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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 13:08 GMT
Warning over nuclear waste site
Drigg nuclear waste site
The Drigg nuclear waste site in Cumbria is filling up fast
The long-term storage of radioactive waste at a Cumbria disposal site is "misplaced", according to a critical report.

The Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC), an independent government advisory body, says the site at Drigg is filling up too fast.

The committee carried out two studies into the volume of radioactive waste that will need to be managed in the UK as a result of nuclear decommissioning and clean-up.

A key finding was that reliance on the existing Drigg near-surface disposal site as a long term management solution for "low activity wastes" was misplaced.

The RWMAC said the site was filling up and more space will be needed.

It also warned that volumes of low level waste were not being accurately reported at the British Nuclear Fuels Ltd-operated site.

The committee said although other disposal methods exist, including incineration, they were not widely available in practice and were likely to diminish further as a result of environmental legislation.

Contaminated soil

It recommended that the government create a radioactive materials inventory to take a fuller account of "all existing and potential nuclear liabilities."

The number of nuclear plants being decommissioned, currently and in the near future, will result in huge amounts of waste.

The committee warned that unless sensible and robust solutions can be found, huge amounts of lightly contaminated soil and rubble cleared from nuclear sites might have to be transported across the UK, only to have to be buried elsewhere, all at great public cost.

Professor Charles Curtis, the RWMAC chairman said: "These studies raise issues of real concern.

"Our report concludes that improvements are needed in estimating and recording volumes of low activity wastes.

"We also believe that a Radioactive Materials Inventory would help considerably in future planning as it could then include some more active materials, such as uranium, plutonium and spent nuclear fuel that are currently not included as wastes."

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