Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nuclear storage out West

January 11, 2008


PARTS of west Cumbria could host an underground storage facility for the most dangerous kinds of nuclear waste, officials at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority confirmed today.

The news came as calls came for the area to be seriously considered as a likely site for one of the new nuclear power stations now approved by the government.

The government’s pro-nuclear stance is bound to fuel fresh demands for a solution to the problem of storing the high and intermediate-level radioactive waste currently held on the site at Sellafield.

For the first time, officials at the NDA said that there is no reason why west-Cumbria should not be a front-runner in the race to find a suitable location for an underground storage facility.

The government insists that the process can only follow expressions of interest from communities willing to host such a facility.

Once that has happened, a British Geological Survey team will investigate whether or not the area is suitable.

Underground storage – known as geological disposal – has already been investigated in Cumbria at a site near Gosforth but that was rejected after a public inquiry.

Chris McDonald, the lead inspector on that inquiry, said this week the site was not suitable because of its geology.

But speaking today, John Dalton, a scientist working for the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate of the NDA, said the process of finding a suitable site for the facility will have to come from a community volunteering to provide the site.

He added: “In the government’s criteria there are criteria which would rule out geological disposal but they don’t appear to rule out all sites in west Cumbria.

“There are parts of west Cumbria and Cumbria which would not be appropriate, but there are other parts that I would be very surprised if they were ruled out. The criteria don’t appear to rule out all parts of west Cumbria as potential sites.”

The government insists nuclear power is the best way to ensure that the UK has a secure and affordable long-term energy supply. Its experts also insist it is an acceptably low-carbon form of energy which will help combat global warming.

But Greenpeace today accused the government of failing to tackle climate change and called for a greater investment in green energy solutions.

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