Waste whistleblowers to go to tribunal

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The Independent Online

Two ousted board members of the organisation that decides how to store the UK's nuclear waste are taking the Government to an employment tribunal.

One was sacked from the government-appointed organisation after accusing it of being incompetent, and after claiming some board members had conflicts of interest. The other resigned in protest.

There are also fears that some remaining members could reject the organisation's recommendations, which are now due at the end of April, and publish a "minority report" proposing a different solution on how to store the waste.

A source close to the board said that a minority report would be a "final sanction", but added that the remaining 11 members would try to find a consensus.

The revelations will be hugely embarrassing to the Government, which has avoided making a decision about what to do with the 470,000 cubic metres of current and future nuclear waste currently stored at more than 30 sites in the UK.

Last week, Tony Blair announced the long-awaited energy review that will decide whether new nuclear reactors should be built in the UK. Critics have cited the failure to solve current waste problems in their opposition to more nuclear power.

The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) was set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in March 2003. It must make its final recommendation to the Government next summer, but will issue draft proposals in April.

Dr Keith Baverstock, the former head of the radiation protection division at the World Health Organisation, was sacked earlier this year after complaining to the Government that CoRWM's methods were unscientific.

One solution put forward by CoRWM was to blast the waste into outer space. It was also revealed by The Independent on Sunday that four CoRWM board members worked for its largest suppliers. The chairman, Gordon MacKerron, denied this affected decision-making.

Dr Baverstock is claiming around £30,000 in lost earnings and another £20,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal. Professor David Ball, who resigned in protest at Dr Baverstock's sacking, wants a similar sum for his constructive dismissal claim.

Dr Baverstock said: "If you form an independent committee to advise government on such an important subject and sack those with dissenting views or those who question the probity of the process, I do not believe the public is well served."

A Defra spokeswoman said: "Defra will be defending its position and believes it has a strong case."

CoRWM has drawn up a shortlist of options for nuclear waste. It proposes either storage in a deep underground bunker or at on-surface sites.

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