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UK ABWR environmental performance and waste management

Nuclear energy plays a vital role in the struggle to reduce global carbon emissions, and the whole lifecycle of a UK ABWR (from construction to decommissioning) produces very small quantities of carbon dioxide (C02) for every Kilowatt hour of energy produced.

The UK ABWR will be rigorously assessed by the ONR, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales throughout its lifetime (GDA, construction, operation and decommissioning), to ensure that it complies with UK expectations both in terms of managing the use of natural resources (such as using cooling water) and minimising its overall impact on the surrounding environment.

The UK ABWR design has evolved over many years to minimise the amount of material that is ultimately treated as waste, and has incorporated cutting edge technologies to avoid harmful impacts on the surrounding environment. The principle of demonstrating that the UK ABWR employs the “Best Available Technology” is at the heart of the GDA and the Hitachi-GE strategy for managing radioactive wastes will be written as part of this for the regulators to assess.

All current nuclear reactors produce some form of radioactive waste. This waste can be hazardous if it is not correctly managed, however with the right technical systems and processes it can be managed safely. The UK has close to 60 years of experience of managing waste safely, and has significant expertise. UK Government has a clear policy on management of waste from new nuclear power stations, with a period of safe on-site storage followed by transfer of waste to a centralised UK Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

Like all nuclear technologies, the UK ABWR will produce used (or ‘spent’) fuel, but this will be safely managed in line with UK standards. As a modern design the UK ABWR produces far less spent fuel than previous designs of nuclear reactor. We are required to submit detailed information on our approach to spent fuel management as part of the GDA and our proposals will be assessed by the ONR, the Environment Agency and the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the NDA. In the same way, our detailed plans for interim management of spent fuel on site will be assessed within site specific permissions.