Excellent briefing by Pete Roche :Towards a Safer Cumbria
How government, regulators and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority have neglected nuclear waste in Cumbria
The briefing concludes with:
There is no doubt Cumbria County Council’s decision was the right one and it is quite proper that the Council has resisted calls to reverse its decision. It would be wholly inappropriate for Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils to be allowed ‘to go it alone’ in continuing the search for a nuclear dump while major problems remain on site at Sellafield. Both Councils should make every effort now to work towards reducing, as far as possible, the risks at Sellafield. Moreover, national government has to work with Cumbria to ensure the NDA is ‘fit for purpose’ and is working to achieve the goal of hazard reduction at the site.
In the meantime the UK needs to stop adding to the problem by creating yet more waste and the NDA needs to focus anew on its original remit of clean-up and decommissioning.
(1) Cumbria County Council should continue pressing for urgent action to tackle these ‘intolerable risks’, and the Boroughs should do so too.
(2) While the waste already generated is in such a parlous state Cumbria should refrain from supporting any more nuclear facilities which produce yet more radioactive waste.
(3) The NDA should halt reprocessing as soon as possible, even if this requires contracts to be broken. Reprocessing is adding to the waste mountain. Arrangements should be made as quickly as possible for Sellafield to stop accepting waste, including spent waste fuel from other UK nuclear facilities. Sellafield should be completely focussed on clearing up its mess not engaging in commercial operations. Plutonium on the site should be immobilised as a waste and plans for a new MoX facility, which would further exacerbate the waste problem, should be dropped.
(4) Evaporator D should be pursued with vigour so as to solidify the liquid high level waste as fast as possible. The NDA and ONR should urgently re-visit the idea of building new waste storage tanks and a new vitrification line. If either of these projects can add to safety in the time available they should go ahead.
(5) Cumbria County Council should take on a lead role in the creation on an independent Overseeing Body as recommended by the original CoRWM to carry forward a “staged process” – in other words a body which supervises the safe storage of waste that currently poses an “intolerable risk”. With such little progress over the past decade it is time for a wider discussion over whether the NDA is fit for purpose. The Overseeing Body would design the best institutional arrangements – technical, social and environmental – to speed up the clean-up at Sellafield. Any review must include a
￼Towards a Safer Cumbria
fair representation of stakeholder bodies, with hands-off funding from Government to allow for independent critique of any proposals put forward.
(6) The NDA and its predecessor organisations have failed to make adequate progress, on time and budget, with regard to managing the UK’s most dangerous radioactive waste for over the past decade. Is it really the right body to be searching for a nuclear waste disposal site? According to international principles, as a waste producer the NDA should play no part in being a waste dumper because of the vested interests involved.
(7) Unfortunately, the MRWS process as outlined in the White Paper depends heavily on the NDA and on the regulatory bodies to ensure that plans meet safety and security requirements (70). This report shows that the ONR has failed to do so over highly dangerous waste at Sellafield. The fitness of the NDA to take a leading role and ONR as guarantor of safety and security within any future implementation of MRWS must therefore also be questioned.
This is an excellent briefing, clarifying and putting into intelligent language what we have already been calling for.
just one quibble…
As a nonscientist I am concerned about the push to “Evaporate” and solidify the liquid High level wastes – where is the residue (presumably nitric acids and radionuclides resulting from reprocessing) being evaporated to? and wouldn’t the resulting waste be even more radioactive and difficult to look after?