UK running out of nuclear waste space

Britain needs a new strategy for dealing with low-level nuclear waste as current disposal facilities run out of space, the Government said.

In a policy published on Monday, Defra called for a UK-wide strategy to provide an alternative to the national low level radioactive waste (LLW) dump in Drigg, Cumbria, which it says lacks long term capacity.

Although LLW produces relatively little radioactivity it constitutes the bulk (90% by volume) of Britain’s total radioactive waste. As aging power stations are decommissioned in the coming years the amount of this type of waste is likely to grow rapidly.

Environment minister Ian Pearson said that the new policy aims to ensure that disposal routes are “flexible enough to accommodate the wide range of types and radioactivity of wastes that result from both nuclear and non-nuclear activity.

Cleaning materials and clothing that have been in contact with radioactivity, whether in a nuclear power station or a hospital setting, would both be classed as LLW.

The nuclear industry should also work on minimising its waste, by using less radioactive material and recycling or reusing as much of the waste produced as possible, Defra said.

“The review of how we manage low level radioactive waste complements the ongoing work the Government is carrying out on the policy for managing higher activity radioactive wastes under the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme, following recommendation made by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) in July 2006,” Ian Pearson said.

Goska Romanowicz

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