Application to vary the Radioactive Substances Approval EPR/LB3730DK at Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) Devonport, Plymouth, PL2 2BG.

Closed 27 Jul 2021

Opened 29 Jun 2021

Results updated 8 Mar 2022

Application to vary the Radioactive Substances Approval EPR/LB3730DK at Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) Devonport, Plymouth, PL2 2BG.

We asked

We consulted on the application to vary the radioactive substances environmental approval for HM Naval Base Devonport 27 July 2021 to 29 June 2021.  It provided the opportunity for the public, professional bodies and other stakeholders to provide comments on the application.

You said

We received 774 responses to the consultation from various stakeholders. The responses included various comments and questions which have been summarised in the decision document (found below under ‘Files’).

We did

We assessed the application and the consultation responses were considered as part of determining the application. We issued the approval variation on 8 March 2022. The key changes to the approval are:

  • Inclusion of a direct disposal route for aqueous waste to the River Tamar/Hamoaze with annual limits in Table S3.2
  • Inclusion of a pre-operational measure in Table S1.3B to prevent use of the new disposal route until work on re-sealing and testing the sump pits is complete
  • Inclusion of monitoring techniques for disposal of aqueous waste to river in Table S3.6
  • Updated the Compilation of Environment Agency Requirements, Approvals and Specifications (CEAR) which specifies some agreed arrangements under the approval

Contact details:

02084 747 914



The Environment Agency is the independent environmental regulator for the nuclear industry in England. We make sure that nuclear companies and the sites they operate meet high standards of environmental protection.

Operators of nuclear sites in England must have a permit for radioactive substances activities from the Environment Agency under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 (EPR16). The environmental permits we issue to nuclear site operators contain strict conditions (rules) that they must follow at all times.

HMNB Devonport is operated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The site has facilities for receiving and disposing of radioactive wastes from submarine operations and maintenance.

The MoD are not legally bound by the radioactive substances part of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 (EPR16), but agree to apply 'the spirit' of the legislation through an Environment Agency issued 'Approval' to dispose of radioactive wastes. This approval sets limits and conditions on radioactive discharges to the Environment and transfers of solid radioactive waste to other permitted operators.

We set specific limits in the Approval on what they are allowed to release when carrying out certain activities, including:

  • managing or disposing of radioactive waste
  • making discharges to air and water

HMNB Devonport wants to change how low level contaminated rainwater is disposed of. At present it passes through the effluent treatment plant operated by the neighbouring nuclear site, Devonport Royal Dockyard Ltd. HMNB Devonport now wants to release the rainwater directly into the River Tamar/Hamoaze. This will result in a very minor increase in dose to the public – equal to less than five minutes of the average annual background radiation dose in the UK.

Why your views matter

We will take consultation responses into consideration as part of our determination of the application for HMNB's Devonport's approval variation.  If we decide to grant the application we will explain how we made our decision via a decision document, which includes how we have addressed the comments that were raised.

We will only vary the approval if we believe that harm to the environment, people and wildlife will be minimised. If the applicant can demonstrate that the varied approval will meet all of the legal requirements, including those for the use of BAT, public radiation dose and wildlife radiation dose, then we are legally obliged to grant the application.

Advice about what aspects and issues we can and cannot take account of is provided below.

We can take account of:

  • relevant environmental regulatory requirements and technical standards
  • information on local population habits and practices and sensitive sites
  • comments on whether the right process is being used for the activity
  • the potential impact, whether the impact is acceptable and what pollution control measures or abatement may be required
  • information that we have not been made aware of in the application.

We cannot take account of:

  • issues beyond those in the relevant environmental regulations
  • anything outside the scope of the Environmental Permitting Regulations
  • whether a site should have a formal designation under Habitats Directive or other conservation legislation
  • whether the activity should be allowed or not as a matter of principle and the Justification of practices involving radiation - for example, we will not consider the justification for the UK nuclear submarine programme
  • land use issues, or sustainability challenges
  • the impact of traffic travelling to and from the site
  • comments about the Government’s defence policy
  • Comments about the transport of radioactive waste

What happens next

We expect to publish the document containing all your responses in xxxxx, approximately xxx months from the close of consultation.

We will carefully consider all the responses to the consultation and we will then make our decision on whether or not to vary the approval.

We will summarise the responses to our consultation and issues raised in our decision document which we will publish in xxxx



  • Businesses
  • Statutory organisations
  • NGOs
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils
  • The nuclear industry
  • Environment Agency customers


  • Water resources
  • Water quality
  • Nuclear