[ RadSafe ] Article: Nuclear waste should be buried in the UK

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 28 07:08:36 CDT 2006

The following appeared on PhysicWeb at

Nuclear waste should be buried
27 April 2006

After three years of deliberation, a
government-commissioned inquiry has concluded that the
UK should bury its nuclear waste deep underground. The
Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) laid
out its solution to the decades-old waste problem in a
press conference held today. But it told reporters
that because it will take many years to dispose of the
waste in this way, the construction of a permanent
repository must be complemented by a robust system of
interim storage.

CoRWM was appointed in 2003 to recommend what to do
with the roughly 470,000 cubic metres of waste in the
UK for which there is no agreed long-term disposal
strategy. This includes both existing waste and waste
that will be generated over the next few decades. 

The 11-strong committee, which is made up of both
scientists and non scientists, is chaired by economist
Gordon MacKerron. Last year, after discarding more
exotic solutions such as sending the waste into space
or putting it at the bottom of the sea, the panel drew
up a shortlist of four options. These included two
types of "geological disposal" in which the waste is
buried several hundred metres underground -- in either
a sealed repository or one from which the waste can be
retrieved for up to several hundred years after it is
put in the ground. The other two options were
continuous temporary storage just above or below the
Earth's surface and the burial of waste just below the

The committee has now discounted the last two options,
preferring instead geological disposal. But it says
that this approach must be complemented by secure
interim storage, pointing out that a repository might
not be ready for perhaps 50 years if there are
technical difficulties in developing the repository or
objections from the local community. 

However, CoRWM has not stated which type of geological
disposal should be used. In fact, it has yet to decide
whether or not it will state a preference in its final
report, which it is due to release in July. It has
also not said where the geological repository should
be located -- this was not part of its remit -- but it
believes that no matter where the dump is located it
must have the blessing of the local residents. "The
key decisions must involve potential host communities
and they should have an equal footing in all relevant
decision making," says MacKerron. 

The committee says that in reaching its decisions it
has examined the technical, scientific, ethical and
social aspects of all the potential options, having
consulted over 200 technical experts and listened to
thousands of members of the public and other people
with an interest in the plans. But the panel has not
had a smooth ride. Last year, one of its members,
Keith Baverstock, was dismissed from the group and
another, David Ball, walked out. Ball reportedly
became disenchanted with what he saw as the panel's
emphasis of public consultation over expert advice.

"A scientist's aim in a discussion with his colleagues is not to persuade, but to clarify." 
Leo Szilard
-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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