radioactive waste disposal under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 and operators wishing to accept VLLW at sites must have a site authorisation. Before authorisation the Agency will consult with the Health and Safety Executive and councils.

Authorisations will specify radioactive monitoring requirements and may trigger independent monitoring by the Agency. Operators will also require prior authorisation to transfer VLLW to the facility.

  • Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd plans to build a £110 million radioactive waste storage facility next to the present Dounreay site have been conditionally approved by Highland Council. Construction work is due to begin in 2011. Subject to consent, the facility is scheduled to operate from 2014 until decommissioning is complete in 2025. The site is intended to house the large volumes of LLW generated in the process. Scottish Ministers have yet to consider the proposals.
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