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Radioactive waste disposal policy enters final furlong

Words: Huw Morris

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for geological disposal of radioactive waste has been laid before Parliament.

The government said most radioactive waste can be disposed of safely in facilities on the surface but a suitable facility is still needed for the remaining higher activity radioactive waste – some of which will remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years.

The facility is expected to be constructed at a depth of at least 200 metres beneath the surface of the ground or seabed.

The NPS covers the deep boreholes needed to determine the suitability of a site for a geological disposal facility as well as the construction of a radioactive waste geological disposal facility itself.

BDB Pitmans partner Angus Walker said the disposal of nuclear waste was not included in the original Planning Act 2008 but was added as a new section 30A in 2015.

“That gives some indication of the glacial speed at which this type of infrastructure is progressing; I imagine it rarely gets to the top of the secretary of state’s in-tray,” he said.

“There is a certain urgency in doing something about nuclear waste. Waste produced by nuclear power stations is mostly still stored at each power station because there is nowhere else for it to go, but perhaps there will be soon.”

Radioactive Waste Management, a government company and subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, is working with national and local governments as well as communities to identify a location for a geological disposal facility.

“This has also got some way to go, so don’t expect a development consent order application any time soon,” added Walker.

The NPS is expected to be designated this summer.

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