UK develops radwaste management committee's role

13 January 2020

The UK's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has published a document setting out the broad framework within which it will operate. The framework replaces its terms of reference.

CoRWM Chairman Nigel Thrift (Image: BEIS)

CoRWM was established in 2003 as a non-statutory advisory committee and is classed as a non-departmental public body (NDPB). Its purpose is to provide independent advice to the UK government, and the devolved administrations based on scrutiny of the available evidence on the long-term management of radioactive waste, arising from civil and, where relevant, defence nuclear programmes, including storage and disposal.

Drawn up by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the devolved administrations in consultation with CoRWM, the framework document covers CoRWM's role, governance and accountability, and working arrangements. It sets out four areas for which CoRWM will have collective responsibility.

Firstly, recognising the policy framework within which it will operate, including the roles and responsibilities of the government and devolved administrations, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), and the various statutory independent regulators in relation to CoRWM’s own advisory role. Secondly, delivering its evidence-based advice to 'sponsor ministers' in accordance with agreed work programmes. Thirdly, delivering the work programme within the agreed budget and in accordance with Treasury guidance. Fourthly, submit an annual written report to sponsor officials by 31 May each year and this will be made available to the public on the CoRWM website.

CoRWM consists of a chairperson and up to 11 members, one of whom will be appointed by the BEIS minister as deputy chairperson on the recommendation of the chairperson. Members are appointed in a personal capacity and must remain independent of organisational or sectoral interests. The committee chairperson and members are appointed for a period of up to four years. CoRWM's tasks will be set out each year in a proposed three-year rolling work programme, which will be submitted to sponsor officials by 30 April each year for discussion and agreement.

RWM is a public organisation established by government and responsible for planning and delivering geological disposal in the UK. It collaborates with scientists around the world on multi-million pound research programmes, sharing the latest scientific advances and best practice. It also works with the producers of radioactive waste to find ways to package it that are suitable for disposal in a Geological Disposal Facility. The NDA, another NDPB, is responsible for cleaning up the UK's earliest nuclear sites safely, securely and cost-effectively with care for people and the environment.

According to the 2019 United Kingdom Radioactive Waste & Materials Inventory, which was also published on 10 January, the UK has a total of 4,560,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste. Of this, 1390 cubic metres is high-level waste (HLW), 247,000 cubic metres is intermediate-level waste (ILW), 1,480,000 cubic metres is low-level waste (LLW), and 2,830,000 cubic metres is very-low-level waste (VLLW). Updated every three years, the inventory is compiled by BEIS and the NDA.

The inventory thus shows that more than 94% of all radioactive waste to be produced in the UK will be LLW or VLLW. This includes both existing waste and waste estimated to arise over the next 100 years or so. Most of this waste will be produced during the dismantling of existing nuclear facilities and the clean-up of sites. Less than 6% of all radioactive waste to be produced in the UK will be ILW and less than 0.1% will be HLW.

The radioactive waste producing organisations are: the NDA (this includes Sellafield Ltd, Magnox Ltd, LLW Repository Ltd, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and Springfields Fuels Ltd); EDF Energy; the Ministry of Defence; the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority; GE Healthcare Ltd; Urenco; and minor waste producers.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News