The content of this e-journal was for the most part originally prepared for Nuclear Free Local Authorities (Scotland) and is reproduced, as adapted, with their permission but without liability for its contents.
1.1 The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has launched a consultation into UKAEA proposals to dispose of solid low-level waste from Dounreay to BNFL’s Sellafield and Drigg sites. The documents can be found at www.sepa.org.uk/consultation/ukaea/index.htm This is not to be confused with the consultation which has just closed, by UKAEA itself, on the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) for the longer-term management of LLW at Dounreay.
1.2 UKAEA describes the proposal as an “interim measure”, whilst a long-term strategy and associated facilities to manage all existing and future LLW arisings is being determined by the BPEO process referred to above.
1.3 In its response to the consultation the Scottish Executive complains that the application gives no indication of the quantities and timescales involved for this interim measure or of the safety implications of continuing to store LLW at Dounreay, and it asks for details of the number of containers involved and the methods of transport, and an environmental assessment of the impact of the transports. Most importantly it asks whether granting the authorizations will prejudice the outcome of the BPEO consultation.
1.4 In March 2003, the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC) advised Scottish Ministers that: “…there is a danger of national policy effectively being pre-empted by … a decision to open up the Drigg disposal route … If this is allowed, the possible future implications for ILW and High Level Waste (HLW) must also be considered.” 
1.5 This unacceptable situation has arisen as a result of a recommendation made by the 1998 Dounreay Safety Audit by HSE and SEPA. Recommendation 80 said that UKAEA should develop a modern well-engineered low-level waste disposal facility at Dounreay. But in the meantime it said UKAEA should “dispose of waste to Drigg wherever possible”.
1.6 SEPA cites current government policy to justify this approach as expressed in the most recent policy document – Cm2919 .  However, this 1995 document states that waste should be “…safely disposed of at appropriate times and in appropriate ways … in a manner that commands public confidence.” A policy of transferring waste, from Dounreay to Sellafield or Drigg cannot be described as commanding public confidence. RWMAC said in September 2001 that it “is not persuaded that existing statements of radioactive waste management policy, notably the previous Conservative Government’s White Paper (Cm 2919), provide a sufficiently robust template against which to assess possible solutions for Dounreay LLW.”
1.7 In its submission on the BPEO consultation Shetland Islands Council called for urgent consideration to be given to the idea of super-compacting all existing LLW on site at Dounreay to free up space in existing facilities, and if necessary additional interim storage facilities should be provided on site.
1.8 The only indication of the scale of the proposed transports to Sellafield and Drigg was given in a Sunday Herald article on 3rd February 2002. This suggested that a train load every month or a lorry load every fortnight is likely until new facilities are available on the Dounreay site around 2010 – 15.
1.9 The consultation exercise runs until 23rd February 2004.
 RWMAC (March 2003) Advice to Ministers on Management of Low Acticity Solid Radioactive Wastes within the United Kingdom. Para 6.14
 HMSO (July 1995) Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy Final Conclusions.
2.1 Meanwhile UKAEA has launched yet another consultation – on the end state of the waste shaft. It wants views on what should happen to the rocks immediately around the shaft once it has been emptied. The actual emptying of the shaft will be subject to a different consultation. The end state of the shaft is being examined first because whichever option is chosen may affect the options for emptying the shaft itself. UKAEA requests comments by 7th February 2004.
2.2 The consultation is concerned with what should happen to the contaminated rock sides of the shaft itself, called the ‘near field’, and the ‘far field’. Contamination from the shaft has leaked into the rocks up to 300 metres offshore from Dounreay. The options for dealing with both the ‘near field’ and the ‘far field’ include: natural attenuation, or doing nothing and letting the radioactive contamination decay naturally; excavate the contaminated rock; immobilise the contamination in the rock by using grout or something similar; and ‘back flushing’ chemicals into the rocks so contamination is flushed into the empty shaft. Excavating all the contaminated rock in the ‘far field’ would involve a massive engineering and mining operation costing upwards of £300 million and taking at least 10 years to complete.
2.3 The options have already been considered by two stakeholder panels – both rejecting the option of ‘natural attenuation’, or doing nothing. The external stakeholders panel favoured immobilising the contamination in the ‘far field’ and removing the contaminated rock from around the empty shaft. Full details of the consultation and the draft Best Practicable Environmental Option study are available at www.ukaea.org.uk.
2.4 Orkney MSP Jim Wallace has called the information released for the waste shaft consultation “somewhat worthless”, and wants more information on the extent of contamination and on its likely to spread if no recovery or treatment is undertaken.
3.1 Three more radioactive particles were found on the Sandside beach during November bringing the total found since 1984 to 46, and 24 in 2003. The latest particle found was the second most active ever. The caesium-137 particle was 280,000 Becquerels. Philip Day, the expert consultant for the beach’s owner said the find was worrying because it showed the particles were not all being broken down by the actions of sea and sand. He added that the particle was 1,000 million times more active than what the UKAEA is permitted to discharge legally from Dounreay. The beach owner, Geoffrey Minter, has called for consideration to be given to the idea of removing sand from the beach to reduce contamination.
4.1 As expected the Queen’s Speech on 26th November included an Energy Bill, which incorporates the proposals in the Draft Nuclear Sites and Radioactive Substances Bill to set up the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The Energy Bill was introduced the following day in the House of Lords, and published on 28th November. The second reading was held in the House of Lords on 11th December. The Bill can be found at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/pabills.htm
4.2 Nothing in the Energy Bill reflects the concerns raised by national environment groups with the Department of Trade and Industry – despite the fact that the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee agreed with many of the points made in evidence to the Committee. NGOs have been told some environmental principles may go into a ‘mission statement’ – this will not have legislative powers.
4.3 There is a huge job of work to do in dealing with the legacy of nuclear waste created by the bad decisions of the past. However, the NDA will have no overriding environmental objectives, increasing the risk that inappropriate decisions on decommissioning and waste management will be taken in the future. For example, some sections of the nuclear industry have already said they may increase radioactive discharges when undertaking decommissioning. In addition, industry pressure may lead the NDA to fail to prioritise dealing with the most hazardous wastes and also make unnecessary transfers of wastes from one site to another.
4.4 As well as continuing to operate the loss-making Magnox reactors, and the two Sellafield reprocessing plants, the NDA will be the conduit the Government uses for subsidising waste management for British Energy. The worst aspect of this is that the relevant clauses in the Bill are written to allow the government to bail-out future nuclear companies. And the DTI’s refusal to include a clause making segregated decommissioning funds a legal requirement of any new reactor building programme could make new nuclear build more attractive to investors who will know that, should they fail to set aside sufficient funds for decommissioning, the government will bail them out.
4.5 The Energy Bill is a huge disappointment. It will do nothing to dispel the public’s cynicism about the Government’s motives for establishing the NDA. The Bill completely fails to dispel doubts that setting up the NDA could just be an exercise in getting the bankrupt nuclear industry back on its feet again in time to make another attempt at building new nuclear stations in the UK in 3 or 4 years time. It would have been encouraging to see a world-class, environmentally sustainable body being set up which was prepared to go beyond simply meeting regulatory requirements. [NB. Some aspects of the Energy Bill which promote offshore wind deserve to be widely welcomed. The above comments refer to the nuclear legacy section of the Bill only].
4.6 Since a number of provisions in the Energy Bill cover functions devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the issue has already been raised at Holyrood. The Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, Lewis Macdonald said on 18th December that he has written to the conveners of the Enterprise and Culture Committee (Alasdair Morgan) and the Environment and Rural Development Committee (Sarah Boyack) to advise them that a “Sewel memorandum” is under preparation and will be with them soon. A “Sewel motion” is the procedure used in the Scottish Parliament to allow consideration of Bills laid before the Westminster Parliament.
4.7 The debate in the Scottish Parliament could be crucial to the success or otherwise of the Energy Bill. A Greenpeace briefing on issues raised by the Energy Bill for the Scottish Parliament will be available shortly. Further briefings are available on the Greenpeace website.
4.8 Now that the Bill has had its Second Reading in the House of Lords, it will now go into Committee Stage. This will be a Grand Committee and will start on Jan 14th and probably won’t be finished until mid March. A Grand Committee has unrestricted membership with all Lords free to attend and participate. After the House of Lords Committee, the Bill will go into the House of Commons.
5.1 Although there is only one remaining Magnox reactor in Scotland, at Chapelcross near Dumfries, which will close on 31st March 2005, the issue of whether or not the remaining Magnox reactors are allowed to operate until 2010 is an important one for Scotland because of the implications this has for radioactive discharges from the Selafield reprocessing plant.
5.2 On current plans, a further 9,400 tonnes of Magnox spent nuclear waste fuel will be reprocessed before the end of 2012 when the Sellafield Magnox reprocessing plant is due to close. Of this, around 2,300 tonnes has yet to be loaded in the reactors. In order to reprocess all this by the end of 2012, the throughput of the Magnox reprocessing plant will have to be increased to 1,000 tonnes per year from the current rate of around 700 tonnes per year or less. This increased throughput will involve increases in discharges from Sellafield.
5.3 At the end of 2002 the Environment Agency introduced new limits for radioactive discharges from all of BNFL’s Magnox stations, except Chapelcross. However Government Ministers are still considering the matter of whether continued operation of the Magnox reactors is justified one year later. Ministers have powers to require the Agency to change or withdraw the authorisations at any time.
5.4 For this reason David Chaytor MP recently wrote to Nuclear Economist, Gordon MacKerron, about the economics of continuing to operate the UK’s remaining Magnox reactors. BNFL has already admitted that the Magnox stations are loss-making, but claims it would lose more money if they were closed immediately. BNFL’s case seems to be that its income from continuing to operate its Magnox stations exceeds the avoidable costs. In his response to David Chaytor, MacKerron says “There can be little public confidence in the idea that Magnox avoidable costs are definitively below the selling price of electricity.” An Independent economic appraisal of the case for continuing to operate the Magnox reactors is therefore urgent.
5.5 In a related development the Environment Agency has launched a public consultation exercise on radioactive discharges from the Springfields plant. The consultation is due to end on 19th March 2004. Documents can be obtained from the Environment Agency (email@example.com). Production of Magnox fuel at Springfields is currently planned to cease in 2006, by which time sufficient fuel to keep the Magnox reactors running according to BNFL’s closure timetable will have been produced. This closure is expected to reduce discharges from Springfields by around 100TBq per year. Clearly ending the production of Magnox fuel at Springfields now would reduce the future impact of radioactive discharges from Sellafield on the Scottish coastline.
6.1 British Energy announced another huge half loss at the end of December for the first half of this financial year. Operating losses for the six months to September were £71m, although this was down from the £337m loss in the same period last year. UK nuclear output rose 10% in that time, but the troubled nuclear power generator has suffered from a string of technical failures.
6.2 The latest problems at two units of the Heysham 1 plant in Lancashire mean that future losses attributed to this and the recent closure of Sizewell B in Suffolk are expected to be £95m rather than the £50m originally expected. The problems at Heysham began in October after seawater cooling pipes leaked. British Energy originally said it expected to have the plant back in action in December but the shutdown is now expected to continue “into the first quarter of 2004”.
6.3 Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary, agreed in November to increase a government loan facility from £200m to £275m to allow the group to continue to trade while repairs were made at Heysham. British Energy has to pay higher prices for power it buys in from the wholesale market when its own output is reduced. This is because the company forward sold much of its output when electricity prices were lower than they are now.
6.4 Meanwhile, the Financial Times says British Energy may consider prolonging the life of its eight nuclear power stations if it could improve their operating efficiency.  BE has established a range of plant lifetimes, for accountancy purposes, but this does not necessarily mean that this is when the stations are will close. Currently the closure programme is due to start in 2008, with all but one of the stations closed by 2023. These dates are kept under close review and adjusted (in either direction) at any time to take account of commercial, technical and safety issues.
6.5 Nuclear operators are required, by the NII, to review and re-assess the safety of their plants periodically and systematically. These reviews, known as Periodic Safety Reviews (PSRs), are submitted to the NII for consideration and assessment. PSRs are designed to confirm that plants are safe to continue to operate for a further 10 years, and that any reasonably practicable improvements have been made. The next PSR due in Scotland is for Hunterston B in 2006. This could, theoretically give BE clearance to operate the station until 2016, rather than close it in 2011 – the current expected closure date for accounting purposes. If, as a result of the PSR process, the NII requires BE to implement plant modifications, BE would then have to decide whether the cost of the modifications was justified by the expected future income. If the costs were too high BE would close the plant. Thus the decision to cease generation is determined by safety issues and economic factors. There is no opportunity for public intervention in the PSR process, and the NII is not required to consult the public on issues related to nuclear safety.
 New Blow to British Energy Finances, by Andrew Taylor. Financial Times, 14th November 2003.
7.1 The second phase of the Ministry of Defence’s consultation about how to dispose of its redundant nuclear submarines has now finished. During the course of the consultation two of the sites proposed were withdrawn – one by McAlpines to use Ardyne Point, and the other by DML to use Nigg Bay.
7.2 However, four proposals, remain under consideration, and the DML proposal is still looking into the use of Dounreay:
- Rosyth – Babcocks and Motherwell Bridge: Transport submarines, or just the reactor compartments (RCs) to Rosyth. Cut up the RCs in a new facility at Rosyth. Package the ILW and transport to a store at Coulport or Sellafield.
- Sellafield/Rosyth/Devonport – BNFL: Cut up RCs at either Rosyth or Devonport or both, but package the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) separately from other ILW. The RPV & ILW would then be transported to Sellafield for storage in a purpose-built store.
- Devonport/Dounreay– DML: Cut out RCs at Devonport and transport to Dounreay. Further cutting up at Dounreay could be carried out at a later stage.
- Unspecified sites – SERCO: SERCO present two options. One involves cutting out the RC and storing, with cutting up later; the other involves cutting up the RCs and storing ILW on site or transporting the packaged ILW to Sellafield.
7.3 The Scottish Parliament debated a motion on 5th November, tabled by the SNP, to reject “any proposal by Her Majesty’s Government to dispose of nuclear waste from nuclear submarines in Scotland” and to oppose “in particular, any plans to cut up and store in Scotland any of the redundant nuclear submarines currently held at Rosyth or those that will become redundant in future”. Scott Barrie, Labour MSP for Dunfermline West explained that he didn’t sign the motion simply because the proposals are not from the UK Government, but from industry. The Rosyth proposals gained some support from the Tories on employment grounds. Maureen Macmillan, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands expressed concern that submarine disposal would be used as the thin end of the wedge to get a nuclear waste repository in the Highlands. Mark Ruskell for the Greens stuck to his line that only those reactor compartments from the submarines already at Rosyth should be stored at Rosyth, and that there should be no cutting up of reactor compartments and no new nuclear submarines built. The SSP criticised the SNP for suggesting the waste should go to Devonport.
7.4 A report on the ISOLUS consultation will be available on the website in February 2004. The MoD will now produce a shortlist of proposals which will go forward for detailed development. These detailed proposals will be subject to further phase of consultation in 2005.
8.1 The membership of the new Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has been announced, but the chair, Katharine Bryan has already resigned to take up the post of Chief Executive of the Water Service in Northern Ireland). Mrs Bryan was appointed to CoRWM in July. Gordon MacKerron (see Magnox News) is the new chair. Delays in setting up the committee do not appear to have affected the date it is expected to report to the Government – around 2006. As a consequence concerns have been expressed that the Committee’s remit will be limited to simply looking at High and Intermediate-level waste. And may not be able to look at, for example, whether plutonium should be declared a waste or how to managed spent nuclear waste fuel.
8.2 The people appointed are :
Mary Allan – Lecturer, The North Highland College, Dornoch Campus,
Professor David Ball – Professor of Risk Management and co-Director of Centre for Decision Analysis & Risk Management, Middlesex University,
Fred Barker – consultant, specialising in nuclear policy analysis and stakeholder engagement.
Dr Keith Baverstock – chemist, Docent in Department of Environmental Sciences, Kuopio University, Finland, former Head of Radiation Protection Division, World Health Organisation
Professor Andrew Blowers OBE – Professor of Social Sciences at the Open University, former county councillor, Board Member of Nirex UK
Professor Brian D Clark – Professor of Environmental Management & Planning and Board Member, Scottish Environment Protection Agency,
Dr Wynne Davies – former Vice President, Group Health, Safety and Environment, Amersham plc and former Lecturer in Physics and Radiation Biology, University of London,
Dr Mark Dutton – physicist and radiological protection and radioactive waste management expert, independent consultant, formerly with NNC
Gordon MacKerron – economist and energy policy consultant, Associate Director, NERA,
Professor Lynda Warren – zoologist and Emeritus Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Wales, Board Member of the Environment Agency,
Jenny Watson – Deputy Chair, Equal Opportunities Commission and former Chair, Nirex Independent Transparency Review Panel.
Pete Wilkinson – Director of Wilkinson Environmental Consultancy, former Chair of Greenpeace UK, Director of Greenpeace International and co-founder of Friends of the Earth.
8.3 The next Low Level Radiation and Health conference will be held at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh on July 3rd and 4th, 2004. Speakers will include Dr Keith Baverstock (see 8.2) and Dr Eric Wright from Dundee University.
8.4 UK Energy Minister, Stephen Timms, postponed a trip to Japan scheduled for November during which he was expected to attempt to persuade the Japanese Government to end its ban on buying MOX fuel from BNFL. The trip is now expected to take place early in 2004.
8.5 The DTI has launched a consultation on modernising policy for decommissioning UK nuclear facilities. Responses are required by 27th February. The new proposals suggest that restoring sites for unrestricted use may not always represent the Best Practicable Environmental Option. Previous policy assumed that a nuclear waste repository would be available. The proposed policy allows for the possibility that some wastes may need to be stored for a period of time on the nuclear sites. The new policy also allows for greater consultation with local communities and other stakeholders.
8.6 The results of a Strategic Review of BNFL were announced on 11th December. Originally the rump of BNFL was to be partially privatised, but this is no longer considered an option. However, proposals for involving the private sector in individual parts of the BNFL business will be examined. Earlier suggestions that BNFL would be asked to sell its US Westinghouse subsidiary were dropped, but steps will be taken to enable the business to operate with greater financial independence from its parent, so that possibilities for private sector participation are opened up. Westinghouse is an international supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies, including nuclear fuel and also owns the AP1000 reactor design, which is being considered as the design for new nuclear reactors should they be built in the UK. The Government’s failure to force BNFL to dispose of its Westinghouse subsidiary, magnifies suspicions that plans for the new Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are simply an exercise in getting the bankrupt nuclear industry back on its feet again in time to make another attempt at building new nuclear stations in the UK after the next General Election. Westinghouse and BNFL’s role in promoting new reactor designs around the world, detracts from the public support which a new BNFL focussed purely on clean-up and decommissioning, might otherwise enjoy.
8.7 The US Energy Bill, which would give tax breaks to new nuclear reactors worth up to $7.5bn ,  failed to get through the Senate in 2003. It may be introduced again during 2004, but will most likely have to wait until after the Presedential elections. However, the nuclear industry is hopeful that reactor building in the US will resume soon. So, we could soon see a company, owned by the UK Government building new reactors in the United States.
 Nuclear energy would get $7.5 billion in tax subsidies; US taxpayers would fund nuclear relapse if energy bill passes. Nuclear Information and Resource Service Press Release 17th November 2003.