Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-263)




  260. Gentlemen, is this an urgent matter or not?
  (Professor Curtis) Which? The whole—

  261. Deciding what to do about this?
  (Professor Curtis) The whole question? I think it is an urgent matter. I think it is easy to assume that as the regulators are in place keeping an eye on these things that as long as they are doing a good job, there will be no threats, but if this waste is left as it is, it is complicated and difficult to deal with, particularly the older wastes which you have been talking about, it will continue to deteriorate. I do not think it is responsible to allow that to happen. I think if we have a policy in place it will help that process of developing intermediate stages. We are keen in the intermediate term to see these wastes processed and repackaged so they are in a more passive and stable state where they require less active management. There is a cost implication, too. If you leave these things in a bad state, your costs of surveillance and security are going to escalate. So to my mind, again speaking personally, there is this hazard which will tend to increase if it is left alone. Of course, I am saying what the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate are really saying here; it makes good sense for lots of reasons to get on and improve the state of that waste, to condition that waste, and it is also important ideally that you have a policy for long term management which will define to some extent the preferred form of that waste for its long term management because it makes economic sense in that way.

Mr Jack

  262. What is your definition of "urgent"?
  (Professor Curtis) Fred?
  (Mr Barker) I was going to suggest that the critical thing is to move forward after March 12 to get some decisions taken which enable this overseeing panel to be set up by the end of the year. You could interpret that as a reasonably urgent timetable that needs to be fulfilled. After that you are in the hands of the overseeing panel and it will be necessary to do more consultation. There will be more events to engage with the public and talk to stakeholders about the range of options you want, the criteria against which you assess them, and so on and so forth. There is clearly a need to be able to move forward in a programmatic way on that. You could say the complete programme for getting to a point where government can reach a policy decision on a long-term radioactive waste management option is not as urgent as perhaps dealing with some of the historic wastes where we need to move forward with conditioning programmes. The view, however, is that we need to move forward in a sense along both tracks. On the policy formulation process track we need to move forward at a pace which is consistent with ensuring that we are properly engaging with the public and engaging with stakeholders.


  263. Whereupon a whole series of definitions could be demanded of you, but I am not going to do that. Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for coming to see us this afternoon. There were a number of issues where you said you had not yet formulated a view, or not discussed it, when you do, we would obviously be pleased to know what they are.
  (Professor Curtis) We will supply them to you.

  Chairman: Thank you very much.

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