Consultation on amendment of the conditions allowing the receipt of radioactive waste and contaminated items

Closed 9 Sep 2020

Opened 30 Jul 2020

Overview

The Policy for the Long Term Management of Solid Low Level Radioactive Waste in the United Kingdom (the LLW policy) published by Defra, DTI and the Devolved Administrations in 2007 says that:

‘The import of LLW from other countries may only be authorised or consented to by the competent UK authority in light of an assessment of all practicable options, and if it complies with EU and UK legislation and any associated Government guidance provided to the competent UK authority, and should not be permitted except:

  • for the recovery of re-useable materials; or
  • for treatment that will make its subsequent storage and disposal more manageable.

In all cases where such processes would add materially to the wastes needing to be disposed of in the UK, the presumption should be that they will be returned to the country of origin to a timescale agreed by regulators and competent authorities in the UK and in the country of origin.’

In Scotland, the competent authority is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and we regulate radioactive substances activities under the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EASR). We do this for higher risk activities, including the management of radioactive waste and receipt of radioactive waste from another place, by granting a permit that contains conditions. A permit must specify the ‘standard conditions' that apply to the radioactive substances activity, but can also include other bespoke conditions that are specific to a particular activity.  Any reference to a permit in this consultation means a permit granted under EASR for a radioactive substances activity.

Standard condition B.3.1 says that ‘You may only receive radioactive waste that is described in your authorisation.’ This means that a person cannot receive radioactive waste unless they are specifically allowed to do so by another condition in their permit.

The reasons for requesting authorisation to receive radioactive waste vary. In some cases, such as hospitals and universities, it may be because radioactive waste is generated at different places under different authorisations but to enable better management, the radioactive waste is stored and treated in a single location prior to transfer or disposal meaning that the permit for that location needs to include the receipt of radioactive waste. In other cases, it may be that the management of radioactive waste is the main part of a person’s business such as decommissioning, decontamination and waste management, and they need to be permitted to receive radioactive waste in order to carry on these activities.

In some permits, we limit where the radioactive waste can be received from, but in others, there is no limit. This means that under the EASR permit radioactive waste may be imported into Scotland without explicitly meeting the requirements of the government’s LLW policy for the import of LLW from other countries.

The Transfrontier Shipment of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Regulations 2008 apply to the import of radioactive waste and contaminated items and the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 apply to the import of NORM, but do not allow us to demonstrably show that the requirements of the LLW policy are being fully implemented in Scotland when authorising radioactive substances activities under EASR.

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Why We Are Consulting

The purpose of this consultation is to seek your views on our proposal to vary a bespoke condition included in some permits granted under the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EASR) on the receipt of radioactive waste and the holding of contaminated items. As these conditions are not standard conditions, we are not obliged to consult on any proposed changes as required under EASR for standard conditions and following the process set out in our Public Participation Statement.

Audiences

  • Nuclear Industry

Interests

  • Radioactive waste