Nuclear waste dumps seek homes

The long-term solution to dealing with Britain's nuclear waste is underground burial, a group of Government advisors said on Thursday.

Finding burial site locations and potential “host communities” prepared to accept nuclear waste to be buried near their homes would be the next step, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) said in its draft recommendations to the Government.

The committee was appointed in 2003 to review options for dealing with Britain’s 470,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste in urgent need of a long-term disposal plan. The advisors’ solution envisages waste to be buried several hundreds of metres underground. Around a third of UK land could be suitable for this purpose, the committee estimated.

CoRWM said its recommendations fill a “vacuum in UK policy on long-term management of long-lived and more highly active radioactive wastes” that has persisted since 1997, and called on the Government to act urgently.

Committee chairman Gordon MacKerron said: “For 50 years the UK has been creating radioactive waste, without any clear idea of what to do with it. Whether we like it or not waste exists and we have to deal with it.”

He said burial was “the option that should perform best in terms of security, protecting the public and the environment.” It is also “the most fair as it means taking action now over the waste we have created and not leaving it to future generations to deal with,” he said.

But environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth lashed out at CoRWM’s recommendations, saying that buried nuclear waste would inevitably leak radioactivity into the surrounding soil.

Greenpeace campaigner Jean McSorely said the proposed burial sites would create an “environmental time bomb.” Nuclear waste would be least dangerous if it stayed on the reactor sites in accessible storage, she said.

Friends of the Earth also called for existing nuclear waste to be stored in a way that would avoid the threat of terrorist attacks, an issue that CoRWM highlighted in its report.

More information and details of the draft recommendations can be found at the CoRWM website.

Goska Romanowicz

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