UK strategy for radioactive discharges: statutory guidance

This document contains statutory guidance to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on the UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges.

Part 1: Statutory Guidance

Statutory Powers

1.1 Under section 31 of the Environment Act 1995 (EA95) 1

"The [Scottish Ministers] shall from time to time give guidance to SEPA with respect to aims and objectives which [they consider] it appropriate for SEPA to pursue in the performance of its functions."

1.2 The guidance

"...must include guidance with respect to the contribution which, having regard to SEPA's responsibilities and resources, [the Scottish Ministers] consider it appropriate for SEPA to make, by the performance of its functions, towards attaining the objective of sustainable development."

1.3 " In performing its functions, SEPA shall have regard to…[such] guidance…".

1.4 The following is guidance given under the above provisions.

2. Introduction

2.1 At the 1998 Ministerial meeting of the Oslo and Paris ( OSPAR) Commission, in Sintra, Portugal, contracting parties to the 1992 Convention for the protection of the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic agreed an OSPAR Strategy for Radioactive Substances. The objective of the OSPAR Commission with regard to radioactive substances, including waste, is to prevent pollution of the maritime area, as defined under the Convention, from ionising radiation through progressive and substantial reductions of discharges, emissions and losses of radioactive substances, with the ultimate aim of concentrations in the environment near background levels for naturally occurring radioactive substances and close to zero for artificial radioactive substances.

2.2 It was agreed at Sintra that the OSPAR Strategy was to be implemented in accordance with the following time frame:

  • by the year 2000, the OSPAR Convention will, for the whole maritime area, work towards achieving further substantial reductions or elimination of discharges, emissions and losses of radioactive substances
  • by the year 2020, the OSPAR Commission will ensure that discharges, emissions and losses of radioactive substances are reduced to levels where the additional concentrations in the marine environment above historic levels, resulting from such discharges, emissions and losses, are close to zero.

2.3 In July 2002, the UK Government and the devolved administrations published the UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges 2001-2020 2 (the UK Strategy). The UK Strategy sets out how the UK will achieve substantial reductions in radioactive discharges to the marine environment in the period up to 2020, in order to implement the agreements reached at the 1998 Ministerial meeting of OSPAR. Those reductions are to be delivered primarily through the process, under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA93), of authorisation for the discharge of radioactive waste.

2.4 This document provides guidance to SEPA on the contribution it should make towards achieving the requirements of the UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges. The UK's position is currently set out in the UK Strategy and as such SEPA will take account of that publication through its regulatory process. This guidance, to which SEPA must have regard, is necessary because the Sintra agreement was at contracting party, that is UK Government, level but is to be delivered at arms' length from Government, in Scotland by SEPA.

3. The Statutory Guidance

3.1 EA95 sets out some of SEPA's statutory duties. The overall aim and key objectives of SEPA are approved by the Scottish Ministers as part of SEPA's published corporate planning process. Periodically, the Scottish Executive publishes policies and priorities that are relevant to SEPA, which, together with the specific provisions in SEPA's Management Statement, Financial Memorandum and SEPA's statutory powers and duties, form the main elements of the policy framework for SEPA's activities.

3.2 In the exercise of its statutory duties, this guidance requires that SEPA must have regard to what is set out in the UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges.

3.3 This guidance applies to SEPA in the exercise of its statutory duties for authorising the discharge of radioactive waste, under the terms of RSA93, and also for the exercise of its related administrative arrangements for the issue of any letters of agreement in respect of discharges of radioactive waste from premises exempted from the provisions of RSA93, by virtue of section 42 of that Act.

4. Sustainable Development

4.1 This guidance [ the SE website address of the final approved guidance] should be read in conjunction with Statutory Guidance, from the Scottish Ministers to SEPA on sustainable development, December 2004 (Paper 2004/21), which outlines the contribution SEPA should make generally towards sustainable development by performance of its functions, whilst having regard to its responsibilities and resources. SEPA must have regard to that guidance since it defines actions that SEPA should take to ensure sustainable development is embedded fully into its day-to-day activities and performance management systems.


Email: Central Enquiries Unit

Back to top