DEFRA consults on nuclear waste plans

The Scottish government has rejected the Environment Department’s (DEFRA’s) proposals for the long-term geological disposal of nuclear waste, outlined on Monday

The UK government and devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland are consulting on how sites will be chosen to dispose of nuclear waste.

But Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said that “the ‘out of sight out of mind’ policy should not extend to Scotland”.

“We do not accept that it is right to seek to bury nuclear waste… in a deep geological facility or to expect any community to host such a facility,” said Mr Lochhead.

The government’s proposals are based on recommendations from the reconstituted Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) and cover the technical aspects of designing and delivering a disposal facility, the development of a “partnership” or “voluntarism” approach, and the process and criteria for deciding where to locate facilities.

Assessment and evaluation of potential sites will be staged and unsuitable areas screened out early on. Initially, communities will be invited to express interest in taking part in the process to provide a disposal site. They will be able to withdraw up to the end of the fourth stage – at which stage detailed land assessments will have been carried out. The scope of any “benefits package” would be agreed before stage 5, when construction begins.

The consultation also sets out the government’s position on regulation, scrutiny and control of the disposal facility development programme, to be managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

The NDA will require planning permission to develop disposal facilities, which the government calls “a major development of national significance”. Decisions may be taken by an Infrastructure Planning Commission to be set up under the Planning White Paper.

DEFRA says that it could take 20-30 years – including time for planning enquiries - to develop the process before waste is deposited.

However, the government is considering producing a national policy statement for nuclear waste disposal which could shorten the time-frame by removing the need for a planning enquiry for a disposal facility.

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