(June 21, 2007) The UK Government and the Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations launched a new consultation on 'Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A framework for implementing geological disposal'. However the Scottish Executive has refused to take part, arguing that it rejects building a deep underground waste repository.
NENIG - The UK Government says the consultation is based on the recommendations of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) for a deep repository - however critics say the Government is ignoring CoRWM's reservations about a repository, its call for much greater research, for consideration of interim storage and its statements that it was only considering the management of existing wastes, not wastes from any new reactors.
The consultation also looks at the concept of 'voluntarism' - where communities express an interest in housing a possible repository rather than having on forced upon them - and the technical aspects of developing an underground repository. The details of a possible repository given in the consultation documents are very similar to those produced by Nirex in the 1990s for Sellafield.
Scottish Executive says no
The Scottish Executive has refused to take part in the consultation - rejecting any idea of a deep underground repository in Scotland. Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said he recognized the challenge of dealing with radioactive waste but they did not accept "that geological disposal is the right way forward. This is a matter of principle for us and I have no doubt that public opinion in Scotland supports our view." He said they supported CoRWM's recommendations for interim storage and further research on long-term waste management. "This out of sight out of mind policy should not extend to Scotland." Mr Lochhead said the executive would work with the UK government and other devolved administrations on waste management issues where they had shared objectives. The LibDem environment spokesman, Mike Rumbles, commented that the executive now had "a duty to tell the people of Scotland what proposals they have for dealing with Scotland's share of the nuclear waste burden."
Cumbria says 'no' to Scottish wastes
Following the Scottish Executive's withdrawal from the consultation Cumbria County Councillors have said they will oppose taking Scottish radioactive wastes to Sellafield. The Hunterston and Torness reactors send spent fuel to Sellafield for reprocessing and while Dounreay manages its own wastes, there are proposals to send spent fuel from the site to Sellafield. Timothy Heslop, executive member on the county council for nuclear issues, said the Scottish Executive had taken its stand and "let them accept that their waste is not coming across the border."
Although it has agreed to take part in the consultation the Welsh administration in Cardiff made it clear they have not agreed in any way to a repository being build in Wales.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority welcomed the Government's consultation and noted the response from the Scottish Government. The NDA said it would have to "carefully consider" this news.
No choices yetEnvironment minister Ian Pearson this week denied that Sellafield had already been chosen by the Government as the site for a deep underground waste repository. Mr Pearson said they had not started the site selection process and still needed to decide how site selection will be made.
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities gave a cautious welcome to the consultation. NFLA chair Mike Rumney said the Government's plan for new reactors was driving the timetable for radioactive waste management and this could lead to a loss of public confidence. The inspector on the 1995 planning inquiry into Nirex plans for a deep repository at Sellafield has said the site is unsuitable for such a development. Mr Chris McDonald said the site selection process at the time was flawed, not taking safety as the most important factor and the irrational desire to build a repository as close as possible to Sellafield. The site is not suitable for a repository "and investigations should be moved elsewhere".
Full details of the consultation, that ends on 2nd November 2007, are available at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/radioactivity/waste/hilw/index.htm
No decision yet on nuclear power, but go-ahead to 4 nuclear reactor designs.
The U.K. government Thursday gave the preliminary go-ahead to the design of four nuclear reactors, even though it has yet to decide whether to formally support nuclear power. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Areva, GE Energy, and Westinghouse Electric Co. have all submitted individual designs for the four reactors. Before the generic designs of the nuclear power plants are completely approved or pre- licensed, the government's new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, established by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown, must consider the designs more carefully.
The initial stages of pre-licensing are taking place at the same time and are subject to the outcome of a nuclear consultation, which is expected to close in October. The U.K. government previously gave its support for nuclear power after a public consultation, and claimed new nuclear reactors were needed in order to meet the U.K.'s climate change objectives, while at the same time securing reliable energy supplies. But the government had to launch a further consultation after environmental group Greenpeace won a legal challenge in February which found that the government's initial consultation was "legally flawed".
Dow Jones, 5 July 2007