“Fundamental flaws” in nuclear waste plans

The government must clarify “incoherent and opaque” proposals for radioactive waste, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee warned last week

Its report raises “serious concerns” about the way proposals to implement the government’s managing radioactive waste safely (MRWS) programme are being developed.

The committee examined proposals for long-term management of radioactive waste following recommendations from the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM).

CoRWM recommended geological disposal of waste, with communities granted a say in the location of repositories and “considerable influence” over decisions on whether these should have early or phased closure.

But the government has watered down CoRWM’s recommendation for an independent body to oversee the programme, say the Lords. Instead, the “new CoRWM” would merely be an advisory body.

The government has also handed responsibility for planning and implementing the disposal programme to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, an existing non-departmental public body set up to decommission nuclear sites. A new body formed jointly by the government and the NDA – the Repository Development Monitoring Committee – will consider the new CoRWM’s advice.

The committee urged the government to establish “clearer lines of accountability and independent, expert scrutiny”. At the very least, it wants CoRWM “to have greater independence and authority to scrutinise proposals for implementation”.

It also wants the government to delay plans to consult on the screening criteria for repository sites, including policy development on the partnership process with local communities, until the terms of reference for the new CoRWM have been finalised and members appointed.

It criticised the government for “years of procrastinations, followed by what now appears to be unseemly haste”. This, it said, “is not the way to inspire public confidence”.