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Government nuclear waste plans in turmoil

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GOVERNMENT PLANS to merge nuclear waste management group Nirex with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) were this week labelled as 'retrograde and short sighted' by industry experts.

They criticised the move as creating a conflict of interest at the NDA which was set up to nd the most cost effective way of decommissioning Britain's nuclear installations.

Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) believes that a more considered approach is needed for successful long term waste disposal.

'The NDA is driven by an accelerated agenda. It reports to the Treasury so must deliver value for money, which often involves cutting the time developing and implementing projects.

'This is in direct conflict with CoRWM's recommendations to take time and develop partnerships with the local authorities involved and other stakeholder groups, ' said CoRWM member Pete Wilkinson, speaking as an independent consultant.

Environment minister David Miliband announced last week that the government favours construction of an underground repository for the disposal of high level waste.

He said the implementing body for this would be the NDA following a merger with Nirex.

Nirex published documents on its website advising the government against such a merger just two days before Miliband announced the plans.

hese documents argued that its failed attempt to build a repository in West Cumbria in the 1990s proved the importance of keeping the organisation charged with dealing with waste, independent from industry.

The West Cumbria repository was refused planning permission in 1997 after the public lost con dence in Nirex amid suspicions of pro-industry bias.

At the time the rm was jointly owned by nuclear power and research organisations BNFL, UKAEA and British Energy.

The NDA is seen by many to be the new commercial face of the industry.

Wilkinson agreed that the skill of Nirex and the work it has carried out on the repository will be lost.

Other experts backed his view. 'The nuts and bolts end of waste management will be lost, ' said nuclear industry consultant Large Associates director John Large.

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