Sellafield 'not fit' for nuclear waste disposal
Terry Macalister, Friday November 2, 2007, The Guardian
The government has been warned that it would be "wrong" and possibly illegal to use Sellafield in West Cumbria for long term nuclear waste disposal as consultation on where to store the UK 's atomic legacy ends today.
David Smythe, emeritus professor of geophysics at the University of Glasgow and a nuclear waste expert, said ministers should have ruled out Sellafield - assumed to be the favoured site - long ago after spending millions over previous decades on research that proved the area was unsuitable because of its rock formations.
"There is clear evidence, after the expenditure of some £400m, mostly directed to the Sellafield area, that West Cumbria possesses no suitable rocks in which to site such a repository. However, the current consultation exercise is flawed, in that it places the voluntarism of potential host communities ahead of scientific considerations," he said.
The government has asked communities and organisations around the country to make their opinions known on the issue by close of play today, although a spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) denied that there was any favoured location whether in Cumbria or anywhere else in Britain .
Professor Smythe, however, believes it is wrong to ask people to submit their views before a clear case has been established about which area of Britain would have the right rock formations. He is convinced ministers are moving towards choosing a site on the basis of popular consent rather than scientific evidence. "To choose Sellafield yet again, by way of community voluntarism, and despite the lessons that have been learned, would be wrong and possibly illegal in international law," added Prof Smythe.
Greenpeace said the expert's views highlighted the way ministers were desperately seeking any kind of quick-fix solution without which they could not credibly press ahead with a new generation of nuclear power stations.
Nathan Argent, Greenpeace's nuclear campaigner, added: "It is clear that the government is trying to mislead the public on the issue of nuclear waste and simply haven't got a solution to dealing with stockpiles of this toxic legacy."
The willingness of a local authority in Cumbria to house the waste site is believed to have helped ministers.