The Environment Agency has decided to approve waste disposal from nine nuclear facilities

Following public consultation, the Environment Agency has published its recommendations to largely approve British Nuclear Fuel’s (BNFL’s) application for permission to dispose of waste from eight Magnox nuclear power stations around the UK, and from the research and technology facility at Berkeley Centre.

In January 1998, BNFL submitted applications to the Environment Agency for the authorisation of each of nine sites for the discharge of gaseous and liquid radioactive wastes and to transfer solid low level radioactive wastes for disposal. For some of the sites, the company also applied to dispose of low level radioactive combustible solid and liquid wastes by incineration either on or off site. The Agency’s recommendations include:

  • the introduction of a single integrated authorisation for each site, including new conditions on management competence and supervision;
  • the reduction of forty-five out of fifty-eight existing limits on discharges, leaving eleven as at present, and increasing two; and
  • improvement programmes requiring BNFL to explore the scope for future reductions in discharges.

“The Environment Agency held a wide-ranging public consultation to assist its decision-making on BNFL’s applications,” said Environment Agency Chief Executive Barbara Young. “Indeed, we received nearly 3,000 consultation responses, all of which we have carefully considered and taken into account in reaching our recommendations and proposed decisions.”

“I am confident that our proposed authorisations will properly protect the public and the environment,” said Young. “The new approach, involving a single integrated authorisation for each site, applies the Agency’s latest regulatory thinking. It will facilitate closer regulatory scrutiny of BNFL’s management competence and supervision, will put increased pressure on the company to reduce emissions and will ensure that best practice is applied at every site.”

The recommendations will now be considered by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Health Alan Milburn, and the Environment Minister of the National Assembly for Wales Sue Essex, who will decide whether or not to hold a public enquiry.

The Magnox nuclear power stations which are included in the decision document are: Bradwell Power Station, in Essex; Dungeness A Power Station, in Kent; Oldbury Power Station, in South Gloucestershire; Sizewell A Power Station, in Suffolk; and Wylfa Power Station, on Anglesey. Berkeley Power Station, in Gloucestershire, and Trawsfynydd Power Station, in Gweynedd, which are both decommissioning, are also included, as is Hinkley Point A Power Station, in Somerset, which is currently defuelling prior to decommissioning.

At the beginning of August, the Environment Agency also announced that it is to change the way that it regulates waste disposal from BNFL’s Sellafield site, a scheme which is expected to cut radioactive emissions by around a quarter (see related story).

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie