Nuclear waste committee's scientists collide over policy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The crisis over plans to solve Britain's nuclear waste problem has deepened, with the committee responsible for recommending government policy facing a revolt this week.

The crisis over plans to solve Britain's nuclear waste problem has deepened, with the committee responsible for recommending government policy facing a revolt this week.

A rebel board member who wrote to the Government complaining about how the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) is being run has been told by its chairman, Gordon MacKerron, to resign or be expelled.

The committee, which must recommend to the Government in 18 months how to safely store hundreds of thousands of tons of nuclear waste, holds its monthly meeting on Wednesday. Dr Keith Baverstock, who made the complaint, is expected to resist pressure to resign.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which oversees CoRWM, confirmed it was investigating the allegations made by Dr Baverstock.

A former head of the radiation protection division at the World Health Organisation, he has support from several of the committee's 12 other members. It is understood that Dr Baverstock has warned colleagues that CoRWM could miss its deadline to make its recommendations to the Government.

He is concerned that it is spending too long consulting with the public on possible solutions, rather than presenting the public with scientifically viable proposals. One possibility put forward for consultation was to blast waste into outer space. CoRWM has been holding public consultation roadshows around the country this year. Some members have raised concerns that the public has not been given enough time to consider proposals before the roadshow meetings.

It is the latest blow for CoRWM. The Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords published a scathing report on its work on Friday, echoing some of Dr Baverstock's concerns. The report was rejected by Elliot Morley, the Environment minister.

Dr Baverstock said: "The issue of radioactive waste management is extremely important in the UK and is an urgent one. It is to be expected that there will be differences of opinion on the committee on how to resolve the issue. But it is my hope that the differences can be resolved."

Dr MacKerron, who denied the board was split, said he was not considering his own position in the light of the Lords report and Dr Baverstock's complaints. He said CoRWM only proposed options to the public which were realistic.

Comments