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Nuclear Waste Panel Recommend Deep Disposal

The UK Government has been advised by an official panel to dispose of nuclear waste by burying it deep underground – the same solution it has already rejected three times over the last 30 years. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommended that geological disposal is the \"best available approach\" for the long term management of 470,000 cubic metres of waste from nuclear power and weapons. Meeting in Brighton, CoRWM\'s 13 experts agreed to urge the Government to take urgent action, pointing out that there had been a \"vacuum\" in UK policy. Eleven other countries favour deep disposal, including the US, Russia, Japan, Australia, France and Germany. But CoRWM has highlighted the need for secure \"interim storage\" for one or two generations over \"several decades\". It said that there may be technical problems at sites proposed for deep disposal, as well as \"social and ethical concerns\". CoRWM is not recommending any particular sites, but suggesting that the Government now needs to begin a process of selecting them. Its recommendations come as the UK Government is considering a programme of new nuclear power stations. But CoRWM\'s chairman, Gordon MacKerron, stresses that its recommendations should not be seen as a green light for new stations. \"We don\'t believe that anything we say is in any way endorsing new build,\" he says. Previous plans for burying nuclear waste underground at various locations were rejected in 1981, 1987 and 1997 – twice in the run-up to general elections.An earlier shortlist of 12 potential disposal sites throughout the UK was kept secret for 15 years until it was forced into the open by New Scientist and others using the Freedom of Information Act. Those sites, particularly the two front-runners next to nuclear plants – Sellafield in Cumbria and Dounreay in Caithness – are now likely to come back into the frame. CoRWM\'s recommendations will now go out for a final round of consultations, before being submitted to the Government in July. The Committee will consider whether to make further recommendations on preferred types of geological disposal. The UK’s Environment Agency recently expressed concern that waste containers will ultimately corrode and fail. They stated that “there appears to be insufficient justification for assuming that packages will last for a target period of 500 years.\" CND strongly opposes the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations - apparently favoured by the Prime Minister - which would add to the large quantities of nuclear waste for which there is no safe long-term storage solution. Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “Irresponsible nuclear power policies over the last decades have produced vast quantities of radioactive waste, some of which will be deadly dangerous for tens of thousands of years. There is nothing to suggest that the longstanding objections to geological storage have been resolved. On the contrary, dangers presented by climate change, which may affect water table levels, geological structures, and coastal contours, will impact upon waste storage in ways previously undreamed of. At a time when no safe storage options have been found, it would be irresponsible in the extreme to build new nuclear power stations to add to this deadly toxic legacy.”