High level waste

The UK’s HLW arising from reprocessing of spent fuel using the Plutonium URanium EXtraction (PUREX) process is immobilised by vitrification. In addition, it is expected that some spent fuel from the UK’s advanced gas — cooled reactors (AGRs) will be directly disposed of along with some Pu immobilised in ceramics as well as spent fuel from any new generation of reactors.

No facilities for disposing of ILW and HLW have been developed; these wastes are currently stored. LLW not suitable for near-surface disposal is also stored. It is anticipated that this waste will be disposed to a facility developed for ILW and HLW disposal.

In 2001 the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme was initiated by the UK government and the devolved administrations to take a fresh look at the management policy of the UK’ s higher activity wastes. The UK government published a White Paper in June 2008 (Defra et al., 2008) setting out its detailed policy and plans for the long-term man­agement of higher activity wastes.

The White Paper sets out an approach based on voluntarism and partner­ship with local communities, coupled with the use of appropriate site screen­ing and assessment criteria as the basis for siting a GDF (repository). Overseas experience (e. g. Chapter 13) suggests that such an approach is likely to be an effective way of addressing the concerns of communities about hosting such a facility.

The UK government invited communities to express an interest in taking part in discussions about the siting process for a geological disposal facility, and from 2010-13 two borough councils (Copeland and Allerdale in Cumbria) as well as Cumbria County Council (CCC) expressed an interest in hosting a GDF forming a partnership for discussions with government and the local communities. However, in January 2013 CCC decided against participating further in the process and the UK government is currently consulting on ways of encouraging further communities to come forward. Historically, most of the HLW in England and Wales has arisen at Sellafield, which is sited in the borough of Copeland, Cumbria. The NDA is the imple­menting organisation, responsible for planning and delivering the GDF and, as part of this process, will work with government to engage with commu­nities and other stakeholders.

The NDA and its agents will have the responsibility for securing the necessary regulatory and planning permissions involving any host commu­nity and planning authorities as necessary.

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