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Nuclear waste debate hots up

THE CAMPAIGN to prevent permanent deep rock storage of nuclear waste gathered momentum this week, following the recommendations of a Government sponsored symposium.

The UK Centre for Economic & Environmental Development rejected the option favoured by nuclear waste disposal company Nirex, the Environment Agency and the Health & Safety Executive. Instead, it recommended that the waste should be stored below ground in repositories where it can be monitored and retrieved.

The proposal was made on the basis that it is impossible to predict how durable deep rock storage facilities would prove.

Nirex science director Alan Hooper said the symposium's recommendations closely paralleled the House of Lords Select Committee for Science & Technology's report on managing nuclear waste (NCE 1 April 1999).

The House of Commons is expected to announce its response to the Lords' report in a matter of weeks.

Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner Dr Rachel Rushton said that, as Nirex was established to investigate deep rock emplacement, its future would be under review if the option was abandoned.

The UK CEED panel also demanded an end to storage above ground. Demolition of the present surface-level waste storage depot at Drigg, where radioactive material is encapsulated in concrete, would pose a technically complex challenge, warned Rushton.

The symposium, attended by Environment Secretary Michael Meacher, called for a moratorium on increasing nuclear energy production until a 'safe, responsible method to deal with waste' had been found.

Andrew Mylius

andrewmy@construct.emap.co.uk

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