Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs
In May 2015, following a policy review and substantial public consultation, the Welsh Government adopted a policy supporting geological disposal for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste (HAW). Adopting this policy allows for a permanent solution for the management of HAW, rather than leaving this responsibility to future generations. Geological disposal has also been adopted around the World as the best and safest option for the long term management of HAW. This also follows the advice of the independent expert Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.
Following the adoption of geological disposal the Welsh Government joined a programme, funded by the UK Government, to seek a single geological disposal facility (GDF) for the HAW from Wales, England and Northern Ireland. The programme will be delivered by Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Although the Welsh Government supports geological disposal, this does not necessarily mean a GDF will be built in Wales or that the Welsh Government will seek to have a GDF built in Wales. The Welsh Government has not considered or identified any potential sites or communities for a GDF in Wales. Our policy is very clear, a GDF can only be sited in Wales if a community voluntarily comes forward to host it.
The Welsh Government strongly supports this voluntarist approach whereby a potential host community would seek discussions with RWM about hosting a GDF. These discussions may last for up to twenty years, during which a potential host community will be able to withdraw at any time. Before a final decision about siting a GDF is taken, a test of public support in the potential host community would be required. A GDF cannot be sited in that community unless the test resulted in a positive outcome.
In December 2015, following a further public consultation, the Welsh Government issued a policy statement setting down the broad outline of arrangements for working with potential host communities in Wales should any wish to seek discussions about potentially hosting a GDF.
I am now issuing a further consultation, seeking responses on proposals for the detailed arrangements for working with communities in Wales which may wish to seek discussions about potentially hosting a GDF. We are seeking to adopt arrangements which reflect the special circumstances in Wales and which will also be compatible with those being adopted by BEIS. This will allow communities in Wales to enter discussions with RWM on an equal basis as communities from England and Northern Ireland.
In addition to needing a willing host community, for a GDF in Wales, RWM will also need to gain approval for safety cases from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in respect of nuclear safety and security, and Natural Resources Wales in respect of protection of human health and the environment. Any GDF in Wales would also need approval through the planning system in Wales.
I will consider the responses to this consultation before adopting any detailed arrangements for working with potential host communities in Wales.