Shell chief's warning over nuclear waste

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The Independent Online

Britain will not have learnt the lesson of the Indian Ocean tsunami if the Government continues to drag its feet over nuclear waste storage policy, Shell's chairman has warned.

Britain will not have learnt the lesson of the Indian Ocean tsunami if the Government continues to drag its feet over nuclear waste storage policy, Shell's chairman has warned.

Lord Oxburgh, who is also the chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, compared Asian leaders' failure to set up a tsunami warning system to Government decision-making on nuclear waste storage.

The UK has more than 10,000 cubic metres of high-level waste and 250,000 tons of intermediate waste stored at sites around the country as no policy over long-term disposal exists.

"The risks associated with these wastes are hard to assess and do not appear to be immediate," Lord Oxburgh told the House of Lords last week.

"But they exist, and the Government must be mindful of the thinking that led Asian leaders to conclude that a tsunami warning system would not be worth while. The message is clear: as risk theory tells us, very serious events, even though they may be of low probability, we ignore at our peril."

He also criticised CoRWM, the committee set up by the Government which must recommend in 2006 how to store the UK's nuclear waste safely.

This follows a damning report from the Lords Select Committee last month, which attacked CoRWM for not being scientific enough and being too focused on irrelevant public consultation. This included, for example, asking members of the public about the option of blasting radioactive waste into space.

The Independent on Sunday revealed last month that one scientist among CoRWM's 13- members, Dr Keith Baverstock, had made an official complaint to the Government about the committee's activities. He was told to resign or he would be fired, but he refused.

A spokesman for CoRWM defended its work, saying the consultations were necessary.

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