Nuclear waste should be 'entombed', say experts

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The Independent Online

Britain's stockpile of 470,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste - enough to fill the Albert Hall five times - should be "entombed" in deep underground silos, a committee advised the Government yesterday.

But the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management warned Tony Blair that it its report should not be regarded as a "green light" to build a new generation of 10 nuclear power plants.

Experts estimated it would cost at least £10bn to build the silos up to a kilometre deep underground.

The committee said that the waste dumps should not be imposed on communities. But it admitted that fears of nuclear catastrophes from accidents or terrorism could make it impossible to find areas willing to take the stockpiles.

It urged the Government to immediately embark on sorting out parts of Britain that would be unsuitable for underground nuclear silos either because of the geology or nearby towns.

Ministers should adopt a system used in Finland and Sweden to encourage communities to volunteer to take the waste, the committee said. Under the scheme, communities would be offered cash to improve their facilities, but Professor Gordon MacKerron, the group chairman, denied it would amount to "buying them".

Some committee members have privately said giving communities the veto over storage silos would create tensions over the Government's plans to streamline planning regulations.

The committee refused to name potential sites but existing plants, led by Sellafield, where 92 per cent of Britain's highly radioactive waste is stored, are likely to top the Government's list.

Greenpeace warned last night there was "no solution to nuclear waste". It said that the UK should not create more nuclear waste by building a new generation of nuclear power stations.

David Ball, of Middlesex University, who resigned from the committee, said its findings were based on opinions rather than science. "The CoRWM experience has been the antithesis of good decision making, having been infused throughout with political, commercial and self interests," he said.