Drigg receives revised environmental permit

03 November 2015

A revised environmental permit has been issued to LLW Repository Limited allowing the continued disposal of low-level radioactive wastes at the UK's national repository for such wastes at Drigg in Cumbria.

Drigg - 460 (LLW Repository Ltd)
The UK's national low-level waste repository at Drigg (Image: LLW Repository Ltd)

The repository has been operating as a national low-level waste repository (LLWR)  since 1959. It receives wastes from a range of producers, including nuclear power plants, defence establishments, general industry, hospitals and universities. Between 1959 and 1995, some 800,000 cubic metres of waste were disposed of in seven trenches, which have since been covered with an interim cap.

The disposal of waste in metal containers placed in an engineered concrete vault (Vault 8) began in 1988. Vault 8 has a total capacity of 200,000 cubic metres of waste and is almost full. A further Vault 9, with a capacity of 110,000 cubic metres, was officially opened in August 2010 but is currently only used for temporarily storing waste.

The UK's Environment Agency issued the last major revision to the operator's permit to dispose of radioactive waste at the Drigg site in 2006. This permit allowed LLW Repository Ltd to dispose of waste in only one part of the facility, Vault 8. The permit also required LLW Repository Ltd to submit an updated environmental safety case (ESC) to the Environment Agency in May 2011 that assessed the safety of current and future disposals beyond Vault 8. Between May 2011 and May 2015 the agency completed and published a detailed review of the ESC.

In October 2013 LLW Repository Ltd applied to the Environment Agency - supported by the ESC submitted in May 2011 - to vary its permit to allow continued disposal beyond Vault 8, into the more recently constructed Vault 9 and further vaults.

The Environment Agency reviewed and consulted on the application before reaching a draft decision, which was then consulted on, along with a draft permit, between May and July this year.

On 29 October, the Environment Agency announced that it had published its final decision and issued a varied permit to LLW Repository Ltd allowing the disposal of further radioactive waste at the LLWR, in accordance with limits and conditions of the permit.

In a statement, LLW Repository - which operates the facility on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) - said: "The news is the culmination of seven years' hard work within the organization." It added, "Obtaining a permit for disposal is a major milestone for LLWR and was a key objective of the NDA when awarding the new contract for managing LLWR in 2008."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News