Our newly appointed Nuclear Policy and Strategy Consultant, Mick Bacon, provides commentary on the latest White Paper from DECC.
DECC’s White Paper on Implementing Geological Disposal
On 24th July 2014 the government published its White Paper setting out the UK Government’s framework for managing higher activity radioactive waste in the long term through geological disposal. There is less detail in the White Paper than may have been expected from the consultation. However there are no surprises.
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project
The Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) will be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). The Government will be amending the Planning Act 2008 to implement this decision (para 6.7). Given the timescales involved I would expect this amendment to be put through before the 2015 election, although the White Paper itself gives no timescale.
To give a chance for local community involvement, the Communities will have a right of withdrawal from discussions with the developer at any stage in the siting process leading up to a test of public support. If the community withdraws from discussions with the developer prior to the test of public support, the siting process in that community will stop. If the community’s response to the test of public support is positive, the development can proceed, with the developer applying for planning consent for a GDF, and other permissions to proceed from the environmental and nuclear safety and security regulators (para 7.20).
The White Paper also puts the drilling of boreholes within the NSIP regime (para 6.8). It is almost certain that boreholes will be drilled before any test of public support as the results from the boreholes will be needed to inform that test. It is not clear how this sits with the above on public test of support before a Development Consent Order (DCO) application. Presumably the boreholes will be a separate DCO.
The White Paper also envisages some issues being dealt with under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (para 6.24).
The main contentious issue relating to which tiers of local government will represent communities in decision making has been put off until a later stage. This will be decided between now and 2016.
There is no change to the currently expected regulatory regime with the need for licences / permits from ONR and EA.
What happens next?
Government do not expect to be entering into discussions with individual communities before 2016 (para 4.5). This will be after:
· A national geological screening process and guidance on geological criteria (para 5.14);
· Final policy decisions on working with communities (para 7.12); and
· A final National Policy Statement to inform the DCO process (para 6.17).
Also in the period prior to 2016, RWM will undertake activities to explain the science and engineering of geological disposal and associated issues, within the context of Government policy, to the general public. The aim of these activities will be to share information and build a greater understanding in support of future, formal discussions with communities and, in the longer term, successful implementation. (para 7.4)
To discuss in greater detail UK policy, including the GDF White Paper, contact:
Tel: 01789 413 949