UK publish draft-strategy for LLW

5 June 2009

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has published its draft strategy for the management of solid low-level radioactive waste from the UK nuclear industry.

The principles of the draft strategy are similar to those applied to domestic and industrial waste management across the country – prevent, reduce, reuse, recycle – prior to disposal.

The predicted volume of LLW generated in the UK is approximately 25,000 m3 per year. Solid LLW is produced by both the nuclear (power generation, decommissioning of nuclear sites and maintenance of the UK nuclear deterrent) and non-nuclear (universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical industry etc).

At present the majority of the UK's solid low-level radioactive waste from the nuclear industry is disposed of at the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) near Drigg, Cumbria.

This site has been in use since 1959 and is now close to capacity. More space is being built and there are plans for expansion in the future. But even with all of this extra capacity (potentially 700,000 m3 subject to planning and regulatory approvals) there will still be a significant shortfall compared with the amount of waste forecast to be generated over the long term (3,000,000 m3 over 120 years), the NDA said.

The strategy launched on 5 June 2009 looks at ways of potentially reducing the amount of waste going to LLWR in order to make best use of the available national disposal capacity at the LLWR and reduce the need for an additional national facility in the future.

This includes making the most of opportunities to reuse soil and rubble from the nuclear industry and clean and recycle metallic wastes that can be used elsewhere.

Jo Fisher, head of low-level waste for the NDA, said: "There is no doubt that space for disposing of low-level waste is at a premium. All of the comments received will help us to refine the strategy and develop the best possible solution for effectively managing the UK's solid low level radioactive waste now and for the future."

The NDA is consulting on its draft strategy until 11 September 2009.

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