The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is set to begin public consultation this autumn to identify a location for the storage of radioactive waste from the Royal Navy's out-of-service nuclear submarines.
The Ministry is seeking sites where intermediate level waste from decommissioned submarines, which are to be dismantled at the Devonport and Rosyth naval dockyards, will be stored on an interim basis until the UK's planned Geological Disposal Facility has opened to accept radioactive waste.
Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support, and Technology, is expected to make a statement to Parliament announcing a consultation programme on waste storage arrangements before the end of October. The announcement will signal the beginning of a 14 week period of dialogue involving local communities and stakeholders around locations which have been shortlisted by MoD as potential storage sites.
Five sites have provisionally been shortlisted as possible locations for the waste: the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, the National Decommissioning Authority (NDA) sites at Chapelcross (Dumfriesshire) and Sellafield (Cumbria), and the Capenhurst site in Cheshire owned by Capenhurst Nuclear Services Ltd. The waste will be contained in the submarine Reactor Pressure Vessel, which will be removed intact from submarines and transported by road to the storage site.
MoD is planning consultation events around shortlisted sites to outline its proposals and receive views from the public, and information will be provided to local councils, libraries, and media. Events are expected to take place in mid November in Tadley and Burghfield for communities around the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites, and national workshops will take place at the end of February.
The consultation will close at the end of February 2015, with a Ministerial decision on final arrangements for submarine dismantling and interim waste storage not expected until well after the 2015 general election. Site licenses permitting storage of waste are not envisaged to be issued before 2019, the earliest date at which submarine dismantling is expected to commence.
Declaration of interest: Di McDonald, Board member of Nuclear Information Service, is a member of the Advisory Group for the Ministry of Defence Submarine Dismantling Project.