As one of the pioneers of nuclear technology, the UK has accumulated a substantial legacy of radioactive waste from a variety of different nuclear programmes, both civil and defence-related. Some of this waste is already in storage, but most still forms part of existing facilities and will only become waste over the next several decades or so as these plants are decommissioned and cleaned-up. Some of the waste will be radioactive and thus potentially hazardous for long time periods, and we need to manage it for the very long-term.
For over three decades, the UK struggled to find a solution to the problem of long-term radioactive waste management. In 2001 Government initiated the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme with a public consultation on the process to find a practicable solution for the UK's higher activity wastes that:
- achieved long-term protection of people and the environment
- did this in an open and transparent way that inspired public confidence
- was based on sound science, and
- ensured the effective use of public monies.
Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)
An independent body, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), was set up to recommend options to provide a long term solution to managing higher activity radioactive wastes in the UK. To ensure its recommendations had wide-ranging support, CoRWM sought to combine the use of the best possible science and other expert advice with a wide-ranging programme of public and stakeholder engagement.
On 31 July 2006, CoRWM announced an integrated package of recommendations. Government responded, announcing plans for the long term management of higher-activity radioactive waste to Parliament on 25 October 2006. The announcement accepted CoRWM's recommendation of geological disposal, coupled with safe and secure interim storage along with a programme of ongoing research and development as the way forward.