the United Kingdom, pending a decision on their long-term future.
Even if no new nuclear plants are built, and reprocessing of spent
fuel ends when existing plants reach the end of their working lives,
the coming century. Some of the substances produced will be
radioactive and potentially harmful for hundreds of thousands of
To help stimulate thorough public debate on the options for managing
the UK's radioactive waste, environment minister Michael Meacher
yesterday published a paper inviting comments on a number of issues.
These include whether any or all of the nation's plutonium should be
regarded as a waste product and therefore be included in the
The government's advice from its radioactive waste management
advisory committee (RWMAC) on managing radioactive waste was also
Involving as many people as possible in the debate on how radioactive
waste should be managed over the coming centuries will be key to
getting the right decision for this and future generations. Support
for future policy can only be achieved through thorough public
debate, Michael Meacher said, as he announced plans for wide-ranging
and comprehensive consultation.
Managing Radioactive Waste Safely sets out proposals from the
government and the devolved administrations on how best to initiate a
UK-wide debate on future radioactive waste management policy.
Through opinion polls, the internet, workshops, citizens' juries,
consensus conferences, stakeholder dialogues, local authority and
community groups and research panels, hundreds of thousands of the
UK's population could give their views on managing radioactive waste
over the coming centuries.
To ensure that all the information provided is accurate, objective
and complete, the government and devolved administrations propose
setting up an independent advisory body. This would advise on what
information there is, what more is needed, and when enough has been
gathered and analysed to decide how radioactive waste should be
managed. It will help seek the public's views, for example, on
whether waste should be put in an underground repository; or be
stored until more is known about its risks and better ways of dealing
with it or whether indeed there are other options. Only then can the
debate start on where in the UK we should keep this waste in the long
Mr Meacher said:
'Protecting the public, workers and the environment now and in the
future is the top priority for the government and devolved
administrations. Any decisions made on managing radioactive waste
cannot and must not be rushed. The legacy of a wrong decision could
'The solution we find must protect not only our own future, but that
of generations to come.
'That solution may take many decades to implement. We need to start
the national debate today'.
The paper sets out a five stage proposed programme of action for
This six month consultation about the proposed programme; considering
responses; planning the next stage 2001-2002
Research and public debate, to examine the different waste management
options and recommend the best option 2002-004
Further consultation seeking public views on the proposed option
Announcement on the chosen option, seeking public views on how this
should be implemented 2006
Legislation, if needed 2007
The shape and speed of the programme may change to reflect future
developments, including public responses to today's consultation
paper. Although the government would like to press ahead as quickly
as possible, it is determined to ensure that the overall strategy
wins public confidence.
1. Managing Radioactive Waste Safely - proposals for developing a
policy for managing solid radioactive waste in the
UK will be available on the DEFRA website.
Hard copies are available from: Claire Herdman, Department for the
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 4/F7 Ashdown House,
123 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6DE.
2. An on-line debate is also being held on the subject. To join in,
anyone can click here.
3. In this paper the Government and the Devolved Administrations
are launching a national debate which will lead over a period of
years to a decision on the management of low, intermediate and
high-level radioactive wastes. The aim is to encourage a debate via
traditional and new techniques so as to inspire public confidence
in the decisions and the way in which they are implemented. The
period of consultation on this first phase will be six months long.
4. The radioactive waste advisory committee (RWMAC) today publishes
its advice to government on the way in which it believes future
policy for the long-term management of the UK's solid radioactive
waste should be decided. RWMAC is suggesting a fresh approach, one
that is based on fundamental principles of openness, accessible
decision-making and fairness. RWMAC is keen that for the first
time, all the practicable solutions need to be evaluated on, as far
as possible, a common bases, both openly and transparently, to
decide what is best. The committee has advised government on the
form of process that it believes needs to be gone through to arrive
at a decision. The committee is also suggesting that the process is
overseen by an independent or, at least, balanced interest body
that is widely perceived as being capable of representing the
broader public interest.
5. The government has also commissioned Wilkinson Environmental
Consulting to carry out a review of information needs in relation
to options for managing radioactive waste. This will help to inform
the national debate and research programme. The project will be
completed next year.