UK updates radioactive waste inventory

17 January 2020

The UK has a total of 4,560,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, according to the 2019 United Kingdom Radioactive Waste & Materials Inventory, published on 10 January.

Of this, 1390 cubic metres is high-level waste (HLW), 247,000 cubic metres is intermediate-level waste (ILW), 1,480,000 cubic metres is low-level waste (LLW), and 2,830,000 cubic metres is very-low-level waste (VLLW). 

The inventory, compiled by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), is updated every three years. 

It shows that more than 94% of all radioactive waste to be produced in the UK will be LLW or VLLW. This includes both existing waste and waste estimated to arise over the next approximately 100 years. Most of this waste will be produced during the dismantling of existing nuclear facilities and the clean-up of sites. 

Less than 6% will be ILW, and less than 0.1% will be HLW. 

Radioactive waste-producing organisations are NDA (Sellafield Ltd, Magnox Ltd, LLW Repository Ltd, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and Springfields Fuels Ltd); EDF Energy; the Ministry of Defence; the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority; GE Healthcare Ltd and Urenco; as well as minor waste producers.

UK develops CoRWM role  

The UK's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has also published a document setting out the broad framework within which it will operate in future. 

CoRWM was set up in 2003 to provide independent advice to the UK government, the devolved administrations, the NDA, and other interested parties. 

CoRWM's remit includes the long-term management of radioactive waste, arising from civil and, where relevant, defence nuclear programmes, including storage and disposal. It is a non-statutory advisory committee and is classed as a non-departmental public body. 

The framework document, dated August 2018, was drawn up by the BEIS and the devolved administrations in consultation with CoRWM. It sets out four areas for which CoRWM will have collective responsibility:

  • Recognising the policy framework within which it will operate, including the roles and responsibilities of government and devolved administrations, the NDA, RWM and the various statutory independent regulators;
  • Delivering its evidence-based advice to ministers in accordance with agreed work programmes; 
  • Delivering the work programme within the agreed budget; and
  • Submitting an annual written report to sponsor officials by 31 May each year, which will be made available to the public on the CoRWM website.

CoRWM has a chairperson and up to 11 members. Members are appointed in a personal capacity and must remain independent of organisational or sectoral interests. The chair and members are appointed for up to four years. 


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