High level radioactive waste management concerns the storage and disposal of highly radioactive materials created during production of nuclear power and warheads. The technical issues in accomplishing this are daunting; due to the extremely long periods, in terms of a human lifetime, radioactive wastes remain damaging to living organisms and the short-term nature of legislation. Consequently, high level radioactive waste requires sophisticated treatment and management to successfully isolate it from the biosphere. This usually necessitates treatment, followed by a long term management strategy involving permanent storage, disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form.
A central theme of UK radioactive waste management policy is the waste hierarchy. This is defined as the prevention of waste where practicable, minimisation where creation is unavoidable, re-use and recycling where there are opportunities to do so, and ultimately disposal for wastes that are not amenable for managing at higher levels in the waste hierarchy.
For Higher Activity Waste (HAW) the long-term management policy of the UK Government is to package and hold wastes in secure interim storage until they can be transferred to a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). The UK Government is pursuing a voluntarism approach to siting a GDF with this process of engagement being staged, and tailored to local circumstances through the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process, stated within the MRWS white paper published in 2008.
Cumbria County Council has engaged with the MRWS process since its conception. Listed below are The County's responses to MRWS related issues: