Nuclear industry’s environmental performance revealed

A report looking at where the nuclear industry is tackling its environmental impact - and where there is room for improvement - has been published by the Environment Agency.

For the past three years, the EA has published an annual report based on the Nuclear Sector Plan – a voluntary environmental roadmap agreed by the agency and the industry itself.

This report published this week looks at the nuclear sector’s performance in 2008.

It says that the industry has made improvements in a number of key areas but also flags up several where more needs to be done.

The areas where the industry is thought to be making good progress include:

  • 80 per cent of non-radioactive waste produced in the nuclear sector is reused or recycled
  • There were no serious breaches of permits
  • There were no serious pollution incidents
  • The sector is using fewer resources year-on-year
  • Greenhouse gas emissions are small
  • Discharges of radioactive pollutants to the environment are falling.
  • The areas where more needs to be done include:

  • Making more efficient use of natural resources at some sites, for example, through the use of energy auditing and more energy-efficient systems
  • Making progress in packaging and conditioning intermediate level radioactive waste in a form suitable for disposal
  • Ensuring that new routes for recycling or disposing of low level radioactive waste are available, and that best use is made of the limited capacity at the Low Level Waste Repository.
  • Continuing to minimise discharges of greenhouse gases by developing site-specific plans which draw on good practice within the sector and from other sectors
  • Continuing to improve understanding and management of contaminated land, moving forward into clean-up when appropriate.
  • David Bennett, policy manager for Radioactive Substances Regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “With major change underway in the nuclear industry, it’s encouraging to see good progress being made in the sector around environmental issues.

    “However with challenges ahead for the industry, a concerted effort is needed to ensure environmental performance along with safety are at the heart of such programmes.

    “The Environment Agency will continue to work to be a better regulator for the industry, and work closely with the nuclear industry to make sure it is performing to the highest environmental standards.”

    Tony Fountain, Chief Executive at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said: “It is the NDA’s role to ensure the safe, effective clean up of nuclear sites – with minimal impact on the environment, and we are pleased to see that the nuclear sector is clearly pushing ahead with improving its environmental performance.

    “The final publication of the UK Strategy for the Management of Solid Low Level Waste from the Nuclear Industry later this year will go even further in driving improvements, with the reduction, re-use, and recycling of waste from the sector.

    “The NDA will continue to work with its sites and stakeholders to focus on the relevant areas of environmental performance, so that we can all see even better results in next years report.”

    Sam Bond

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