Nirex acts to curb impact of report on Sellafield

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The Independent Online
THE NUCLEAR industry's efforts to minimise adverse public comment about its choice of Sellafield in Cumbria for disposing of radioactive waste are being reported in close detail to senior members of the Government.

Tim Eggar, the Minister for Energy, was warned just before Christmas by the Department of Trade and Industry that Cumbria County Council would shortly publish a report that criticised Sellafield as a poor site.

'Regrettably, quotes such as this are likely to be publicly reported,' Mr Eggar was told. The county council commissioned the report, to be published at the end of this week, from Environmental Resources Ltd.

Mr Eggar was assured, however, that the industry was taking steps 'aimed at minimising any adverse impact of reporting of the ERL work'. According to the internal DTI memorandum, UK Nirex, the industry's waste disposal company, is 'proposing to adopt a rather pro-active stance . . . This will involve strong public support for the Nirex position being expressed by . . . experts, including the British Geological Survey, Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners and the AEA (Atomic Energy Authority)'. All three are contractors to UK Nirex.

Some drafts of the ERL report are even more critical of the Sellafield site, describing it as suffering from 'an inherent flaw' and 'inherent problems'. The report also says that more data is needed and, privately, senior geologists criticise Nirex for not releasing more data from the boreholes that it has drilled around the Sellafield site.

The ERL assessment uses such data as Nirex has published and calculates that radioactive water could return to the environment from the waste repository within 300 years.

A spokesman for Nirex said yesterday that it was not co-ordinating a pro-active public relations campaign, but that 'Nirex and our contractors do believe that ERL is pushing the arithmetic much further than is justified at this stage. We take a robust line and make no apology for requesting from our contractors a report on ERL's methods . . .'.

Nirex's report on the ERL findings will be published simultaneously. Dr Patrick Green, Radioactive Waste Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: 'Nirex's latest ploy has an air of desperation about it. The ERL report confirms that the site is unsuitable. Any number of Nirex's consultants presented as independent commentators cannot change that.'