Views sought on higher activity radioactive waste

Our Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) establishes standards and performance specifications for waste packages containing higher activity radioactive waste. This enables waste producers to condition their waste in a form that is expected to be compatible with both transport to, and ultimately disposal in a geological disposal facility.

Our ‘waste package specifications’ define the requirements which we believe that waste packages will have to achieve so they can be accepted into such a facility. They are produced as forerunners to the ‘waste acceptance criteria’ which would eventually be defined when the disposal facility is constructed.

This approach is also compatible with other countries where, like the UK, geological disposal facilities are planned but not yet available. Many countries, including the USA, Switzerland, Canada and Sweden, are developing similar methods and solutions to manage radioactive waste in the long term and we work very closely with them through reciprocal arrangements to share information in this area.

To date the specifications have comprised two levels of documentation for waste packages containing intermediate level waste (ILW) and some low level waste (LLW) which is unsuitable for near-surface disposal:

The Generic Waste Package Specification for all such waste packages; and

The Waste Package Specification and Guidance Documentation which applies the Generic Waste Package Specification to standardised designs of waste packages.

Brian Southgate, RWMD’s Waste Package Specification and Guidance Manager, said:

“As part of our ongoing work on the development of geological disposal, we are planning to update and broaden the scope of the existing packaging specifications. It is also planned that the updated packaging specifications will focus on the performance objectives and give greater flexibility on how these are achieved. This would give waste producers a clear message that opportunities to develop innovative and cost effective approaches to the packaging of waste can be pursued.”

It is proposed that the updated specifications will:

  • Encompass the full range of higher activity waste, as defined in the baseline inventory previously published in the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper
  • Ensure robustness to the range of potential geological disposal facility designs which could be implemented in the UK
  • Reflect our latest work on the various aspects of geological disposal that has been carried out since the Generic Waste Package Specification was published in 2005 specifically that on the development of a generic Disposal System Safety Case for the geological disposal of higher activity waste; and
  • Reflect changes to the regulatory environment

The proposals are set out in full in the following document:

Geological Disposal: Proposals for updating the RWMD packaging specifications for higher activity radioactive wastes

Brian said:

“We plan to begin updating and developing our packaging specifications in early 2011.  By the early publication of our proposals we are hoping to encourage feedback and comments not just from the waste producers and regulators and all stakeholders with an interest in the safe long term management of higher activity waste in the UK.”

Views and comments on our proposals should be sent by email to rwmdpackagingspecifications@nda.gov.uk  by 21 January 2011