Have you lost the plot?; A three-part series that explains the issues behind the news

Is Britain a nuclear dump?
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No. In fact, Britain is hard put to find a dustbin for its own waste. The nuclear industry's waste disposal company, UK Nirex, has selected a site just two miles inland from British Nuclear Fuels' Sellafield reprocessing plant in West Cumbria, bordering the Lake District National Park. Its repository for low- and intermediate-level waste will be excavated 650m underground.

But Nirex faces problems. It chose Sellafield because it would be cheap - two-thirds of the waste is generated at the reprocessing plant, so there would be no transport costs - and because, after massive demonstrations at other sites in the mid-Nineties, Nirex thought the local population would be more favourable to the project. But the locals are proving not to be so friendly after all and the rocks are not quite so simple and safe as early investigations had suggested.

Nirex is having to build an underground rock laboratory to check the properties of the rocks. But Cumbria County Council, the local planning authority, has refused planning permission, forcing the Government to convene a public inquiry.

Even if Nirex gets permission for the lab, it will still have to apply for permission for the repository itself. Few expect that the repository will be operating before 2015, some 60 years after the Queen opened the UK's first electricity-generating nuclear power reactor.