Sources of waste

Radioactive wastes in the UK can be subdivided according to their sector of origin, notably fuel cycle services, reactor operation, decommissioning activities, nuclear research and non-nuclear licensed site operations such as academic research, radiopharmaceuticals and the medical sector. This breakdown coincides with the approach adopted in the UK discharges strategy (DECC et al., 2009), which also recognises wastes from the defence sector and wastes containing NORM. Some wastes (such as HLW) are identified specifically with one or other sector, whilst other wastes (such as LLW) arise at all sites.

Volumetrically, over 90% of the radioactive waste in the UK arises from England. The total amount of waste requiring disposal in the UK, including wastes forecast to arise over the next 100 years, amounts to 4.7 million m3 or five million tonnes (NDA and DECC, 2011; see also Fig. 16.3). The vast majority of this consists of future waste to be decommissioned from existing facilities.

Of waste produced from existing facilities, nearly 75% originates from the reprocessing of spent fuel. Approximately 15% arises from nuclear power stations and approximately equal amounts in the region of 5% of wastes are related to the research and development sector (a legacy of government-funded programmes dating from the start of the UK nuclear industry) and uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication (NDA and DECC, 2011). Defence-related and medical and industrial wastes account for approximately 1% of that produced from existing facilities. Waste gener­ated from spent fuel reprocessing, carried out at Sellafield, also encom­passes waste from legacy waste programmes in the defence sector (NDA Inventory Summary report, 2011).

Over 90% by volume of the UK’s wastes are classified as LLW, with 6% comprising ILW and 0.1% HLW (Figure 16.3). This small proportion of HLW contains approximately 95% of the total radioactivity, while LLW, by contrast, is responsible for 0.01% of the overall radioactivity.

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