Carl Sargeant Minister for Natural Resources
Assembly Members may recall me issuing a consultation on 23 October last year about proposals for a review of the current Welsh Government policy on the management and disposal of higher activity radioactive waste (HAW).
Current Welsh Government policy is neither to support nor to oppose the United Kingdom Government policy of geological disposal for HAW. Nor does the Welsh Government currently support any other disposal option for HAW.
The consultation ended on 22 January. Having carefully considered the responses to the consultation and other evidence available I have decided that the Welsh Government should adopt a policy for the geological disposal of HAW and spent nuclear fuel should it be declared as waste. I have today issued a policy document, a link to which is attached to this statement, setting down the new Welsh Government policy.
The policy document sets down in detail the considerations, constraints and options available to the Welsh Government in deciding to adopt a policy for geological disposal. In particular the Welsh Government has taken into account the requirements of the Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Directive, the need for consistency between its policies on support for new nuclear power stations on existing sites and radioactive waste management, and the need to recognise our responsibility to future generations by putting in place a policy allowing for the disposal of the existing legacy of radioactive waste and the wastes that will be created by any new nuclear power stations.
Adopting this policy does not mean that a geological disposal facility (GDF) will necessarily be sited in Wales. The Welsh Government is part of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme which also includes the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. The Welsh Government strongly supports the voluntarist approach whereby a potential host community would seek to open discussions about hosting a GDF facility. These discussions could last more than a decade during which a potential host community is able to withdraw at any time. Since 2008, under current Welsh Government policy, it has been possible for a community in Wales to seek to open such discussions with the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government considers that geological implementation can only be delivered in Wales on the basis of a willing community or communities being prepared to consider hosting a GDF.
In keeping with our undertaking that this policy will be developed transparently and take into account the views of the people of Wales, I have also issued a consultation paper seeking responses about proposals for engaging with potential volunteer host communities for a geological disposal facility. A link to this consultation paper can be found below.