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03 August 2018

803: Parliament opines on geological disposal NPS

Today’s entry reports on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s views on the National Policy Statement for the geological disposal of radioactive waste.

The Government has been trying to find somewhere to bury radioactive waste produced by nuclear power stations for a while. Back in 2012 it seemed that a site in Cumbria might be acceptable but in January 2013 Cumbria County Council rejected it. The Government published a White Paper in 2014 setting out a new process that involved bringing communities along at all stages, with financial incentives for them, and ‘UK Government is currently of the view that no one tier of local Government should be able to prevent the participation of other members of that community’ (I wonder why).

As part of this process, geological disposal and test boreholes were to become nationally significant infrastructure projects and brought within the Planning Act 2008. This duly happened in March 2015. An accompanying National Policy Statement was also promised, but this suffered various delays (partly due to two general elections) and was finally published in draft in January this year. It can be found here.

A public consultation was held from then until 19 April, and the requisite parliamentary scrutiny was also undertaken. This week, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, the relevant select committee in the House of Commons has published its report. The report can be found here.

The report focuses on four main issues:

  • whether the national disposal site(s) can be in a National Park, the committee thinks it/they could;
  • whether waste from new nuclear power stations should be able to use the site(s), the committee thinks they should;
  • how community engagement should be linked to the choice of site(s), the committee thinks this is currently not clear enough; and
  • how the disposal process is linked to the Government’s industrial strategy: the committee thinks any currently claimed link is ‘spurious’.

As with all other NPSs, the committee concludes that the NPS should be approved, as long as its recommendations are taken on board.

Just as with the recent Airports NPS, this NPS will be republished by the Government in a few months’ time having taken into account the public and parliamentary comments, and will be and subject to a vote in the House of Commons before being ‘designated’. A six-week judicial review period will follow.

Incidentally, the six-week judicial review period for the Airports NPS expires next Tuesday 7 August. One claim has already been made, by a Mr Neil Spurrier of the Teddington Action Group, and at least one more claim is expected – it is reported that five local authorities, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace are submitting a joint claim.

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