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UK adopts updated approach to nuclear waste management

The revised strategy prioritises advancements in waste treatment methods, focusing on recycling and exploring isotopes extraction for medical use, while emphasising disposal as a final option to mitigate environmental impact

The UK is implementing a revamped strategy for nuclear waste management, aiming for enhanced safety, environmental protection and expedited decommissioning processes.

This updated approach emphasises innovations in waste treatment techniques, promoting recycling and researching isotopes extraction for medical purposes, with disposal as a last resort to minimise environmental impact.

In addition to plans for a geological disposal facility for the most hazardous waste, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is exploring the viability of a near-surface facility for less hazardous radioactive waste.

The latter could potentially be operational within a decade, significantly expediting decommissioning efforts and saving approximately £500 million in storage costs, in line with international practices observed in countries like France and Finland.

Furthermore, the framework permits the disposal of lightly contaminated rubble and substructures on-site when deemed safe, reducing transportation and disposal costs while minimising environmental impact.

Minister for Nuclear Andrew Bowie said: “The UK has been a pioneer in nuclear technology, and now we’re taking sensible steps to manage our radioactive waste, while reducing the burden on the environment and taxpayer.”

Philip Duffy, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: “It is important that the right infrastructure is in place to manage radioactive waste in a way that protects the environment and public health.”

David Peattie, Chief Executive Officer at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said: “We will work closely with our stakeholders and communities to take forward the opportunities created by this new policy, ensuring that we maintain the highest standards of safety and environmental protection to deliver our nationally important decommissioning mission.”

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