Page last updated at 20:24 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 21:24 UK

Councils get nuclear waste invite

Mr Benn says disposing of nuclear waste is an essential service

Councils in Northern Ireland are being invited to offer sites for the burial of nuclear waste.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn wants local authorities across the UK to consider providing what he called an essential service to the nation.

Mr Benn said the sites would be high tech and could provide significant economic benefits.

Any council in Northern Ireland responding to the invitation has been told to contact the DoE.

"The issue of how we manage higher activity radioactive waste in the long term has been considered by successive governments.

"Geological disposal is the internationally preferred approach for managing such waste," Mr Benn said.

He said the government would sit down and discuss with any community with an interest, the technical aspects of geological disposal and the wider social, economic and environment issues involved.

"Ultimately, for the process to succeed, a mutually acceptable agreement will need to be reached," he said.

"These discussions will be exploratory and without any commitment to actually hosting a facility."

A Department of the Environment spokesman said the policy of geological disposal had been adopted by the majority of other nuclear waste producing nations and Northern Ireland supported the recommendations.

"The White Paper highlights a process for communities to volunteer for the siting of the geological disposal establishment.

"The process includes a community volunteering their site, extensive geological surveys on the site, detailed planning approval is required and if a site was suitable in NI it would also require approval from the NI Executive and Assembly.

"Given that we are at the start of a lengthy process it would not be appropriate to speculate on whether suitable sites exist in Northern Ireland."

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