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“Autumn Statement has done little to change the challenging public finance outlook for Wales” – Jane Hutt
Wales’ Finance Minister Jane Hutt has responded to the UK Government’s Autumn Statement – saying that it has done little to change the challenging public finance outlook for Wales.
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- “Autumn Statement has done little to change the challenging public finance outlook for Wales” – Jane Hutt
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In this section
Section highlightThe Housing (Wales) Bill
The Bill will introduce significant improvements across the housing sector to ensure that people have access to a decent, affordable home and better housing-related services.
Legislative programme 2013 - 2014 »
The First Minister detailed the 8 bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the 3rd year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightProject pipeline update - December 2013
This Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan annex highlights planned investments and potential procurement opportunities.
Final Budget 2014-15 »
The amount of funding allocated to Welsh Government Departments for 2014-15 is £14.9bn.Learn more »
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The Government’s response to the report by CoRWM on Managing Radioactive Waste Safely
This statement is in response to the report of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) which was published on 31 July. Similar statements are being made in the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments. I would like to thank the chair, Gordon MacKerron, and the members of the Committee for the outstanding effort which they have put into their work to arrive at their unanimous report.
CoRWM was asked to recommend the best option, or combination of options, for the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes, which provides protection for people and the environment. This, together with the decisions that I am announcing today, will complete the second stage of the Government’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme.
CoRWM’s report provides a sound basis for us moving forward with direction and consensus.
Government (the United Kingdom Government and the Devolved Administrations) accepts CoRWM’s recommendations that the UK’s higher activity waste should be managed in the long term through geological disposal, and the continuing need for safe and secure interim storage until geological disposal is available.
As CoRWM’s report observes, geological disposal is the approach being adopted in many other nuclear nations, including in Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. Nevertheless, securing geological disposal represents a major challenge and will require a commitment over many decades.
We accept CoRWM’s recommendations that the process for developing a geological disposal option should be undertaken on a staged basis, with clear decision points. This will allow Government to review progress, assess costs and value for money and environmental impact before decisions are taken to move to the next stage.
Planning and development of the geological disposal option must be based on four key pillars:
- first, a strong and effective implementing organisation, with clear responsibilities and accountabilities;
- second, strong independent regulation by the statutory regulators - the Health and Safety Executive, the environment agencies and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security;
- third, independent scrutiny and advice to Government on implementation; and
- fourth, a partnership with the host community.
The CoRWM report observes that safe and secure storage of radioactive wastes already falls within the remit of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority established under the Energy Act 2004. Its strategy recognises the need to take account of Government decisions on CoRWM which will be reflected in its “forward stores” programme.
We have decided that responsibility for securing geological disposal of waste should also fall to the NDA, so as to create one organisation able to take a view across all stages of the waste management cycle.
The NDA’s core mission is to deliver cost effective and environmentally responsible decommissioning and clean-up of the UK’s civil public nuclear legacy.
The NDA is already subject to statutory safety, environmental protection and security obligations under the Energy Act 2004, and its contractors are subject to regulation by the environment agencies, the HSE and Office for Civil Nuclear Security. Its Strategy and Annual Plans are subject to approval by Government.
A single organisation, overseen by Government, together with strong regulation, will deliver safe and secure long term management of the UK’s radioactive waste. It will provide clear responsibility and accountability, as well as allowing for effective and integrated delivery.
We will ensure in the future that the longer term radioactive waste management interests of Government are appropriately represented in the NDA’s strategy and governance arrangements to reflect its new responsibilities.
Nirex has played an important role in maintaining and developing the UK’s knowledge on geological disposal, including the provision of advice to industry on waste conditioning and packaging, since the demise of its own geological disposal development programme in 1997. For this it is to be thanked
In order to enable the NDA to begin to undertake its increased responsibilities as soon as possible, Government proposes to augment the NDA’s capabilities by incorporation of skills and technology from UK Nirex Ltd (Nirex). The Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as joint shareholders in Nirex, have expressed their gratitude to the. successive Chairs and the board for their hard work, and of course to the expert staff involved. Nonetheless, the Government believes that having two organisations on the same playing field with potentially overlapping responsibilities has the potential to confuse and blur accountability. Instead we are determined to harness the skill and commitment of the staff involved within the NDA.
Following the statement we shall be allowing Nirex a short period to comment on the proposed ownership transfer and how it could best be brought about.
The independent environment and nuclear safety regulators believe that this will this proposal will provide a framework that they can regulate in a strong and effective manner. They are content that the NDA will be responsible for implementing the geological disposal programme, as part of which a contractor with responsibility for delivery will be appointed as soon as practicable. Their support is of major importance, as strong independent regulation is key both to ensuring the safety of people and the environment and securing confidence and trust in the delivery arrangements.
The regulators are committed to a continuing and constructive engagement with the NDA. They will be taking a particular interest in NDA's plans to maintain and enhance Nirex's existing skill base and intellectual property.
Coming to the third key pillar of our approach, we remain committed to independent advice. Accordingly, a new independent Committee will be appointed to give advice on the plans for long term management of radioactive waste.
CoRWM has set the standards for open and transparent advice that not only takes into account the best available scientific and other expert input but also the views of the public and stakeholders. It has also built up support and brand-recognition.
The new Committee will therefore maintain the current name, but its membership will be reconstituted to reflect its role in the next stage of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme. The Committee will be sponsored by Defra, DTI and the Devolved Administrations.
The Committee’s primary function will be to advise on the delivery of a geological disposal programme. It will make its advice available to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, as has been done by CoRWM.
The circumstances surrounding the long term disposal of radioactive waste are unique. We have made it clear that, we are not seeking to impose radioactive waste on any community. In this context, we are strongly supportive of exploring the concept of voluntarism/partnership arrangements with the local authorities serving communities who might be affected. As CoRWM recognise, there is a need to consider further how such arrangements could work in practice.
Accordingly, we will be looking to further develop what is meant by a voluntarist/partnership approach including:
- the stages and decision points
- how communities would be involved
- the role of democratically elected bodies; an
- the potential for Involvement and Community Packages as suggested by CoRWM.
Disposal facilities will only be built in a geologically suitable area, and we will also consider how geological and scientific considerations will be meshed with other societal considerations as, for a successful programme, both criteria will need to be met.
To inform this consideration, we shall be discussing with key stakeholders how a voluntarism and partnership arrangement could work in practice. I invite any local authority, or group of local authorities, who wishes to be involved in these discussions to contact me or my officials directly.
It must be stressed that any future facility siting process will be a wholly new process, divorced from the historical Nirex process. Lessons have been learned from that. We are also determined that the new approach will be carried out from the beginning in an open and transparent way with appropriate opportunity for public and stakeholder, as well as expert community, involvement.
In light of this further work, Government will produce an implementation framework and publish it for consultation as soon as possible next year.
This announcement, and the more detailed response which I am publishing today - copies of which have been placed in the Members Library - completes Stage 2 of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme. We are now entering Stage 3 - planning for implementation
We aim to be able to move to Stage 4 in 2008 - the final implementation stage - confident that the sharing of information and viewpoints and the transparency of the CoRWM process has been maintained.
The CoRWM report says that “for over three decades, efforts to find solutions to the problem of long-term radioactive waste management in the UK have failed”. UK Government’s of all parties have struggled to develop a long term approach to this issue founded on science and driven by openness and transparency. The approach now proposed by the UK Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Executive combines scientific rigour and accountability and is to be commended.