Warning over Hinkley waste shipped to US

Western Daily Press, 7th Jan 2009

CAMPAIGNERS have slammed a decision by Hinkley Point bosses to ship nuclear waste to the US.

Magnox, the firm that runs Hinkley Point A plant near Bridgwater, has won approval from the Environment Agency to ship hundreds of tons of nuclear waste from a metal smelting process for recycling in Tennessee.

Stop Hinkley spokesman Jim Duffy said: "This radioactive metal should be isolated from the environment.

"Magnox might save money from the long-term management of this waste by sending it for use in US nuclear power stations but those who handle it during smelting and nuclear construction may inhale dangerous particles."

The Low Level Waste (LLW) cargo will be sent from Hinkley Point to Liverpool docks, from where it will sail to Virginia and onwards by road to the Bear Creek smelting facility in Tennessee.

Once smelted, the subsequent metal blocks are used within the nuclear industry as shielding.

Mr Duffy said the recycling process raised safety issues and warned the by-products could be used for household goods.

He said: "The nuclear industry has lobbied hard to loosen the regulations on radioactive waste metal to the point where if they succeeded, we would be cooking with slightly contaminated pots and pans made from recycled radioactive metal.

"The UK scrap metal industry has voiced its concerns at handling it but this move takes us a step further in a process where the public may knowingly get contaminated."

The claims have been dismissed by the nuclear industry and Magnox says it was rigorously checked before given permission to ship the waste, which will be used within the atomic industry.

A Magnox spokesman said: "The Environment Agency has recently approved an application for Hinkley's second trans-frontier shipment authorisation.

"This will allow the continuation of a metal melt process, with up to 400 tons of LLW metal authorised to be shipped to the US for smelting and reuse within the industry.

"To gain approval, the site had to provide various facts and figures including the types of materials the site would be shipping and activity levels."

Hinkley has already sent 952 skips to Bear Creek.

Historically, LLW has been sent to the national repository near Drigg in Cumbria but its capacity has been cut back and guidelines now recommend that landfill sites are not the best environmental option.


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Page Updated 07-Jan-2009