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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 11:21 GMT

UK Politics

Bury nuclear waste say peers

Long term plans are needed to deal with nuclear waste say peers

Peers are urging ministers to tackle the UK's stockpile of nuclear waste by disposing of it underground.

Margaret Gilmore: This decision has outraged Environmental groups
The House of Lords committee on Science and Technology also called for an integrated approach to the problem of nuclear waste management.

But environmental pressure group Greenpeace described the Lords committee as a "pack of ostriches" for not recognising what they said was the failure of the of deep "disposal" method of dealing with nuclear waste.

'Decisions can not be postponed'

Committee chairman Lord Tombs said: "Nuclear waste has been treated in an ad hoc way for too long.

"There are wastes for which no long-term management method has been identified and there are radioactive materials in store that are not needed but that have yet to be classified as waste," he said.

[ image: Nuclear waste causes pollution for thousands of years]
Nuclear waste causes pollution for thousands of years
"The long time-scale involved is not a reason for postponing decisions. The contrary is the case since existing storage arrangements have a limited life and will require replacement, and stored waste will have to be repackaged and transferred."

'Future generations'

He added: "We must start now to find a solution to this unprecedented problem - a solution which will protect future generations and their environment."

The peers' inquiry into the storage of nuclear waste sprang from a 1997 government decision to reject plans by Nirex, the nuclear disposal company, to build the first stage of an underground nuclear waste dump near Sellafield, Cumbria.

The Lords' report says as no comprehensive strategy for dealing with the waste exists, a Nuclear Waste Management Commission should be established to draw one up.

If the commission were then to recommend underground disposal, peers said there will also be a need for a Radioactive Waste Disposal Company with the remit to design, build, operate and eventually close such a site.

The committee urged that, whatever solution is found for the problem, ministers take on board the views of the public.

Dealing with nuclear waste poses major problems for policy makers as it must be isolated from people, and the environment, for hundreds of thousands of years.

'Underground dumping is wrong'

Greenpeace scientist Dr Helen Wallace said: "Dumping nuclear waste underground is irresponsible and wrong.

"Extensive evidence at the Nirex inquiry showed that any dump would leak and contaminate land, rivers and water supplies.

"The consequences for human health and the environment are poorly understood. There is no hiding from this fact," she said.

Waste 'needs to be dealt with'

Nirex director Chris Murray welcomed the report saying it represented "a constructive perspective on the important issue of what should be done with the country's radioactive waste."

He added: "We along with radioactive waste agencies overseas believe deep geological disposal is the only sustainable solution in the long term for dealing with this issue."

"We are pleased the committee endorsed this approach," he said.

The government is due to publish a Green Paper on the issue later this year.

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