1. Environmental protection legislation in the UK for radioactive material & radioactive waste
Published: Feb 19, 2022
Source: Ionactive Public Resources
UK environmental protection legislation for radioactive substances and radioactive waste is somewhat more complicated when compared to UK radiation protection legislation i.e. Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17). IRR17 covers England, Wales and Scotland whereas the Ionising Radiation Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017 (IRRNI17) regulations cover Northern Ireland. From a compliance perspective there is little difference, except for the graded approach scheme of notify, register and consent which is driven by Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) rather than HSE. This legislation will not be considered further in this resource, but please find links to each.
For England, Scotland and Wales - Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17)
For Northern Ireland - Ionising Radiation Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017 (IRRNI17)
Note that the above legislation is based on protecting employees and other persons from the potentially harmful effects of ionising radiation. The guidance resource which follows is about the protection of the environment from potentially harmful effects of radioactive materials (and waste), and so covers exposures to members of the public.
England and Wales
For England and Wales the current relevant legislation is the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 (EPR2016). At the time of writing these are known as the principal Regulations. They have been amended twice in 2018, once to account for matters mainly not radioactive related, and also due to Brexit, via the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018. However, for the purposes of this guidance the EPR2016 legislation is the principle legislation to be consulted. As will be noted throughout, this guidance will take a more practical approach to explaining compliance as EPR2016 is not an easy read! Schedule 23 of EPR 2016 is specifically dedicated to radioactive substances and waste.
If you wish to consult the regulations directly then follow the link: Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016
Until quite recently Scotland was still following the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA93). However, the relevant legislation at the time of writing is the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EA(S)R). This guidance will try and take a simplified look at the subject matter, as a cursory look at the legislation can be somewhat confusing. For example, in England and Wales the term 'permit' is used to describe certain permissions (which will feature later). In Scotland 'authorisations' are used to describe four types of permissions, namely general binding rules, notification, registration and permit. As Ionactive is based in England we will concentrate this summary on 'Permits' as defined in EPR2016. However, since this resource intends to be practical, you will soon note that the aims and objects are more or less identical throughout the UK (with one or two exceptions which will be highlighted later).
If you wish to consult the regulations directly then follow the link: Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EA(S)R)
Northern Ireland radioactive substances and waste compliance is based on the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA93). More specifically, compliance is based on the the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 - this ensured alignment with the EU Basic Safety Standards Directive. Both links are provided below, but the essential compliance issues are still maintained by the principal act.
Whereas the EPR2016 regime (England and Wales) makes provision for out of scope and exemption (under specific circumstances), and in Scotland many uses under the EA(S)R are subject only to General Binding Rules (GBR), for Northern Ireland there is a separate provision, namely the The Radioactive Substances Exemption (Northern Ireland) Order 2011. As already noted this guidance is practical in nature and with a few exceptions (e.g. electro-deposited Ni-63 sources in Scotland < 600MBq each are not exempt or covered under GBR), exemption from full regulatory compliance is broadly similar throughout the UK.
If you wish to consult the regulations directly then follow the link: Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA93)
For specific amendments to the act, follow this link: Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011
For exemptions from full regulatory control, follow this link: The Radioactive Substances Exemption (Northern Ireland) Order 2011
Do not get too hung up on the exemption regulations for Northern Ireland. Yes, if you are based in Northern Ireland you will need to formally consult with a qualified expert (Radioactive Waste Adviser). However, exemption (and out of scope) are based on international recognised standards (IAEA), and regardless of Brexit, through EU Directives. The wording in the legislation throughout the UK may differ, but in the main the "numbers" (which really matter) are the same in most cases