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Julie James, Minister for Climate Change

First published:
1 March 2023
Last updated:

The UK Government and devolved governments are today publishing consultation proposals to update policies on nuclear decommissioning and the management of radioactive substances, including radioactive waste.

We use radioactive substances in many different products and processes. This includes the treatment and diagnosis of serious illnesses, to deliver research and development and in industrial processes. In some parts of the UK, nuclear power continues to provide low carbon electricity to our homes and businesses. Nuclear power will continue to be an important source of low carbon electricity in England and Wales as we work towards reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Most uses of radioactive material generate radioactive waste, which needs to be managed. The waste can occur as gases, liquids or solids. Radioactive substances policy covers the management of the manner in which radioactive materials are used and how any subsequent wastes and legacies are then managed to ensure people and the environment are not exposed to unacceptable risks.

The last overarching policy document on the management of radioactive waste, Command Paper 2919, Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy: Final Conclusions was published in 1995. Since then, the regulatory and policy landscape has changed significantly, not least with the advent of devolution and the creation of new regulatory bodies and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Some parts of the Command Paper have been updated and replaced with new policy documents. Furthermore, new policies have been developed that did not originally feature in Command Paper 2919.

The UK Government and devolved governments consider it is time to replace Command Paper 2919 and the separate policy documents that have superseded some parts of it with a consolidated UK-wide policy framework. In doing so we aim to set out clearly those policies that are pursued jointly by the UK Government and devolved governments and any separate policies that apply in any one nation.

The proposals update, clarify and consolidate a number of policies into a UK-wide policy framework and facilitate speedier and more cost-effective decommissioning and radioactive waste management. They aim to create clearer and more consistent policy objectives across the UK, reduce unnecessary burden, unlock more innovative and sustainable ways of working realising significant savings for industry and the taxpayer, whilst maintaining high standards of safety, security and environmental protection.

The consultation is in two parts. Part I sets out policies we are proposing to amend. The proposals are aimed primarily at driving improvements in nuclear decommissioning and managing radioactive waste. Part II of the consultation is a draft of the proposed UK-wide policy framework as it would appear if the policy changes being consulted on in Part I were implemented.

The Consultation is being hosted on Citizens Space:

Open consultation: Managing radioactive substances and nuclear decommissioning

The consultation documents and response form are available in Welsh and English.