Three years on, experts fail to agree on nuclear waste

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The Independent Online

The organisation looking into ways of disposing of the UK's nuclear waste may not be able to make a unanimous decision when it reports next month, its chairman has admitted.

The Committee on Radio-active Waste Management (CoRWM) has spent the past three years examining the different options for storing an estimated 470,000 cubic metres of current and future nuclear waste at more than 30 temporary sites around the country.

CoRWM has whittled down an original list of 14 options to a shortlist of four: using temporary or permanent storage, either on or near the surface; a sealed deep underground bunker; or an underground bunker where waste can be retrieved.

But the 11 members of the committee, drawn from academia and the public sector, are unlikely to reach full agreement. CoRWM's recommendation, due at the end of next month, is expected to contain a caveat spelling out members' opposition to a majority decision.

Deep underground storage is the main disposal method likely to be recommended. But this will be opposed by the anti-nuclear lobby, which fears that an "out of sight" solution to the problem will encourage the building of more nuclear power plants.

At least one committee member is expected to table objections to this recommendation.

CoRWM's chairman, Gordon MacKerron, said: "I am aiming for consensus. It would be surprising if every member agreed with every decision we make." But dissenting members are unlikely to produce a "minority report", he said.

Two rebel members of the committee who had accused it of failing to use scientific methods lost an employment tribunal case earlier this year, against the government department sponsoring CoRWM. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs successfully argued in a pre-trial hearing that the two men had not been its employees.