A reduction of up to £2.4 billion over the decommissioning lifetimes of nuclear sites could be one of the many benefits from increased levels of recycling, combustion, super-compaction and other measures for dealing with radioactive low level waste (LLW), a recent meeting was told.
The savings would arise from the diversion of material away from the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) near Drigg, which has until recently been the UK’s sole disposal route for LLW, to more sustainable options which align with the Government’s increased emphasis on a hierarchy of waste routes which aim to minimise landfill, where feasible.
The measures are among those recommended in the UK Strategy for solid LLW, published by the NDA last year and aimed at all producers of LLW including commercial, medical, research and defence-related sources.
Jo Van Straaten, the NDA’s National Programme Delivery Manager for Waste, and LLWR’s Dave Rossiter, Head of National Programme Implementation, told the meeting in Bristol that implementing strategy effectively would require accurate waste forecasts and a co-ordinated drive to enable planning on a nationwide scale.
The collection of data on use of different waste routes from around the UK was highlighted as an essential component in delivering a strategically coherent and effective framework that would be of value to all waste producers as well as businesses either operating waste facilities, or considering developing them.
35 representatives from the Site Licence Companies, Regulators, English and Scottish Governments, the Welsh Assembly, the MoD and EDF were gathered for the latest LLW Programme Delivery Group meeting, which discusses progress on implementation of the strategy.
“Collecting information is a challenge in itself, as the aim is to cover all waste producers including those outside the NDA estate, and we are developing a system to report on the overall picture.” said the chairperson, Jo Van Straaten.
A schedule, currently undergoing development, would capture around 600 activities and allow for progress to be tracked, accurate forecasting and assist with the forward planning of new facilities.
Although waste producers are responsible for delivery of the strategy, LLWR is NDA’s lead contractor for LLW Strategy implementation and operates a programme office, with a dedicated staff to advise on effective waste management and facilitate use of alternative treatment and disposal routes.
Jo added that for example, metal recycling in the UK and overseas was up and running well, two combustion facilities in the south of England had now begun to accept LLW, while a decision was due on a landfill site that was preparing to dispose of LLW in addition to its existing hazardous material.
Delegates at the meeting also heard how the Site Licence Companies (SLCs) were addressing LLW arising at their sites.
Magnox, which operates a number of incineration units, for example, is considering on-site disposal while work is under way at Dounreay on a LLW repository. Dounreay was also developing a software system to track and manage waste activities that had potential to be rolled out at other sites and would be examined in greater depth at subsequent meetings.
Research Sites Restoration Ltd (RSRL), which operates Harwell and Winfrith, was working on re-characterising waste and reviewing route options for combustibles and alternative landfill facilities.
Sellafield Ltd also updated the group on its ongoing metal recycling achievements and plans to implement combustion and alternative landfill facilities now that their revised site authorisation had been issued.
The next meeting of the Delivery Group will take place early in the New Year. Information about the UK Nuclear Industry LLW strategy, previous and future integrated LLW programme delivery (iLPD) group meetings can be found on http://www.llwrsite.com/llw-strategy