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VRR Programme Set To Commence in 2009/10
28 September 2009
For over 30 years, overseas used nuclear fuel has been reprocessed in the UK, under contract at Sellafield, to separate and recover the reusable
nuclear materials from the waste.
Since 1976 all UK reprocessing contracts have contained an option for this radioactive waste to be returned to its country of origin. In 1986 HM Government took the decision that this option should be exercised.
The contracts to return the high level waste to Japanese and European customers now sit with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The programme of work to transport canisters of vitrified (solid glass) waste to customers is known in the UK as the Vitrified Residue Returns (VRR) programme.
The NDA has received advice from Sellafield Ltd and the NDA's commercial and transport subsidiary, International Nuclear Services that the infrastructure is in place and plans are sufficiently advanced to support the commencement of the VRR programme in the current financial year (2009/10), subject to necessary authorisations and detailed timings to be agreed with Regulators, Customers and Government departments in the UK and overseas.
Overall the UK phase of the programme will return approximately 1,850 containers of vitrified waste to overseas customers and will include a number of containers being returned in accordance with the Government policy on waste substitution. The VRR programme, which will substantially reduce the amount of highly active waste currently stored in the UK at Sellafield, is planned to take around 10 years and will be a continuation of the established transport programme from France.
The canisters are transported inside specially shielded transport flasks and on vessels designed and approved to meet all relevant national and international regulations relating to the transport of nuclear materials.
The return of the waste contributes to the reduction in the stock of high level waste in the UK and is a contractual obligation which must be completed in accordance with all regulatory requirements. The relevant UK regulators will continue to be involved throughout and further communication on the progress of the programme will be made in due course.