THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO THE
4. Recommendation (a) said:
A measured and open staged process enabling
participation and involving stakeholders and the public has the
potential to yield the acceptability necessary to ensure an effective
decision. But delay is an everpresent danger. The timetable
for the programme of action should not be allowed to extend beyond
(Paragraph 18 of the Committee's report)
5. We agree that we should go as fast as we
reasonably can. But we are confident that by 2007 we shall have
decided how to manage the waste and that we shall be in the process
of implementing that decision. If we can go faster, we shall.
As most waste will be generated over the next century or so, from
decommissioning of nuclear facilities still in use today, it will
take many years to implement the policy.
6. Recommendation (b) said:
We welcome the document as a first step towards
developing a long overdue policy for the disposal of radioactive
waste. We are however concerned that the process of policy development
should be welldefined and transparent at all stages. The
Government should address concerns that a generally phrased consultation
document will not engage the public in the debate. It should also
set clearer objectives defining the nature of the outcome of each
of the remaining stages of the consultation and policy development
process, and provide further details of how it will ensure that
the programme of action will be completed by 2007.
(Paragraph 20 of the Committee's report)
7. We agree. For the programme to work effectively
it must be transparent and clear at the outset how each stage
will lead into the next, and how different inputs for example,
the views of the public, and the results of research will
contribute to each key decision.
8. Recommendation (c) said:
We are convinced that, if the process of consultation
and policy development is to be successful, it should be managed
by an independent body which ultimately provides policy advice
and recommendations to the Government. The membership of the overseeing
body should include experts, stakeholders and lay people, and
should be appointed in a personal and not a representative capacity.
The body should be adequately staffed. We recommend that the independent
body should be established as soon as possible after the end of
the first consultation period.
(Paragraph 24 of the Committee's report)
9. We propose to set up an independent body to
oversee the review of waste management options. We shall publish
more detailed proposals as soon as possible.
10. Recommendation (d) said:
We recommend that in order to ensure that
the roles performed by the various institutions involved continue
to be as clear as possible, a decision be taken quickly about
the future role of Nirex, about future responsibility for the
functions it currently performs and that it or its successor should
be independent of other nuclear companies.
(Paragraph 25 of the Committee's report)
11. We agree that the question of the independence
of Nirex, or any successor bodies, from the industry needs to
be addressed. The UK Government White Paper Managing the nuclear
legacy recognises the arguments in favour of independence,
but considers it important that those funding Nirex (or successor
bodies) now and in the future are satisfied that they continue
to get value for money for expenditure undertaken on their behalf.
The relationship between Nirex and other organisations including
the Liabilities Management Authority will be considered as part
of the radioactive waste policy formulation process.
12. Recommendation (e) said:
We recommend that the Government come forward
with a clear statement of the purpose of its public engagement,
and some indication of how the outcome will be evaluated.
(Paragraph 28 of the Committee's report)
13. We agree. We have all benefited from uses
of radioactive materials from medical and research, through
to electricity generation that give rise to radioactive
waste. Some of the substances involved will be radioactive and
potentially dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. We owe
it to future generations to manage the waste safely. The purpose
of engaging the public is to achieve broad agreement on how best
to do this. We are therefore seeking to agree the range of materials
that will need to be regarded as wastes, the options for their
longterm management, and the criteria against which each
of these options should be assessed. We need to involve the public
fully and actively in the assessment of options, and the emerging
conclusions. And we shall endeavour to ensure that eventual policy
choices can be seen to have flowed logically and transparently
from the assessment process. We do not expect to achieve unanimity,
but we need a broad consensus that we have got the proposals right.
But it will be ultimately for Ministers to reach a decision, and
for their Parliaments and Assemblies to judge whether they got
it right. Our proposed programme of action referred to above,
will set out how we envisage the process working.
14. We want people across the UK to be involved in
the decisionmaking process. But we shall also welcome the
views of people and organisations abroad. They have much experience
to contribute, many of them may be personally affected by decisions
taken in the UK, and several have already responded to our initial
15. Recommendation (f) said:
The Government needs to elicit from the public
consultation and publicise the values and principles which should
underpin the process of developing a radioactive waste management
policy. If the public are properly consulted about such fundamental
matters at the outset, the outcome of the consultation process
is much more likely to attract public support.
(Paragraph 29 of the Committee's report)
16. We agree. Appendix 5 to our consultation
paper set out a number of principles that could apply to the policy
process. Our detailed proposals will take this further by setting
out some clear guidelines including how key principles
(including those which stem from the Government's sustainable
development policy) might be built into the criteria against which
the different options will be judged. People will then have a
clearer idea of what they are involved in and why.
17.The Government, too, will need to remember one
simple principle of public engagement: it is a waste of everyone's
time unless the decisionmaker is willing to listen to others'
views and then to do something which it would not have done otherwise.
18.Recommendation (g) said:
We believe that Parliament, having considered
the advice of the overseeing body, should decide the elements
of national policy including, most crucially, the preferred option
for long term management of radioactive wastes.
(Paragraph 31 of the Committee's report)
19. We agree. The Government's responsibility
is to decide how to manage waste, and then to decide how to implement
that decision, ensuring at each step that it has secured a sufficient
level of common ground. The policy on radioactive waste is a devolved
responsibility and proposals will be presented to respective parliaments
and assemblies at each key stage for endorsement. Our further
proposals will set out a more detailed programme illustrating
20. Recommendation (h) said:
Such overseas experience [ie. Finland, Sweden]
should be considered when developing the UK's policy.
(Paragraph 32 of the Committee's report)
21. We agree. We should learn from relevant
experience abroad as well as experience for example, in
consensus building and decisionmaking in the UK.
We already participate in international research and in international
bodies' development of good practice in stakeholder involvement.
International experience will be reflected in the review, both
through our programme of research and through public involvement.
Each country has its own characteristics, but much can be learned
from other countries' strategies and outcomes. And, one day, we
hope that our experience will benefit other countries.
22. Recommendation (i) said:
We urge the Government to make a decision
as early as is practicable in the consultation process as to the
stage at which local communities likely to be asked to host a
storage or disposal facility will be identified, and subsequently
involved in the decisionmaking process. It should also be
determined in advance whether local communities, however defined,
will be given the power of veto over hosting such a facility,
and whether they will be provided with benefits for doing so.
(Paragraph 33 of the Committee's report)
23. We agree that issues of this nature will
need to be considered in the review of options. We shall need
to involve a range of people and organisations in this process
across the UK by making them aware that their community might
possibly be affected one day. We must be open about this possibility
from the start.
24. Recommendation (j) said, on whether to reveal
the list of sites considered by Nirex:
However, work should be undertaken now on
how best to deal with the consequences of eventually revealing
possible sites if the whole exercise is not to be sunk by local
(Paragraph 35 of the Committee's report)
25. We agree.
26. Recommendation (k) said:
We recommend that the issues of siting a potential
radioactive waste facility should be debated as part of the consultation
process in stages moving from generic issues to specific siting
questions; that among the generic issues to be debated and decided
should be compensation, incentives, volunteerism and vetoes; that
the devolved administrations and local authorities should be fully
involved in the decisionmaking process; and that the planning
process should not be changed in any way that would impede the
process of public debate and staged policy formulation which is
necessary for effective decisionmaking.
(Paragraph 38 of the Committee's report)
27. We agree. The Deputy Prime Minister announced
on 18 July that the Government does not now plan to introduce
the new Parliamentary procedures for major infrastructure projects
which it proposed last year; though it will still look at ways
of speeding up the public enquiry system. We shall work closely
with other agencies including the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
on planning issues in England and Wales. The devolved administrations
are working in partnership with the UK Government on this policy.
Planning in Scotland and Northern Ireland is a matter for Ministers
28. Recommendation (l) said:
It is incumbent on all sides of the nuclear
debate to enter into the more open and constructive dialogue that
is being envisaged in the consultation paper and endorsed by all
the witnesses we spoke to.
(Paragraph 40 of the Committee's report)
29. We agree. We in the Government have a
particular responsibility to make it possible for all groups to
express their views in the forthcoming debate. But all opinion
formers, including the media and other organisations, have a responsibility
to provide accurate and balanced information so that people know
what the issues are. Wide and wellinformed debate of the
issues is what we seek.
30. Recommendation (m) said:
We recommend that the consultation process
seek from an early date to establish the sensitivity of public
support for a facility to the possible presence of plutonium.
(Paragraph 44 of the Committee's report)
31. We agree. The UK waste inventory already
includes large amounts of plutoniumcontaminated material.
As our Answer
says, the review will also recognise that significant amounts
of separated plutonium, and other nuclear materials currently
regarded as resources, may be declared as wastes at some point
in the future. The review will need to make some assumptions about
what types and volumes of material might be involved.
32. Recommendation (n) said:
We recommend a review of the remit and independence
of Nirex or its successor companies to ensure that there is neither
duplication nor a gap in the responsibilities of the many parties
involved in the disposal of nuclear waste, especially in view
of the formation of the Liabilities Management Authority. Resolution
of responsibilities for the various waste streams would make the
resolution of the definition of waste a great deal easier.
(Paragraph 45 of the Committee's report)
33. We agree that this issue is important
and needs to be addressed as soon as possible, as stated in our
response to recommendation (d). This will be taken forward as
part of the radioactive waste policy process and as part of the
process set out in the UK Government White Paper Managing the
34. Recommendation (o) said:
We recommend that the process of consultation
cover at the appropriate stage the possibility of a facility requiring
regular receipt of additional waste.
(Paragraph 47 of the Committee's report)
35. We agree. Radioactive waste facilities
whether on new sites or at existing locations will
have waste loaded into them over a very long period, as older
reactors and nuclear facilities are decommissioned over the latter
half of this century. Our assessment of options will reflect the
outcome of the Government's energy review, and its implications
for the UK's radioactive waste stockpile and how it is managed.
36. Recommendation (p) said:
We anticipate that the establishment of the
LMA (Liabilities Management Authority) will be one of the major
steps in this process and hope that the Government will find time
for the primary legislation in the next session so that this process
is not delayed.
(Paragraph 49 of the Committee's report)
37. We agree. The White Paper Managing
the nuclear legacy has set out the Government's programme
for action and the importance which it attaches to the process.
38. Recommendation (q) said:
It will be necessary for the LMA to establish
whether or not there is a problem with the current system of regulation
of the storage and conditioning of waste. Should this prove to
be the case, it will be necessary to act quickly to rectify the
(Paragraph 50 of the Committee's report)
39. We agree that establishing the proposed
LMA should lead to sharper focus and shorter timescales for managing
wastes. In the meantime we need to tackle any shortcomings as
soon as they are identified. RWMAC, the Nuclear Safety Advisory
Committee and the new independent body will also help us to spot
these. RWMAC and NuSAC have recently published their views on
the current arrangements for conditioning, packaging and storing
intermediatelevel waste. They are also jointly carrying
out a regulatory review which, as chapter 7 of Managing the
nuclear legacy indicates, will enable us to identify areas
for improvement. As our Answer
says, we shall shortly publish more detailed proposals in relation
to the storage and conditioning of waste.
40. Recommendation (r) said:
The Committee requires that the Government
submit to it a report on progress with the consultation process
by 31 December 2002 and that it should do so annually thereafter.
(Paragraph 54 of the Committee's report)
41. We agree. We welcome the House's interest
in the issue and this opportunity to encourage national debate.
We think this will greatly reinforce our efforts to inform and
engage the wider public. We shall ensure that respective parliaments
and assemblies are kept regularly informed of the policy formulation
process and its emerging recommendations.
42. Words are easy, action is harder. We have set
out some aspirations. But we now have to put them into practice,
and build an effective process which people trust, and which will
yield a decision in which they have confidence.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
24 July 2002