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Consensus for nuclear waste

Your article 'DETR wants nuclear waste disposal commission' (NCE 4 November) is a bit wide of the mark.

You highlighted two proposals: the establishment of a 'Nuclear Waste Management Commission' and a 'Radioactive Waste Disposal Company'. These are in fact recommendations from the House of Lords Select Committee's report.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' position is that there should be a public consultation paper published in 2000, which ''will discuss the processes that would be involved in the implementation of the various management options for radioactive waste'.

DETR estimates that it will take about four years to gain agreement on policy, so we could be roughly this time away from the establishment of a new commission and/or company, assuming this is the approach finally chosen. It is estimated that it could take another 20 years for a repository to come into operation.

The Government is justifiably set on building and consolidating a new consensus, and by this means reducing the risk of a successful later challenge to a selected disposal scheme. From a business point of view, while the delay in delivering a disposal solution may adversely affect nuclear decommissioning programmes, it will result in a need for more interim waste storage capacity, and new construction work to provide this.

Phil Davies,

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