Row erupts over nuclear waste plans
Western Daily Press, 12th June 2008
The Government has faced anger from anti-nuclear campaigners after offering to pay communities to provide burial sites for waste, and making clear that it will press ahead with plans to build new nuclear power stations.
Areas of the UK which offer sites will become involved in a "multi-billion-pound" project which will bring benefits such as hundreds of new, skilled jobs, ministers said.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "Construction and operation of a geological disposal facility will be a multi-billion-pound high-technology project that will provide skilled employment for hundreds of people over many decades. It will contribute greatly to the local economy and wider socio-economic framework."
But critics accused the Government of offering "bribes" for taking waste which will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
Greenpeace's nuclear campaigner Nathan Argent said: "Nuclear waste is a financial and geological nightmare. There is no plausible solution for our existing legacy waste, let alone the waste from new reactors, which will be at least three times more radioactive.
"This is not about finding a solution for nuclear waste. It's about bribing a community with £1 billion of taxpayers' money to bury waste in their back garden. But there's no guarantee a willing community will come forward or that they'll be able to find a geologically suitable site anywhere in this country."
Liberal Democrat spokesman Steve Webb said: "The bill for cleaning up our past nuclear waste is soaring astronomically. These sweeteners to bribe communities into taking a new waste dump will increase these costs further."
Mr Benn said any talks with councils would be "exploratory and carry no commitment to actually hosting a facility". It is likely to take several decades before such a waste facility is ready.
He said: "Any community that ultimately hosts a facility will fulfil an essential service to the nation and would expect government to ensure that the project contributes to its well being. To this end there maybe other benefits identified and developed through discussions between the community and the Government."
Mr Benn said ministers wanted to talk to any community that might have an interest in this and said he would be writing to all councils about developing a suitable deep geological disposal facility.