Higher-activity radioactive waste: implementation strategy

Implementation strategy for Scotland's policy on higher-activity radioactive waste.

Executive Summary

i. This Strategy has been prepared to support Scotland's Higher Activity Radioactive Waste Policy published in 2011 (the '2011 Policy'). The 2011 Policy is that long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste should be in near-surface facilities. Facilities should be located as near to the site where the waste is produced as possible. For safety reasons, developers will need to demonstrate how the facilities will be monitored and how waste packages, or waste could be retrieved. All long-term waste management options will be subject to robust regulatory control.

ii. The aim of this Strategy is to expand on the framework provided by the 2011 Policy to allow waste management decisions to be taken to ensure the Policy is implemented in a safe, environmentally-acceptable and cost-effective manner.

iii. The Strategy does not address site-specific issues. It is recognised that appropriate waste management solutions at one site may be different from those at another site. The Strategy is not prescriptive about which management solutions should be used in specific circumstances.

iv. The Strategy sets out three key phases of work for the effective implementation of the 2011 Policy and outlines actions that are required during each phase. Setting out clear timescales towards a long-term solution for the final disposition of waste is important to avoid unnecessarily passing the radioactive waste burden onto future generations and to help protect the environment. The dates may be subject to change to reflect new developments. There may be opportunities to reduce storage periods by establishing management routes earlier which could allow decommissioning timescales to be shortened saving time and costs. Early opportunities to develop near surface disposal technologies will be pursued if possible.

v. Phase 1 (2016-2030) will include a review of the higher activity waste that is expected to arise in Scotland. The suitability of disposal as a waste management option for these wastes under current technologies will also be reviewed. Initial results have shown that a proportion of wastes may be suitable for emerging near-surface disposal concepts. During this phase, new waste management baselines will be implemented by waste owners and producers. The Letter of Compliance process will be reviewed, recognising that some wastes are destined for near-surface disposal. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority ( NDA) and other waste producers and owners will need to review the baseline plans and planning assumptions that are currently in place for the waste in light of the 2011 Policy.

vi. In Phase 2 (2030-2070) the Scottish Government will work with the NDA, radioactive waste producers and regulators to help develop a near-surface disposal concept for waste suitable for this management route under current technologies. Plans for the design, siting and construction of second generation of replacement long term storage facilities and near-surface disposal facilities will be developed.

vii. In Phase 3 (2070 onwards) the Scottish Government anticipates that replacement near-surface storage facilities will be constructed. Disposal technologies will be further developed and new near-surface disposal facilities will be constructed.

viii. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management will continue to provide independent scrutiny and advice to the Scottish Ministers on the work of the Scottish Government and the NDA in relation to the Strategy and implementation of the 2011 Policy in Scotland.

ix. Research will be undertaken to support nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management in Scotland. Research aims and potential research projects are highlighted in the Strategy. In Phases 1 and 2 programmes to identify credible waste management options for wastes currently understood as suitable for near-surface disposal will be undertaken. From Phase 2 a further research and development work stream will be initiated to investigate potential technical solutions for higher activity wastes which, under current technology and regulation, are understood to be unsuitable for near-surface disposal. These projects will include not only methods that are currently available, but also explore practices that could become viable in the future.

x. The radioactive waste management decision-making process will be reviewed to ensure that communities are informed and engaged so that they can express their views. Stakeholder and community engagement plans will be developed and research will be undertaken to help develop an effective communication methodology.


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