Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Third Report

Summary of Recommendations

(a)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 ever-present danger. The timetable for the programme of action should not be allowed to extend beyond 2007 (paragraph 18).
(b)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 well-defined 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).
(c)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).
(d)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).
(e)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).
(f)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).
(g)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).
(h)Such overseas experience [ie. Finland, Sweden] should be considered when developing the UK's policy (paragraph 32).
(i)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 decision-making 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).
(j)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 opposition (paragraph 35).
(k)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 decision-making 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 decision-making (paragraph 38).
(l)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).
(m)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).
(n)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).
(o)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).
(p)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).
(q)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 problem (paragraph 50).
(r)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).

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