Policy actions  2 of 4

Radioactive waste

Radioactive waste can originate from research, the health sector, and nuclear power and decommissioning. It must be managed safely and in a way that avoids placing an undue burden on future generations.

Radioactive waste is a devolved issue. Recognising that Scotland’s nuclear reactors generate radioactive waste, we aim to achieve a high level of safety in radioactive waste management that protects individuals and the environment and doesn’t place undue burden on future generations.

Radioactive waste management in this context means all activities, including decommissioning activities, which relate to the handling, pre-treatment, treatment, conditioning, storage or disposal of radioactive waste, including discharges.

We are committed to fulfilling our legal and international obligations in respect of radioactive waste management and report on progress to both the European Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by contributing to the UK reports as required under:

In recent years we have made significant progress in safely storing and disposing of low-level radioactive waste. Further research and public engagement is required before a disposal route can be found for Scotland’s higher-activity waste.

We set out our national policy on radioactive waste in 2007.

This page contains information on our policies regarding:

  • low-level waste
  • the Dounreay radioactive waste substitution
  • higher-activity radioactive waste

Low-level waste

The UK-wide policy for the long-term management of solid low-level radioactive waste in the United Kingdom covers all aspects of the generation, management and regulation of solid low-level waste and applies to the following organisations:

  • those responsible for the production and management of wastes (waste producers and managers)
  • the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
  • the regulatory bodies
  • the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
  • waste disposal facility operators
  • regional planning bodies
  • planning authorities

Dounreay radioactive waste substitution

The UK and Scottish Governments conclude that a waste substitution policy for radioactive waste arising from overseas research reactor fuel reprocessing contracts is an acceptable practice that the NDA can adopt to deal with historic Dounreay contracts.

Higher-activity radioactive waste

Our policy is that the long-term management of higher-activity radioactive waste should be in near-surface facilities located as near as possible to the site where the waste was produced.

Developers must demonstrate how the facilities will be monitored and how waste packages or waste could be retrieved.

Further information:

The EU’s Radioactive Waste Directive

The EU's Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Directive requires that:

  • EU countries have a national policy for spent fuel and radioactive waste management
  • EU countries draw up and implement national programmes for the management of these materials, including the disposal, of all spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste generated on their territory
  • EU countries should have in place a comprehensive and robust framework and competent and independent regulatory body, as well as financing mechanisms to ensure that adequate funds are available
  • public information on radioactive waste and spent fuel and opportunities for public participation are available
  • EU countries carry out self-assessments and invite international peer reviews of their national framework, competent authorities and/or national programme at least every ten years (by August 2023)
  • the export of radioactive waste for disposal in countries outside the EU is allowed only under strict conditions

We are committed to implementing our responsibilities in respect of the devolved provisions of the Radioactive Waste Directive, and as required under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (Joint Convention).