Consultations on guidance for radioactive waste disposal facilities opened in UK

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Safe disposal of solid radioactive waste is at the heart of guidance being launched for consultation by the Environment Agency. Joe McHugh, Head of Radioactive Substances Regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “As an independent environmental regulator, we aim to ensure that people and the environment are protected now and in the future, both during operation of radioactive waste disposal facilities and long after they have been closed.

“Our draft guidance sets out what we expect for any new disposal facilities to deal with radioactive waste and for the operation of existing facilities. We are providing improved guidance to help deliver safe and sustainable management of these wastes for present and future generations.”

The Environment Agency is responsible in England and Wales for authorising the disposal of radioactive waste under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

Two separate regulatory guidance documents have been developed to cover the different types of facility where solid radioactive waste is sent for disposal:

  • near surface disposal facilities – these are mainly for low level radioactive wastes and may be  located at the surface of the ground or at depths down to several tens of metres below the surface.  Produced jointly with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Environment and Heritage Service in Northern Ireland.  
  • deep geological disposal facility – this is for higher activity wastes and is at a depth in the geological environment that significantly removes the impact from disturbances at the surface. Produced jointly with the Environment and Heritage Service in Northern Ireland.

Each guidance document covers a number of key topics including:

  • Principles for solid radioactive waste disposal – includes six principles that are consistent with internationally agreed advice and recommendations.  
  • Authorisation of disposal – describes the type of agreement we would expect to have with a developer so we can give advice on environmental matters at an early stage when a site is being selected. 
  • Management, radiological and technical requirements – covers the radiological and technical requirements that the use of the site and the design, construction, operation and closure of the facility should meet. 
  • Environmental safety case – guidance on the required environmental safety case which will need to demonstrate that members of the public and the environment are adequately protected.
  • Policy and legislative framework – an overview of international treaties, national policy positions and the broader background that influence the regulation of radioactive waste disposal. 

Joe McHugh continued: “We welcome comments from all interested parties on our guidance. Following this consultation and a review of the feedback we receive, we aim to publish the final guidance in late 2008.”

The consultation runs for just over three months closing on Monday 1 September 2008. For more information and to take part visit the links on the left.

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