PN060706D

Embargo: 00:01 Thursday 6th Jul 2006

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

LORDS CALL FOR 'NO MORE DELAY' IN MANAGING HIGH LEVEL NUCLEAR WASTE

In a report published today, the House of Lords EU Committee concludes that it is difficult to justify the use of nuclear power in the EU without allaying the public's anxieties about the ultimate fate and potential hazards from radioactive waste.

Although the Lords do not advocate the adoption of EU legislation which would require Member States to set timetables to dispose of radioactive waste, they do see a role for the EU to set a long term nuclear energy strategy.

The Lords calls on Member States to take action to deal with the long-term management of their radioactive waste and not simply accumulate 'study after study'. They recommend that Member States be required to set out what action they intend to take towards the management of high level waste and to publicise the results.

The Government's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) will report its recommendations this month on how the United Kingdom should tackle its high level radioactive waste problem in the long-term.

The Chairman of the inquiry Lord Renton of Mount Harry said:

"We welcome the interim recommendations made by CoRWM towards delivering a United Kingdom strategy for the long-term disposal of high level radioactive waste. Such a strategy is long overdue. It will be essential for the Government to build upon CoRWM's final recommendations as a matter of urgency, and to ensure public views feed into the policy decision taken.

"We are pleased that CoRWM, in its interim recommendations, has emphasised the key role of building public understanding and involvement. Local consultation must be built into every step of the decision making processes regarding the disposal of high level radioactive waste.

"If there is to be a policy of continuing or expanding nuclear use for future generations it must be allied to a determination by the EU to inform the public better about how high level radioactive waste can be safely managed in the long-term."

The Committee's report examines proposed EU legislation to harmonise the management of nuclear safety and waste across the EU. The Committee concludes that:

  • National safety standards operate satisfactorily within the framework of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Convention on Nuclear Safety.

  • However the IAEA and States party to its Conventions should ensure that where peer review highlights a failure of a State to comply with a Convention, information on remedial actions and their verification is made publicly available.

  • Member States need to take action to deal with the long-term management of their nuclear waste.

  • Member States are failing to educate their citizens about the use of nuclear power. The EU needs to take a lead in educating citizens about issues relating to nuclear power, how the safety of nuclear installations is maintained, and of the action taken and options available to Member States to manage the radioactive waste produced.

  • The EU should establish a new thematic strategy on the management of nuclear safety and waste which would establish broad objectives for the EU in these fields and suggest measures to achieve their goal.

Notes to Editors

1. The inquiry was conducted by Sub-Committee D (Environment and Agriculture) of the European Union Committee. The members participating were:

Lord Renton of Mount Harry (Chair)

Lord Cameron of Dillington

Lord Haskins

Lord Lewis of Newnham

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Earl Peel

Lord Plumb

Lord Sewel

2. The report is published by The Stationery Office: Managing nuclear safety and waste: the role of the EU, House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 37th Report, Session 2005−06, HL Paper 211, ISBN 0104009128, price £14.50

3. Witnesses included the Commissioner for Energy, Andris Piebalgs; the Energy Minister, Malcolm Wick MP; the former Environment Minister, Elliot Morley MP, British Nuclear Fuels and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency. The views of Lithuania, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Norway and Sweden were also received.

Background

4. In 2004 the European Commission presented revised proposals to introduce EU legislation on the safety of nuclear installations and on the safe management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. The proposals were rejected by Member States, including the UK. Member States are currently consulting on what further action to take.

5. All Member States have operations or interim measures in place in place to deal with low and intermediate level waste but no Member State has begun long-term management of high level waste. This includes the United Kingdom, despite having 50 years of accumulated waste legacy.

6. The total quantity of radioactive waste for which a long-term management route is available in the EU equates to 37,000m3 annually. The vast majority (31,000m3) is low level and short lived radioactive waste. There is no long-term management route available for high level waste (3,000m3 annually) and spent nuclear fuel (approximately 3325 tonnes) per year.

7. The United Kingdom's waste inventory contains a wide range of high and low activity, and short and long lived radioactive waste. This inventory has built up since after World War II from military as well as civil nuclear operations. 2004 data record a total of 2.3 million m3 of radioactive waste in the United Kingdom inventory. This includes 1340m3 of high level waste, roughly equivalent to the volume of a room 11m tall by 11m wide and 11m long.

8. The IAEA is active in all countries in the world with nuclear capability, including all Member States and candidate states with nuclear installations. The IAEA Convention on Nuclear Safety obliges signatories to submit for peer review reports on the implementation of their safety obligations. The IAEA Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management obliges States party to it to establish and maintain a legislative and regulatory framework to govern the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management.

For embargoed copies of the report or requests for interviews with Lord Renton of Mount Harry on Wednesday 5th July (embargoed) please contact:

Owen Williams, Press Officer on 020 7219 8659

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