The UK Nuclear Industry continues to produce significant quantities of Low Level Waste (LLW) as decommissioning projects generating waste become more prevalent. Current infrastructure and projected increasing waste volumes will deliver a volumetric shortfall of storage capacity in the near future. Recently established as a stand alone site licence company, the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) near Drigg, in West Cumbria (formerly operated and owned by British Nuclear Group) is tasked with managing the safe treatment and disposal of LLW in the UK, on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The problem is complex involving many stakeholders with potentially different priorities. Previously, most nuclear waste generators operated independently with limited integration with other similar organisations. However, the current financial, programme and technical pressures require collaborative working to facilitate a step-change improvement in LLW management. Achieving this quickly is as much of a challenge as delivering robust cost effective technical solutions. NDA is working in partnership with LLWR to develop a LLW Strategy for the Nuclear Industry and has in parallel commissioned a number of studies by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), looking at opportunities to share best practice. A National Strategy Group has been established to develop a working partnership between the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, LLW Repository Ltd, Regulators, Stakeholders and LLW Consignors, promoting innovation, value for money, and robust implementation of the waste hierarchy (avoid-reduce-re-use-recycle). Additionally the LLWR supported by the NNL have undertaken a comprehensive strategic review of the UK’s LLW management activities. Initial collaborative work has provided for the first time a detailed picture of the existing strategic baseline and identified significant national benefits from improving the way LLW is forecasted, characterised, segregated, and treated in line with the waste hierarchy. Implementation of volume reduction technologies, such as incineration and metal treatment, is critical to mitigate the LLWR capacity gap and reduce NDA’s liabilities. The cumulative effect of these solutions has the potential to reduce lifetime costs by several £billion and extend the life of the existing LLWR site to 2070 and possibly beyond. This work has informed the NDA’s UK Nuclear Industry LLW Strategy, published for consultation in June 2009 and the Draft UK LLW Management Plan which sets out how the strategy will be implemented. Technical and infrastructure solutions have been found to exist via the supply chain supporting deliver of the necessary step changes in the near future. Work continues to reduce the LLW inventory forecast uncertainties and evaluate strategic implementation options in more detail, e.g. benefits of national vs. local treatment and disposal solutions, plus on gaining the corresponding stakeholder acceptance and operational authorisations.

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