UK Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) has launched a strategy focused on key objectives “to ensure that the right waste form, in the right package, is managed or disposed of at the right facility”. According to the 42-page document, “NWS will support accelerated decommissioning through innovation, with legacy and future waste streams managed in the most sustainable and efficient way through technology development, expertise and setting worldwide standards to provide value for the UK.”

NWS, launched in January 2022 is a new organisation bringing together the long-established expertise of site operator Low Level Waste Repository Limited (LLWR), Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) developer Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) Limited and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA’s) Integrated Waste Management Programme. NWS is not a legal entity but provides strategic oversight over the operation and development of these businesses through a management board governance structure. The legal entities of LLWR and RWM will continue, although the intention is to move to a single legal entity operating under the NWS brand sometime in the future.

According to the planned schedule outlined in the NWS strategy, capping will start on the Low Level Waste Repository in 2024-25; thermal treatment technologies will be developed as a proven technology by 2026-27; and decisions on the communities to progress as part of the Geological Disposal Facility programme will be made by 2026. The strategy sets out direction, objectives, key milestones, and the transformation needed to succeed by 2030.

NWS Chair Adrienne Kelbie and NWS CEO Corhyn Parr said in a joint statement that the aim is “to make nuclear waste permanently safe, sooner”, adding: “And we want to become the ‘one stop shop’ for nuclear waste management and disposal solutions in the UK.

NDA CEO David Peattie welcomed publication of the strategy as a “positive step for the NDA group”. Managing waste is fundamental to our decommissioning mission and the creation of a single, waste focused organisation has been an important part of reshaping the group to deliver our commitments.

The NWS strategy lists three objectives:

  • “We will be global leaders in the application of the nuclear waste hierarchy to ensure that the right waste form is in the right package and is disposed of at the right facility.
  • “We will support accelerated decommissioning through innovation with waste streams managed in the most sustainable and efficient way, supported by technology development and expertise, setting worldwide standards.
  • “And we will add value for the UK taxpayer. Our strategy objectives are built to be enduring and responsive to influences from the global and nuclear landscape as it evolves and changes.”

The strategies “will remain live and will be reviewed regularly or when there is a change in our context (e.g., new policy guidance is released).” NWS says it “will continue to work closely with the NDA group, government departments and regulators on all relevant waste policy and strategy implementation.”

Publication of the strategy came shortly after NDA published its Business Plan 2023 to 2026. The 72-page plan sets out key activities and expected progress for all 17 of the NDA’s nuclear sites over the next three years. In an introductory message, NDA CEO David Peattie said: “We organise our work into five themes and 47 strategic outcomes, providing a clear view of progress towards our mission.”

Many outcomes are long-term and sop “it’s rewarding to see some major milestones completed in the last year,” he noted. These include closure of the Magnox Reprocessing Plant at Sellafield in July 2022 after 58 years, having handled around 55,000 tonnes of used fuel during its lifetime. “This enables the site to fully focus on decommissioning, with the recent start of waste retrievals from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo a sign of that.”

At Magnox a modular encapsulation plant recently went into service at Berkeley, helping to make intermediate level waste safe. High hazard reduction also continues at Dounreay, in areas such as the Dounreay Fast Reactor and Prototype Fast Reactor. In addition, NWS is working to find willing community for a geological disposal facility (GDF) with four Community Partnerships established so far.

Peattie added: “Our mission is growing, with preparations underway for EDF Energy to transfer seven AGR stations to the NDA, for decommissioning by Magnox. This is the most significant increase to the NDA’s portfolio since our creation, with each site moving across when defuelling is complete.” NDA is also working with the Ministry of Defence to consider the potential for the NDA group to decommission its Vulcan site which sits next to Dounreay. “In addition, the UK Government has asked us to support its Energy Security Strategy,” he said.

He concluded: “This Business Plan sets out a challenging programme of work, reducing hazards while contributing to a globally significant sustainability agenda, developing our people and supporting our communities. I remain proud of colleagues across the group who continue to safely progress our nationally important mission and together I’m confident we can deliver our mission, create great places to work and be trusted to do more.”

Image courtesy of NWS