Article provided by The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)
The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) provides independent scrutiny and transparent advice to the UK governments on the long-term management of higher activity radioactive wastes.
In 2006, CoRWM published an appraisal of the technical options for managing the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste, taking into account ethical considerations, an examination of overseas experience and a wide-ranging programme of engagement with both the public, interested parties and stakeholders.
It was concluded that, within the present state of knowledge, the burial underground (200-1000 metres) of radioactive waste in a purpose built facility with no intention to retrieve the waste once the facility is closed, was the best available approach. In 2018, CoRWM confirmed this position in its Position Paper: Why Geological Disposal?
There is also international consensus that this approach is the safest permanent solution to manage higher activity radioactive waste. It is already the chosen approach in countries including Canada, Finland, France, Sweden and Switzerland. Some of these countries are well on the way to developing their own GDFs.
A GDF involves isolating radioactive waste deep inside a suitable rock volume to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity ever reach the surface environment. This is achieved through the use of multiple barriers that work together to provide protection over hundreds of thousands of years.
Alternatives to geological disposal have been carefully considered and CoRWM continue to keep options under review. For example, we recently published a Position Paper on deep borehole disposal. At present, other alternatives are all either not technically achievable (for example: converting the waste to non- radioactive material), not environmentally safe (for example: disposal at sea or in ice sheets), or too dangerous to implement (for example: firing the waste into space on rockets).
CoRWM’s second recommendation states that a robust programme of interim storage must play an integral part in the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity waste. A continued commitment to the safe and secure management of wastes that is robust against the risk of delay or failure in the repository programme is recommended.
It is also recommended that in determining what reactor decommissioning wastes should be consigned for geological disposal, due regard should be paid to considering other available and publicly acceptable management options.
Further information can be found at: Committee on Radioactive Waste Management – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)