Western Daily Press, 10 January 2006

Nuclear waste stores may be built in the West to handle soaring stockpiles of high-level waste from new atomic power stations, campaigners claim. If the go-ahead is given for new reactors in the UK, radioactive by-products are likely to be kept near where they are produced, according to anti-nuclear group Stop Hinkley.

They say it means high-level waste could be stored beside new power stations, such as at Hinkley Point in Somerset, widely tipped to be top of the list if the Government agrees new reactors should be built.

Their comments came after a row erupted about figures showing how much nuclear waste would be produced if a "new generation" of 10 reactors is built across the country.

The industry has said the new power stations would only increase the existing stock of dangerous nuclear waste by 10 per cent.

But official figures show the 10 per cent would mostly be made up of spent fuel rods, which are very hazardous and one of the most radioactive types of waste.

Although the overall increase of waste in the UK would be small, the rise in spent fuel rods would be fivefold, from 8,150 cubic metres to 31,900 cubic metres.

Yesterday, campaigners, including Somerset-based Stop Hinkley, claimed the industry had focused on the modest 10 per cent increase in waste rather than its extremely radioactive nature. They said the large amount of waste was a damning argument against new reactors at Hinkley or other sites in the West, such as Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley, said: "Once again the nuclear industry has misled the public over its plans. We already have a massive stockpile of nuclear waste including plutonium that will be dangerous for tens of thousands of years and with no clarity on how to deal with it 50 years into the nuclear project. Now the public is expected to sit back and accept a five-fold increase in the worst waste with the double whammy that it will be stuck at Hinkley or Oldbury, creating an extra safety risk, flooding risk and terrorist target. The arguments against Hinkley C or Oldbury B are adding up and overwhelming."

A spokesman for the Nuclear Industry Association denied the 10 per cent figure was misleading, and said it had always been made clear this would mostly be high-level waste. When asked whether the waste would be stored near the new power stations, she said: "It is too early to say whether stores would be at the sites." More will be known when the Committee On Radioactive Waste Management produces a report in the spring, she said.

The Government is due to decide this year whether a new round of nuclear power stations will be built. Supporters say nuclear will make up for the predicted "energy gap" but opponents say it is expensive and dangerous.

Note: Industry plans are to store HLW on site for the life of the plants projected to be sixty years, before long term measures are applied. This already occurs at Sizewell B where spent fuel is not sent for reprocessing.

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