HL Deb 17 March 1986 vol 472 cc855-8WA
Lord Nugent of Guildford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect the final report of their study into the Best Practicable Environmental Options for the Management of Radioactive Wastes to be made public.

Lord Skelmersdale

The report of the study carried out under my department's direction, to establish the best practicable environmental operations (BPEO) for the management of low and intermediate level radioactive wastes, is being made available today. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

This report is an essential element in our proposal for increasing public understanding of and involvement in the development of our policies for managing radioactive wastes. The House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, in their report published yesterday, laid great stress on the importance of a well-informed, open and public debate, and welcomed this study in that context.

It demonstrates that for every type of waste several storage and disposal options are practicable and safe. All the main options for the disposal and storage of low level and intermediate level wastes were examined. A range of assumptions about future growth in nuclear power and the level of reprocessing were considered.

Costs and radiological impacts were calculated: since the BPEO is a matter of judgment of relative priorities, options were evaluated using 4 different sets of weights. These reflect a range of views, from those who would wish to minimise costs to those who would wish to minimise risks, local impact, or the widespread dispersion of radioactivity in the environment.

The other main conclusions of the report are that:

  1. (i) long-term storage is least attractive on economic and radiological grounds. It is only attractive if an ability to retrieve wastes easily is an overriding concern;
  2. (ii) on economic and radiological grounds an optimum strategy for storage and disposal would involve early use of all disposal options including sea disposal;
  3. (iii) the BPEO for most low-level and some short-lived intermediate level waste is near-surface disposal, as soon as practicable, in appropriately designed trenches;
  4. (iv) no preference can be established between deep cavity disposal or off-shore borehole disposal for those intermediate level wastes with more alpha-emitting radio-nuclides than is acceptable for near-surface disposal or sea disposal;
  5. (v) the division, at the margin, between what is suitable for near-surface in an engineered trench and deep disposal can only be explored in more detail when site-specific information is available;
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  7. (vi) if future sea disposal operations are carried out this could be the preferred option for about 858 15 per cent. of the intermediate level waste expected to arise by 2030.