HC Deb 14 March 2001 vol 364 cc627-8W
Mr. Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what quantities and types of radioactive waste have been disposed of at the BNFL site at Ulnes Walton in Lancashire; and what radioactive limit is set for the site by the Environment Agency. [147743]

Mr. Meacher

Disposal of BNFL radioactive waste to the Ulnes Walton landfill site, which is operated by Lancashire Waste Services Ltd. at Leyland, Lancashire, is regulated by the Environment Agency under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

An authorisation was issued for the use of empty clay pits to dispose of radioactive waste. Disposals started in 1964 and continued until 1983. Within the lifetime of the authorisation a total of around 42,600 tonnes of bulk waste material containing around 30,817 kg of uranium was disposed of. Of the total material disposed of, around 95 per cent. was disposed of between 1964–73.

Clay lined pits were chosen to provide a natural barrier to movement of contaminants from the site. All waste disposals have been covered by a clay cap at least 1 metre thick which will be overlaid with 1 metre of soil as part of the overall site restoration by the operators.

The types of waste authorised for disposal were process residues, building rubble, incinerator ash, contaminated graphite, general factory-type waste and plant contaminated with natural uranium with a limit of not more than 0.2 per cent. or 0.5 per cent. of natural uranium (or equivalent). The activity limits were set for the different types of waste. The wastes were also limited by weight if the material was not substantially insoluble in water.

No disposals of radioactive waste have been made by BNFL to Ulnes Walton landfill site since 1983. An environmental monitoring programme has been conducted around the site by BNFL since 1972 and continues to date. The Environment Agency also undertakes independent check monitoring of the environment around the landfill. The results of these programmes indicate that the presence of radioactivity around the landfill is within the range found to occur naturally in the environment as a whole.