Future Management of Scottish Radioactive Wastes

22 July 2014

Copeland MP Jamie Reed has written to Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond regarding the future management of Scottish radioactive waste at Sellafield, in Copeland.

Jamie Reed said:

“These are important and complex issues. In the event of Scottish independence, there will have to be a new arrangement for Scottish radioactive wastes currently scheduled to be stored at Sellafield. This is clearly of huge importance to my constituents and the whole of the United Kingdom and we now need to discuss the details of potential divorce in a considered, constructive and amicable way.

“In the event of separation, a strategy for dealing with Scottish radioactive wastes is inevitable. This includes the identification of a physical location for storage and disposal, creation of the necessary support infrastructure, workforce training, regulatory framework and more.

“Existing policy prevents higher activity wastes from Scotland coming to England. In the event of separation, under international law, all radioactive materials, including the plutonium stocks held at Dounreay would be prevented from coming to England. Separation clearly raises considerable issues, too, regarding the spent fuel from the Hunterston and Torness reactors. This is currently destined for long-term storage at Sellafield, prior to being disposed of in a geological disposal facility (wherever this might be sited).

“These are complex issues of public policy, but they are critically important. In the event of Scotland becoming an independent nation, radioactive waste policy will become a pressing issue.”


Below is the text of the letter from Jamie Reed MP to Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP:

Dear First Minister,
It is clearly the sovereign right of the Scottish people to decide their own future; whether to become an independent nation or to remain as part of the United Kingdom.
As an Englishman of Scots descent, I wish the Scottish people well, whatever their decision on September 18th.
Obviously, should Scotland become an independent nation, the details of the divorce from the remaining United Kingdom will be exceptionally important.
For me and my constituents, one of the most important details of any such separation concerns the future arrangements for radioactive wastes from Scotland currently stored, and in some cases disposed of, in my constituency of Copeland in West Cumbria.
UK policy, in tandem with existing international legal requirements, prohibits the net import of radioactive materials into the United Kingdom through a policy of ‘substitution’. This means that whilst foreign owned radioactive materials can be brought to the United Kingdom on a strategic and commercial basis, materials with a net equivalent level of radioactivity are returned to those countries with whom we have contractual obligations. This means that whilst there may be a net increase in the volume of radioactive material in the UK as a result of these arrangements, there is never an increase in the net level of radioactivity being dealt with by the UK.
Existing international conventions state that those countries which produce radioactive wastes are responsible for the storage, management and disposal of those wastes. Should Scotland become a separate country from the United Kingdom, a strategy for Scottish radioactive wastes arising in Scotland would clearly be required (such radioactive wastes would include materials from medical treatments and research, materials from the Scottish civil nuclear industry and, potentially, retained NORM wastes from the oil and gas industry). I know that these considerations will have occurred to you before now.
In the event of separation, a strategy for dealing with Scottish radioactive wastes is inevitable. This includes the identification of a physical location for storage and disposal, creation of the necessary support infrastructure, workforce training, regulatory framework and more.
Existing policy prevents higher activity wastes from Scotland coming to England. In the event of separation, under international law, all radioactive materials, including the plutonium stocks held at Dounreay would be prevented from coming to England. Separation clearly raises considerable issues, too, regarding the spent fuel from the Hunterston and Torness reactors. This is currently destined for long term storage at Sellafield, prior to being disposed of in a geological disposal facility (wherever this might be sited).
These are complex issues of public policy, but they are critically important. In the event of Scotland becoming an independent nation, radioactive waste policy will become a pressing issue.
You will appreciate that these issues matter to my constituents, perhaps more than any other community in the United Kingdom. In the event of Scottish independence, I look forward to being able to deal with these issues in a considered and constructive fashion.
With sincere best wishes,
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