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Stage set for Integrated Waste Management Conference


A continuing challenge to the nuclear industry is to ‘sort out’ its waste. The industry has implemented various measures to meet this challenge, but it would be misleading to claim that every
nation and organisation has truly done all that it can to address this very challenging problem.

The Nuclear Institute (NI) is playing its small part in addressing this issue by introducing what is hoped will become an annual fixture that has a significant impact on tackling the issue of radioactive waste and embracing a fully integrated waste management approach. Although much more concerted effort has been applied worldwide in recent years, this problem has yet to be fully resolved.

The 2018 Integrated Waste Management Conference provides a European hub for waste management discussions that will complement other conference discussions, particularly in the US, such as the well-established Phoenix Waste Management Conference.

It is acknowledged that conferences provide a platform for practitioners, academics and experts to come together and apply an aggregated capability to a problem and share challenges and solutions. The solution to this particular problem requires a more integrated approach across the radioactive waste spectrum.

The UK, via the strategic guidance of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the drive and delivery of its site licence companies, has begun to make major in-roads into this challenge. Both Sellafield and LLW Repository (LLWR)are sponsoring this conference because of the importance of integrated waste management to their individual businesses and the industry as a whole.

LLWR has already demonstrated what can be achieved when an integrated approach to low level waste is adopted and how incorporating the supply chain in the delivery mechanism can provide efficiencies and value for money.

An integrated waste management approach would challenge the current baseline and seek alternatives. It could also challenge the method we choose when determining waste management routes, considering a lifecycle risk-informed approach in preference to current practices.

Dennis Thompson, managing director at LLWR, says: “My vision is to build on the success of LLWR’s annual Customer Forum and use it as a stepping stone to an international forum and as a platform for further positive change.”

“The success we have encountered during the past 10 years relies on having a robust waste treatment and diversion infrastructure in place, but more importantly, required a change in attitude, behaviours and practices, not only within my own organisation but across all UK nuclear waste consignors."

Thompson adds: "Historic practices saw almost 1000 waste containers a year arriving at the LLWR site for disposal. Implementing the waste management hierarchy, securing routes to services and embedding the right behaviours has resulted in nearly a 90% reduction in the volumes of waste requiring disposal at the LLW Repository. It has also created the opportunity to explore optimisation and standardisation utilising international guiding principles.”

Thompson went on to say: “Whilst low level waste management may appear to be ‘in the bag’ it is only one component of the bigger waste management issue. The NDA’s 2016 strategy advocates an integrated approach to radioactive waste management in support of their decommissioning and clean-up programmes. We already see waste producers thinking in this way, however, we cannot rest on our laurels.

New techniques, technologies, standards, learning are always emerging, and there’s always a tricky problem to be solved—it’s the nature of the business. We are at the beginning of a journey and like many of our colleagues within the industry, have a valuable contribution to make.”

“My hope is that the 2018 Integrated Waste Management Conference gains recognition as a collaborative platform that grows in stature, attracts the right people who can contribute to the discussions, become involved in developing solutions and progress the dialogue.”

Rebecca Weston, strategy and technical director at Sellafield, described the event as an opportunity to truly start thinking about the full scope of the integrated waste management challenge.

"The magnitude of the challenge can be seen by considering the range and volume of wastes at Sellafield that all need safe treatment and storage and ultimately disposal,” Weston explains.

“We’ve already come a long way. A decade ago removing bulk sludge from our legacy ponds or cutting holes to remove waste from one of our silos seemed light years away. Over the last 10 years we have removed more than 100 buildings from the Sellafield skyline, including the hurricane buildings, which were built to process plutonium for the first atomic test in 1952, the filter gallery from the top of the Windscale Pile Chimney and a uranium purification plant.”

“In order to achieve our ambition to transform Sellafield, so that it is recognised as a world leader in solving complex nuclear problems, we need to be bold and ambitious, and think differently. The complexity and diversity of waste management at Sellafield means that working with the UK and worldwide industry is critical to delivering effective integrated waste management. We will continue to seek solutions from across the wider industry and embed fit-for-purpose approaches. This conference is one step on that journey.”

John Clarke, president of the NI, will support Thompson and Weston as the chairs of the conference.

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