DECC consultation on revised exemption regime for radioactive materials and waste

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24 November 2009

A DECC consultation into a proposed revised exemption regime under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 closed in September. The Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA) places radioactive substances into two distinct categories, radioactive material and radioactive waste. Any person keeping or using radioactive material or accumulating and disposing of radioactive waste must hold a permit. The Act also contains a series of 18 Exemption Orders (EOs) that define which low risk activities are exempted from permitting, such as domestic smoke detectors.

The revised regime proposes to remove waste and materials from the scope of the RSA and replace the current suite of EOs with one that provides conditional exemptions only. DECC intend to incorporate the revised regime directly into the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 which are due to come into force in 2010.

Responses to the consultation have raised concerns over the danger of new regulatory burdens being placed on industries dealing with naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM). Under the revised regime the disposal of NORM may become more difficult and more may have to go to Low Level Waste Repository or specialist waste disposal with resultant cost implications. The Environment Agency have suggested that industries processing NORM, and in particular the steel industry and coal fired power stations, should not require specific permits and should be granted conditional exemptions if they are caught by the regime. The Agency also noted the current lack of transitional provisions, which may impact on operators that were previously exempt but may now require a permit. A government response to the consultation is currently awaited.

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