East Anglia 'best site to dump N-waste'

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN's nuclear waste should be dumped in East Anglia rather than near Sellafield in Cumbria, according to a study by a firm of geological consultants.

Radiation doses to the public from a deep underground radioactive repository in East Anglia would be one-tenth of those likely to result from the Cumbrian site planned by UK Nirex, the nuclear industry's waste disposal company.

Cumbria County Council will consider the study, by Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Ltd, at a meeting later this week. ERM's report is expected to form the basis of the council's submission to the Government's review of nuclear waste policy.

Cumbria is the planning authority for the proposed repository and has asked John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, to hold a wide-ranging public inquiry into how Nirex chose Sellafield. Ironically, Mr Gummer is MP for the East Anglian seat of Suffolk Coastal.

Nirex has submitted an application for planning permission to excavate a rock laboratory at the Sellafield site and since the application is being considered, no one from the council would comment on the advice it was receiving from its consultants. However, at its meeting, the council will be told that 'Nirex have ignored a clearly better option radiologically in their pursuit of Sellafield'.

The proposed repository location is about 650m (2,100ft) underground, but the rock formation outcrops to the surface in the mountains of the Lake District, a couple of miles inland.

Rain falling on the exposed rocks in the Lake District provides a driving head of water - rather like the flush from an old high-cistern lavatory - which may drive the radioactive material out of the repository zone and force it back up to the surface.

East Anglia, in contrast, is flat and is one of the areas highlighted in Nirex's original survey of Britain to find areas which might be suitable for a repository. That survey found areas of East Anglia were desirable BUSC sites - having 'basement rocks under sedimentary cover'.

Sellafield, because of its outcropping rocks, is classed as a 'modified' BUSC site. According to ERM, in Nirex's survey 'the BUSC location emerged an order of magnitude better than the Sellafield variant'.