DUMPING GROUND FOR NUCLEAR WASTE

Western Daily Press, BY DANIEL EVANS, 23 July 2007

A new permanent nuclear waste disposal site at Hinkley Point in Somerset will soon be moving one step closer to reality. In the next few weeks, Magnox Electric Ltd is submitting a planning application to Somerset County Council to build a permanent disposal facility on the Somerset site for low-level radioactive waste (LLW) coming from the decommissioning and clean-up of the defunct Hinkley Point A.

In March, the Western Daily Press revealed that hundreds of tonnes of waste could be dumped in a new bunker-type dump capable of holding 24,000 square metres of LLW.

The waste would range from paper towels and clothing to contaminated building rubble and machinery. It would be kept there until safe - potentially for hundreds of years.

Mark Lesinski, site director, said: "We want to construct a purpose-built facility which, once full, would be sealed, mounded over and left to allow the already low levels of radioactivity to decay further over time. Obviously, if it goes ahead it would be subject to the necessary regulatory approvals."

Hinkley A, which opened in 1965, stopped generating power in 2000 and is being decommissioned.

Work has also begun on an intermediate waste store at Hinkley, which would handle the more dangerous waste from power generation. This would only be a temporary storage, however, for an estimated 20 to 30 years until a national site for disposal is identified.

Anti-nuclear campaign group Stop Hinkley is opposed to the idea of a LLW dump and fears for the safety of the nearby community. Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley co-ordinator, said he had supported the intermediate store as a stop-gap, but could not support permanent low-level disposal on the site.

"This will create a greater risk of radioactive contamination in the area," he said. "I appreciate the waste has to go somewhere, but what we would say is stop producing the waste and there will be less problems in the future."

The original plan was for Hinkley's LLW to go to the national repository near Drigg in Cumbria that was originally set up for LLW from Sellafield. But it is considered impractical to transport waste that far and the site is fast filling up as more power stations from the Fifties and Sixties are closed.

Hinkley is also home to Hinkley B power station and plans have been mooted to build a new facility nearby, called Hinkley C.

On the impracticalities of taking LLW to Cumbria , Mr Duffy added: "We have every sympathy with that argument."

He said: "If they were to back down on building Hinkley C, we might be able to accept the low-level waste site, but I doubt very much that will happen."

http://www.westpress.co.uk

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