Nuclear waste storage facility must take action after a breach

Image source, Geography/Thomas Nugent

Image caption, The Environment Agency said action must be taken after conditions were breached for the environmental permit for the LLWR site at Drigg in west Cumbria

  • Author, Federica Bedendo
  • Role, BBC News North East and Cumbria

A nuclear waste storage facility has been ordered to take action after breaching its environmental permit.

The Environment Agency (EA) has written to bosses at the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) in Cumbria with concerns over a delay in securing waste at the site.

Nuclear Waste Services (NWS), which manages LLWR, said the delays had no impact on the environment and that they had taken the time to ensure the right solutions were created for the safe disposal of nuclear waste.

The EA said it could not comment on the matter due to impartiality rules during election periods.

The letter, written by the EA in January and obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request, sets out new conditions that LLWR must meet.

It comes after LLWR failed to make sufficient progress on operations to secure the radioactive waste (known as capping), meaning it has breached the terms of its environmental permit.

Missed deadline

Martin Walkingshaw, Chief Operating Officer at NWS, said: “The installation of the technical cover over the existing radioactive waste storage facilities at the UK LLWR is a first activity of its kind for Britain.”

He said nuclear waste services were in regular contact with the Environment Agency about progress.

He added: “Capping is an important part of the removal, and we are currently implementing the required design by procuring, importing and installing thousands of tonnes of capping material, in accordance with our planning conditions and strict quality requirements.”

In their letter, the Environment Agency also told LLWR that it had failed to meet a deadline for a previously imposed improvement condition, in relation to a request for a written plan to protect waste in certain areas, including limiting any of these areas.

While the plan was delivered, there were delays in its implementation.

An initial completion date of 2028 was agreed with the EA, but discussions are now underway to extend the deadline as LLWR believes more time is needed.

NWS has attributed delays to problems with the design of the specially designed cap.

“During the design phase, a number of assumptions were tested, as is common practice. Not all of these assumptions held true, and one in particular caused a significant change in the design.”

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