UK-wide approach to storage of Higher Activity Waste

A new UK-wide approach is being developed on the safe storage of higher activity waste (HAW).

An NDA-sponsored team has been focusing on the package performance and storage of HAW, in particular Intermediate Level Waste ILW and a draft Industry Guidance is now nearing completion. The first issue is due to be published during the summer, followed by a period of road-testing…

Dr James McKinney, the NDA’s Head of Integrated Waste, said:

“This will be the first time in the UK that we have adopted a co-ordinated, industry-wide approach, with the aim of establishing good practice for maintaining packages and stores over a timeframe that could possibly stretch to more than 100 years.

“We aim to test the initial guidelines for approximately 12 months, take account of any feedback or issues that arise and refine or adjust them where necessary.”

HAW exists on most of the NDA’s sites and is currently being packaged and then stored on an interim basis at each location where it arises. Ultimately, it will be permanently disposed of when the deep Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) becomes available, or managed in near-surface facilities in line with Scottish Government Policy. The current assumed start date for the GDF is 2040, but this date is provisional and is used for planning purposes only.

 Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) store at Hunterston site.

Interim storage is a fundamental part of the HAW management lifecycle in the UK that has to consider a wide variety of wastes generated by the diverse nuclear programme that dates back to the immediate post-war years. Sites continue to rigorously follow all technical safety criteria and legislative requirements for interim storage but have adopted an individual approach to packaging practice, store design and monitoring.

The Interim Storage Project Team includes representatives from across the entire nuclear estate, both public-sector and commercial organisations.

The team was set up to develop a more co-ordinated approach to waste management following reviews into interim storage by both the Government’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management and the NDA.

Sponsored by the NDA’s Direct Research Portfolio and led by Magnox Ltd, the IPT has engaged with a wide range of technical specialists, regulators and other organisations. Dr Darrell Morris, the NDA’s Research Manager, added:

“The IPT has been an excellent example of the nuclear industry working together to identify the technical challenges associated with packaging and storing nuclear waste. Over 20 IPT-related research projects have been started with participation from established nuclear research organisations as well as SMEs and universities.”

More than 30 participants also attended a two-day workshop at Trawsfynydd, a key step in developing the principles and for sharing experience. The success of the workshop has led to the establishment of a regular UK-wide stores operators’ network forum, with the second due to be held later in the year.

Project lead Mark Tearle said:

“We hope the guidelines will be of real benefit in assisting the nuclear sector with managing HAW more effectively and more consistently. Linking up with other UK waste producers was invaluable in allowing us to pool our collective experience.”

Meanwhile, the NDA has also published its credible options for the management of Higher Activity Waste which sets out in detail a series of scenarios for safe and secure management of the material, taking account of the latest innovations, safety and environmental factors as well as providing best value for the taxpayer.

Higher Activity Waste Credible Options (1Mb)