The Ministry of Defence has published a shortlist of five nuclear sites across the UK which it has identified as potential locations for the storage of radioactive waste from disused nuclear-powered submarines.
The five sites – the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority sites at Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire and Sellafield in Cumbria, and a site at Capenhurst in Cheshire operated by Capenhurst Nuclear Services – were selected as candidate sites for storage of the waste following an assessment of all nuclear licensed sites in the UK.
18 former Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarines are currently stored afloat in the Devonport and Rosyth naval dockyards awaiting dismantling, with a further nine submarines in service which will also need to be dismantled when they are retired. The dismantling process will require the removal of reactor components, which are classified as intermediate level radioactive waste, and will require storage until 2040 at the earliest, when the government hopes to open a national radioactive waste repository.
A more detailed phase of assessment and consultation will now take place over the viability of each of the shortlisted sites as a storage location. 'Pre-engagement' discussions will take place with local authorities, Members of Parliament, and Site Stakeholder Groups in the vicinity of each of the shortlisted sites, which will include stakeholder engagement workshops in Bristol and Penrith, and a final shortlist will be published in summer 2014.
The Ministry of Defence has promised that public consultation will take place before any final decisions on a storage site are made, and consultation on the expected shortlist is expected to take place nationally and locally in the vicinity of shortlisted sites in late 2014 / early 2015.
As well as announcing the shortlist of candidate storage sites, the Ministry of Defence has also published its proposals for site screening and selection criteria and a strategic environmental assessment scoping report for the waste storage plans.
Declaration of Interest: Di McDonald, a member of the Board of Directors at Nuclear Information Service, is a member of the Submarine Dismantling Project Advisory Group and is a member of the sub-group working on interim waste storage issues.