AREAS IDENTIFIED as possible locations for a nuclear waste repository in the 1980s are not necessarily in the running for future disposal sites, Nirex said last month.
The nuclear waste consultant moved to dispel fears that 10 places on the previously secret shortlist would be top contenders in the hunt for new sites.
Other communities might volunteer to host disposal facilities to capitalise on employment opportunities, a Nirex spokesman said. This had happened in Finland.
British Geological Survey geomicrobiologist Julia West, who advises on nuclear waste, said: 'We are looking at all the options again for disposal. We did this 20 years ago when we [Britain] were leading in disposal. Other countries are looking at geological disposal and we will probably go down this route.
'The government wanted to go back to the beginning to have a more inclusive process to decide what to do. We're following Scandinavia in being consensus-based.' The Commission on Radioactive Waste Management is due to report to the government next year, and site selection could start in 2007. The previous study focused on publicly owned, 400ha sites with the required capacity and accessibility. This eliminated more than 500 candidates.
But Nirex said the previous drive to find a deep geological site, which ended with the government refusing to allow construction at Sellafield, might no longer exist.
The need to dispose of high-level, heat-generating waste was also not considered when the original list was drawn up.
West said: 'The problem for radio ctive waste disposal is the fear associated with it. The use of natural analogues is a way to communicate. In Gabon in West Africa there was a natural nuclear reactor that went critical at some point in the earth's history and the products from the reaction haven't gone that far [through the ground].' Sites on the original shortlist were Bradwell and Potton Island in Essex, Dounreay and Altnabreac in Caithness, Fuday and Sandray in the Western Isles, Killingholme in Humberside, Stanford in Norfolk, two sites at Sellafield plus two offshore locations.
Essex County Council leader Lord Hanning'eld said Thames Gateway regeneration plans ruled out the Essex sites.