Letter: Government needs to get to grips with nuclear waste

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was very pleased to see the front-page prominence you gave your science editor Tom Wilkie's revelations that British Nuclear Fuels imminently plan to import huge volumes of radioactive nitric acid from the United States nuclear weapons plant at Hanford ('Britain imports US nuclear waste', 12 August).

It is all very well for BNFL to boast of its export success in establishing a consultancy base in the US to help clear up the radioactive detritus of 50 years of nuclear bomb-making at plants such as Hanford, and indeed for the British Nuclear Industry Forum to emphasise in its submission to the nuclear review ('Nuclear Electric hopes that no nukes will be good news', 27 July) the prospects of the UK nuclear export industry competing 'in a market worth about pounds 500bn', but if the consequence of this atomic enterprise is to add to the radioactive waste burden in the UK arising from various processing activities of imported foreign radioactive materials, this will merely serve to add to the management problems of our own radioactive waste stockpile.

As Tom Wilkie has pointed out in recent articles (6, 10 August), the timetable for completing a final disposal facility for the existing nuclear wastes has slipped back consistently, and is bound to leave a legacy of a chronic backlog of accumulated atomic waste.

The Department of the Environment should give this problem serious consideration before permitting further imports of nuclear materials that give rise to unwanted wastes. Its recent consultation paper on radioactive waste management policy fails to get to grips with this crucial issue.

Yours sincerely,

LLEW SMITH

MP for Blaenau Gwent (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

12 August

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