Planning Act regime being extended to nuclear waste.

Cumbria Trust advisor Prof. David Smythe has drawn our attention to planning legal expert Angus Walker’s blog, where on the 26th January he posted the following:

N.B.  Interestingly, the post specifically mentions CUMBRIA

 

“Today’s entry reports on the extension of the Planning Act 2008 to cover nuclear waste disposal.

Earlier this month, the Infrastructure Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015 was laid before Parliament. This will extend the Planning Act 2008 regime to a 17th type of nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP). Although the existing 16 thresholds have had some changes, this is the first new type of infrastructure project to be added to the regime.  In particular, the waste water treatment category was extended to include transfer and storage to encompass the Thames Tideway Tunnel rather than adding it as a new category.

This means extending the list of NSIPs in section 14 of the Act from (a) to (p) to (a) to (q), and adding a new section 30A that gives the threshold for the new NSIP. The threshold is that it is either a borehole preparing for a radioactive waste facility or the facility itself.

The facility has to be for the final disposal of radioactive waste, at least 200m below the ground or sea bed and such that the engineering and natural environment will inhibit radionuclides from reaching the surface. So all those disposal facilities over 200m below ground where the radionuclides will reach the surface won’t count as NSIPs. Seriously, though, the last criterion is an interesting part of the definition that will presumably require the Planning Inspectorate to be satisfied that it is true before deciding whether to accept the application for examination, as otherwise it won’t be an NSIP.

For a borehole to count as an NSIP it has to be at least 150m deep and be to test for the suitability of a site as a radioactive waste facility. It could be a single borehole or more than one at the same time.

Statutory instruments that change or add to the thresholds in the Planning Act are subject to the ‘affirmative procedure’ of approval, whereby they must be positively approved by each House of Parliament before coming into force, rather than coming into force unless one of the Houses of Parliament objects. Neither House has yet approved the draft instrument, but this should happen in the next couple of weeks.

Of course this isn’t a random extension to the regime, the government has in mind the creation of one such facility, likely to be in Cumbria. It tried before but in January 2013 the project was vetoed by Cumbria County Council. It’s trying again and for obvious reasons has removed the ability for a county council to veto the process, and the process is also much more measured and supported with technical information.

Even if there is only one site that gets to the stage of a borehole, there should be at least two NSIPs – one for the borehole (and possibly more) and then one for the facility itself. Having said that, this is unlikely to be one of the frequent users of the Planning Act regime.”

26 Jan 2015

Angus Walker

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