Joint working between the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation.
The Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation will regulate any future geological disposal facility for radioactive waste in England and Wales.
We are working together to make sure that any future facility meets the required high standards for environmental protection, safety, security, waste management and radioactive waste transportation.
Geological disposal involves disposal of radioactive waste packages in an engineered underground facility. The rock structure provides a barrier against escape of radioactivity and the depth substantially protects the waste from effects at the surface arising from, for example, climate change.
The design of a geological disposal facility will depend on its host geology and different possible designs exist for clay formations, salt deposits and hard rock such as granite. The artist’s impression shows a possible design for a geological disposal facility in a hard rock, which includes large rooms for waste disposal, access tunnels and shafts for access from the surface.
As regulators, we are actively involved in the Government’s ‘Managing Radioactive Waste Safely’ process which provides a framework for implementing geological disposal. We provide advice and regulatory comment to government, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, local authorities and other customers - including the public.
We are working together to build a common understanding of the regulatory issues involved in geological disposal. This will help us to have a better understanding of our future roles in regulating the development and operation of any future geological disposal facility for radioactive waste in England and Wales. We are working together when advising the Government, NDA and communities. Working together helps us to build relationships with the people and businesses who have an interest in the geological disposal of radioactive waste.
Developing a geological disposal facility
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) has responsibility for putting in place a programme to develop a geological disposal facility. At present, no decisions have been made on selecting a site or the timescale for developing a geological disposal facility.
More information on the framework for implementing geological disposal can be found on the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely website.
We are co-ordinating our technical and organisational scrutiny of the NDA's Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) as it takes forward its role in implementing geological disposal.
As joint regulators, we have a continuing programme of scrutiny of RWMD’s technical work related to possible future geological disposal of higher activity wastes.
As part of this work we have undertaken a regulatory review of the NDA's Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) generic Disposal System Safety Case (gDSSC). The NDA's RMWD published the gDSSC in February as part of its responsibilities to implement geological disposal of higher activity radioactive wastes.
We have also carried out a regulatory review and progress review of the organisational management of the RWMD in developing its role as delivery organisation for geological disposal.
We are operating a joint Issues Resolution Process (IRP) to manage issues of regulatory concern arising from our scrutiny work. The database supersedes the Issues Resolution Process and associated technical issues database that the Environment Agency operated previously. These are available on request.
Transporting nuclear waste for disposal
Radioactive waste will be transported to a disposal facility under strict controls that meet the requirements of national and international regulations. These regulations apply to transport by road, rail or sea. Transport of radioactive wastes is regulated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation.
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