LLW Strategy Consultation NDA Herdus House Westlakes Science and Technology Park Moor Row Cumbria CA24 3HU 11 September 2009 Dear Sir/Madam, RESPONSE TO NDA CONSULTATION ON UK STRATEGY FOR MANAGEMENT OF LOW LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE I write on behalf of NuLeAF - the Nuclear Legacy Advisory Forum of the Local Government Association (LGA) - to submit comments on the consultation. The comments below have been prepared following discussion at the NuLeAF Steering Group on 15 July, and take into account the views of NuLeAF member authorities as expressed at a series of seminars in May and at NuLeAF‟s LLW Officer Working Group. The comments are also supported by the Environment Board of the LGA. Before responding to the specific questions posed in the consultation document, we wish to make some overall comments. We would be grateful if you could consider these points when reviewing the draft strategy. Overall Comments NuLeAF recognises the importance of appropriate application of the Waste Management Hierarchy (see qualifications in responses to Qs 1-5 below) and the opening up of new management and disposal routes, but wishes to emphasise the need for carefully considered approaches to how this is done, not least because of the challenges that arise from issues of public perception and acceptability. In addition, because of the qualifications referred to below, some NuLeAF authorities do not consider it appropriate to apply all aspects of the WMH to radioactive wastes and express the view that its uncritical application would represent a shift from containment to dispersal which is not likely to achieve public approval. Public acceptability We welcome the statements in the consultation paper about the importance of public acceptability. In particular, that: “… public acceptability is vital to the development of appropriate waste management plans and their implementation.” (p21) “Development and use of ... new [waste management] routes should consider issues of public acceptability and the community vision for the area in which they are taking place.” (p38) “The use of alternative disposal routes needs to meet the relevant safety requirements … and be demonstrated to be the Best Practicable Environmental Option by the consignor site, this should include consideration of community issues both at the consigning and receiving sites.” (p39) “… it will be essential to undertake careful and considered engagement with local communities where the implementation of this strategy leads to proposals for new waste management facilities or changes in approach to LLW management.” (p45). A key challenge in implementation of the strategy will be ensuring that public and stakeholder views are properly addressed. Key steps in processes to achieve this are set out in the Annex to these comments. Importance of Local Option Assessments Against this background, NuLeAF welcomes the importance that the proposed strategy attaches to the option assessments that should be undertaken by consignors at a local level. Local factors will be critical to identifying preferred options for managing LLW from specific nuclear sites. Options for developing LLW/VLLW disposal facilities on or adjacent to nuclear sites should be fully addressed in such assessments (see response to Q12 below). The views of local communities and their local authorities should be taken into account in option assessments. It is noted that Government policy (March 07) contains requirements for early community input to development of programmes and plans. These assessments should include consideration of the socio-economic impacts of different options, and stakeholder views on these impacts. Similarly, as recognised in the consultation document, when undertaking option assessments, consignors should pay explicit and due regard to the proximity principle, as required by Government LLW policy (March 07). In addition, local community views on what constitutes “due regard” should be taken into account in the assessments. Potential Need for Centralised Investment NuLeAF would be concerned about the NDA‟s proposed reliance on the supply chain to deliver waste management solutions, if this were to militate against the use or development of LLW management facilities on or adjacent to nuclear sites where local assessment has shown that this would be the best approach, taking full account of local community views. In the latter case, NuLeAF wishes to stress that the NDA should encourage or enable the supply chain to undertake development at or adjacent to nuclear sites, or be prepared to invest centrally in such facilities. We consider this point to be of central importance to the strategy, so highlight it here. Need to Address the Regional Dimension Government policy on Planning for Sustainable Waste Management (Planning Policy Statement 10) is that communities should take more responsibility for their own waste. This policy has informed trends towards county or unitary based self sufficiency in planning for waste management. Nonetheless it is recognised that in certain circumstances (for example where there are significant gaps in local provision that are difficult to fill, or where there is a need for specialist facilities), a regional approach may be necessary. NuLeAF recommends that the NDA should pay more regard to this dimension. We have previously expressed the view that regional approaches to nuclear legacy management should be encouraged “where such approaches are supported by the affected local authorities in the light of the overall balance of benefits and disadvantages” (Policy Statement 5, Nov 08). We note from a parallel Government consultation on Hazardous Waste Strategy (p13) that for such wastes consideration is being given to encouraging a regional distribution of facilities more closely matched to regional arisings. The NDA should consider the extent to which a similar approach should be taken for LLW management. A specific concern of NuLeAF‟s, however, is that LLW management or disposal sites should not become „regional facilities‟ by default. Openness, transparency and engagement should be the order of the day. In particular, early discussions with the relevant Waste Planning Authorities (WPAs) and regional planners will be particularly important where a facility has potential to develop a „regionally significant‟ role. LLW Strategy and Community Funds The NDA will recognise that the question of Community Fund provision will need to be considered on a case by case basis as a normal part of the planning process. This approach to mitigating planning impacts is consistent with national and local policy approaches to the use of planning obligations for non-radioactive waste developments, and the approaches taken to Copeland and Dounreay Community Funds (see NuLeAF Briefing Paper 16, June 2009, page 4- 5). LLW Strategy and Potential New Nuclear Build The proposed strategy acknowledges the LLW management needs that may arise from a new nuclear build programme (p47). Strategy should encourage local LLW management option assessments to take these potential needs into account. The case for developing LLW facilities on or adjacent to existing nuclear sites should consider the potential for offering a commercial service to operators of new build that neighbour such sites. This service should be based on the „polluter pays‟ principle. Need to Provide Guidance for Planners More generally on spatial planning, feedback from local authority planners highlights that further consideration is needed of the way in which the final strategy (or associated national plan or strategic review documentation) could provide adequate guidance for and about national, regional and local planning. Such guidance should be contextualised by reference to Planning Policy Statement 10 (PPS10). Preliminary views are that the NDA should: Provide a sufficient evidence base for planning, with data about the volumes and types of LLW and VLLW arisings on a region by region basis, an indication of the timing of such arisings, and information about existing and reasonably foreseeable facilities for managing LLW and VLLW in each region. Note that PPS10 places emphasis on the need for an evidence-based approach to spatial planning (para 4). Highlight the importance of early dialogue with the local WPA for the purposes of (a) waste planning and/or (b) development control. This should include early dialogue with the WPA when authorisations for disposal are sought. Note that PPS10 highlights the need for working in constructive partnership (para 37). Where authorisations for disposal to existing facilities are sought, make it clear that the operator should enter into discussion with the WPA to take advice on whether planning permission might also be required. This should be considered on a case by case basis, taking into account the original permissions and conditions for operation of the site. Note that PPS10 highlights the complementary nature of planning and pollution control regimes (para 27). Response to Specific Questions Question 1 – Do you agree with the proposed approach to avoidance and characterisation of waste? What are the most important areas of work and are there other actions that could be undertaken? Improved waste characterisation and avoidance consistent with best practice is important to ensure appropriate implementation of the WMH and use of appropriate disposal routes. Question 2 – Re-use and recycling of waste from the nuclear industry could yield significant benefits – do you agree with this approach and where do you see the significant opportunities for implementing the option? Some NuLeAF member authorities agree in principle, but highlight the need to be sure that material is suitable for re-use or recycling. Other NuLeAF member authorities question this aspect of the application of the WMH to radioactive wastes (particularly recycling), as it may contribute to an undesirable dispersal of radioactive materials throughout society. Against this background, NuLeAF wishes to highlight that the main opportunities appear to be in decontamination and re-use of construction, demolition and excavation wastes within the NDA estate. In particular, large sites such as Sellafield should be maximising the opportunities for re- use on the existing site. If new nuclear build proceeds, there may also be opportunities for re- use on new build sites adjacent to existing sites. Question 3 – To what extent do you believe that compaction still has a key role to play in the optimisation of LLW management? What are the opportunities for improving the use of compaction? In principle, the use of high compaction techniques to help preserve capacity at the LLWR is welcome. However, it should not be seen as a substitute for appropriate implementation of the WMH. Question 4 – Do you agree that the benefits of metal treatment outweigh the detriments? If not, why not? If metal treatment costs more than disposal to implement, is this acceptable? Some NuLeAF member authorities agree and stress that cost should not be the only consideration, nor should it dictate the preferred waste management option. Suggestions include that the strategy should set out what work can be done to increase the treatment and recycling of metal wastes, and that a presumption in favour of treatment should be made, unless particular circumstances indicate otherwise. Other NuLeAF member authorities are more circumspect and are concerned about the potential detriments of metal recycling (see response to Q„2‟ above). It has also been pointed out that the consultation document lacks information about what the detriments could be. Question 5 – Do you agree with the proposals set out for thermal treatment? If not, why not? As incineration is often a controversial approach, what should be the key message if the LLW strategy were to actively promote the use of this technology? NuLeAF agrees that it is right to effectively rule out co-incineration of LLW/VLLW with municipal wastes, not least because any such proposals would be likely to run into significant planning problems and prejudice delivery of conventional waste facilities. Development of new thermal treatment capacity is likely to be particularly controversial amongst local communities, even more so if it includes thermal treatment of LLW with other waste streams such as ILW and graphite. Development of facilities away from existing nuclear sites would be very contentious and potentially blighting. Question 6 – We believe that the majority of waste management solutions that are required to implement this strategy are or will be available, either in the nuclear estate or through the supply chain and therefore should be used in preference to centralised investment in new infrastructure. To what extent do you agree with this statement? See overall comment on potential need for centralised investment above. In addition, some NuLeAF member authorities are particularly concerned that reliance on the supply chain will generate proposals for development or use of a wide range of sites spread throughout communities. They point out that this could cause considerable public concern and reaction, which may delay the provision of sites and generate more widespread public antagonism to the nuclear industry. These authorities do not support radioactive waste treatment or disposal facilities being sited away from licensed sites unless it has been proven these facilities cannot be located on or adjacent to existing nuclear sites. Question 7 – Do you agree with the approaches set out above for the development of an optimised approach to management of LLWR? NuLeAF supports the optimal use of the LLWR. This is a valuable asset and should be used to best effect. As the strategy indicates its use for disposal cannot be taken for granted. At present it only has capacity for storage. Further capacity provision will be dependent upon the outcome of the Environmental Safety Case and upon further planning permissions and authorisations being granted. Question 8 – What are the key considerations that should influence the development of new packaging solutions for LLW management? The key considerations include packaging efficiency, safety, environmental protection and cost effectiveness. Question 9 – The impacts of the transport of LLW are limited when compared to transport of other materials, when considered at a national level. However, it is a very significant issue for local communities where the transport is taking place. How do you think this should be factored into national strategy? By encouraging consigners to take account of local community views on application of the proximity principle when undertaking option assessments (see overall comment above). Question 10 – To what extent does a movement of waste from road to rail for transport represent a significant improvement? Do you see any disadvantages to this approach? As far as practicable, priority should be given to the use of rail transport. This is important not just for the movement of waste but also for the supply of construction materials. There will be local sensitivities about radioactive waste passing through local communities by road, as well as concern about HGVs causing risks and disturbance. This is another reason for managing waste at or near nuclear sites which may often have rail links. Question 11 – Government's policy for the management of LLW indicates that landfill disposal of LLW and VLLW should be considered when determining end points for these wastes. What do you think should be the key considerations when comparing landfill disposal with other options such as LLWR, new vaulted disposal routes, etc? Notwithstanding the relatively small (but uncertain) volumes of LLW/VLLW involved, strategy should recognise the strong trend away from disposal of non-radioactive wastes to landfill. We note in this regard that the parallel Government consultation on Hazardous Waste Strategy (p14- 15) highlights that “we must continue to reduce our reliance on landfill for hazardous wastes, which should only be used where, overall, there is no better recovery or disposal option.” Similarly, disposal of radioactive wastes to landfill that is sited away from existing nuclear sites should only take place where it can be clearly demonstrated to be the best practicable disposal option, taking into account local community views and after appropriate application of the WMH. Even then, it is likely that many local authorities will have difficulty endorsing such an approach. Question 12 – To what extent do you agree with the key considerations set out above for on-site disposal proposals? NuLeAF considers that the SEA conclusions on this issue are unduly negative. There can be significant benefits from „on or adjacent to site‟ disposal (compared with the use of off-site landfill), including stronger adherence to the proximity principle and greater potential for public acceptability arising from the development of purpose-designed facilities under the supervision of nuclear site management. Site operators should be encouraged to assess a range of „on or adjacent to site‟ LLW disposal options that could take varying amounts of waste, including options that are able to take all decommissioning LLW from a site, from neighbouring stations, and from other sites in the region. The NDA should take a more positive approach to encouraging assessment of the potential for these options. More specifically, NDA should ensure development of a clear vision of how the large amounts of waste generated at the Sellafield site are to be managed. It should not be by reliance on ad hoc proposals coming forward from the supply chain. Question 13 – Do you agree with the approaches set out for encouraging the right behaviour? To what extent do you think that waste recycling targets could have benefit to the national strategy? What potential benefits and difficulties would you envisage from implementing such approaches? It is particularly important that the NDA encourages waste producers to align with the public acceptability and option assessment aspects of the strategy (see overall comments above). Waste producers need to be proactive, particularly in areas generating large amounts of waste, in engaging with local stakeholders so they fully understand the challenges, are able to participate in option assessments and, ultimately, are able to accept the approaches that are taken. Question 14 – To what extent do you agree with the risks and mitigation set out here? There are considerable risks and uncertainties in placing reliance on the supply chain to deliver waste management facilities and to open up new disposal routes. The reference under contingency planning to potential development of facilities by NDA is welcome (p57-58). However, the approach of centralised investment should not just be viewed as a contingency, but as part of strategy where such investment is necessary to implement best practicable options and to ensure the availability of appropriate local or regional facilities (see overall comments above). Some NuLeAF authorities also take the view that a more robust approach to contingency planning is needed. Yours sincerely, Fred Barker Executive Director ANNEX: EXTRACT FROM NULEAF POLICY STATEMENT 6, MAY 09 Key Steps in Decision Making In the context of radioactive waste management, robust and effective decision making is often dependent on a series of key steps: undertaking engagement/consultation at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage undertaking engagement/consultation in a way that ensures there is sufficient opportunity for information to be provided and understood, and for views to be expressed, heard and recorded carefully analysing the views expressed during engagement/consultation using the analysis to inform effective and robust decision-making and reporting publicly on the analysis of views and its influence in decision making. Where decisions are taken which appear to disregard or give insufficient weight to public and stakeholder views there is a significant risk that the decision making will be seen as a form of decide-announce-defend and may be open to challenge. This risk will be exacerbated where a decision-maker sees public and stakeholder engagement as an opportunity to persuade people of the merits of its pre-determined programme, rather than as a way of genuinely seeking views to inform decision making about development of a programme. Analysing Evidence and Views In addition to adopting the key steps above, there is a need for guidance on how to go about the analysis of the evidence and views gathered through engagement or consultation. In particular, decision makers could undertake the following steps: Carefully assess what proportion of responses can genuinely be taken as 'broad support' for the proposals. Identify and take on board any suggestions that will make the proposals more effective, efficient or robust Check whether there are any showstopper arguments Identify whether there are any stakeholder organisations with a role in implementation which disagree with important elements of the proposals and seek to resolve the disagreements through direct discussion Identify the views that cannot be accommodated and publish a clear explanation of the reasons why this is the case.
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