Magnox is seeking to remove the planning restriction imposed by Essex County Council in 2004 on the transfer of intermediate-level radioactive waste (ILW) from other sites to the Bradwell ILW store for interim storage. Further, approval of the Planning Permission for the Bradwell ILW store was given on condition that it would be used only for the storage of Bradwell wastes.
Magnox now wishes ILW from Sizewell and Dungeness to be transferred for storage in the ILW store at Bradwell, with this transfer taking place between 2018 and 2020, if permission is granted.
Essex County Council, in consultation with Maldon District Council, has recently decided that there is no need for an Environmental Impact Assessment in respect of this proposed transfer as the effects of the development would ‘not be so significant’ as to require one. So, although the Planning Application for the transfer has not yet been lodged, this seems to imply that the County Council might be willing to remove the restrictions it placed on granting the original permission for the ILW store, which would allow the transfer to take place. This would, in effect, transform Bradwell into a regional nuclear waste store.
The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) has already made clear its opposition to the transfer of ILW in two responses to Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) consultations. The group believes that the current policy of ‘self sufficiency’, whereby each site manages its own wastes should remain.
Serious issues are raised by the proposed transfer. The Bradwell site is low-lying and vulnerable to flooding as a result of sea-level rise and is an inappropriate site for storage of nuclear waste. The ILW from Bradwell is already being stored at the site and the radioactive graphite cores remain in the former reactor buildings. As a result of what are claimed to be improved methods of reducing the volume of waste, the 170 packages of Bradwell waste will be matched by a similar number from Sizewell and Dungeness.
BANNG believes that ‘interim storage’ is a misnomer: the storage will be long-term. There is no national repository in sight for the final storage of nuclear wastes and BANNG is surprised that the nuclear industry is still quoting 2040 as the date when such a facility will become available. Even if one were, the ILW from Bradwell is not likely to be at the head of the queue of wastes requiring storage.
Chair of BANNG, Professor Andy Blowers, who is an expert in radioactive waste policy and was a member of the first Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, said: ‘Storage should be perceived as long-term, requiring a proper siting process that includes wide engagement and public consultation. A piecemeal and ad hoc approach should not be taken – which is what this is. The nuclear industry tends to make up strategy as it goes along and there is no guarantee that waste from more sites won’t be brought to Bradwell. We are already witnessing the dangerous farce of the fuel element debris (FED) dissolution process. The insistence on continuing with this failed experiment only at Bradwell has pushed the planned date of entry of the site into Care and Maintenance (C & M) from the end of 2015 to 2017 and now to 2019, and this may well change again.’
BANNG urges Essex County Council to retain the planning restrictions on the transfer of ILW to Bradwell from other sites. ‘The situation has not changed since 2004 when the County Council deemed it important to impose these restrictions. If it is planned to lift them, then the public will need to be informed of what has changed from the Council’s point of view’, said Andy Blowers.
The statement made in the report by the Head of Maldon District Council’s Planning Services (dated 16 January, 2014), to the effect that the proposals will require further public consultation beyond the NDA consultation, is supported by BANNG.
Magnox stated to the Local Communities Liaison Committee meeting of 3 June, 2015 that in relation to its Planning Application, it envisaged public drop-in sessions to support local community engagement. ‘This isn’t good enough,’ said Andy Blowers. ‘This is a controversial issue and there is a need for proper public consultation and BANNG will be pushing for this.’