Stop Hinkley Press Release

24 October 2007

Expert outlines risk of n-waste burial scheme

A former Government nuclear advisor told a packed meeting in Watchet of the risks and misunderstandings surrounding the Government's plan to find a site to bury the UK 's most toxic nuclear waste.

Over sixty people heard Pete Wilkinson, former member of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, express his concern over the committee's recommendations to bury High Level Waste in a Deep Geological Repository. Even if geological conditions were not ideal at a site such as Hinkley Point, he said, the Government would still be keen to take up an offer from a willing community to host the repository.

Mr Wilkinson, founder member of Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth, highlighted important shortcomings which had not been addressed by the Government in its haste to set up a solution to nuclear waste as a precursor to launching a new generation of nuclear power stations. These included:

  • Despite the one million year activity of the n-waste, its packaging is forecast to corrode and leak within 150 years

  • Secondary concrete backfill may fail in the same timescale, leaving the geology as a final barrier

  • The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is so cash-strapped it may omit crucial lining in the Deep Repository

  • The cost of a national deep repository is estimated at £12 to £20 billion

  • Spent fuel from a new generation of reactors would add to the existing 500,000 cubic metre stockpile

  • 10,000 spent fuel elements, each four metres long, from a future Boiling Water Reactor would need to be cased in three inch thick copper then bound in stainless steel to afford protection at a mammoth cost to the nuclear industry's carbon footprint

  • The health risks to communities are calculated on a cost/benefit analysis

Mr Wilkinson felt that CoRWM had misunderstood the findings of a survey put to stakeholders. A high number had prioritised 'Phased Deep Disposal' as a method compared with 'Permanent Disposal'. He felt the public had listed this preference in order to favour the ability to retrieve the waste packages compared with an irreversible disposal process but this had not been clarified by the committee who mistakenly took the poll as an endorsement of the Deep Disposal plan currently being pushed by the Government. He felt a key issue to the waste management is the ability to remove any waste if you do bury it.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley, spoke of his concern at the time and money resources put into nuclear industry committees by local councils. He said two Sedgemoor chiefs together with council officers currently sit on three nuclear committees and may be putting Hinkley in the frame for new developments such as the Deep Repository and Hinkley C. He showed a West Somerset Council paper (1) which promoted a plan for the two councils to apply for cash incentives from the industry for a low level waste site. The same paper suggested incentives could be available for commissioning radioactive material as well as decommissioning, so council chiefs could be positioning the area to allow Hinkley C to be built, hoping for a direct cash return.

But he fed back to the meeting that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority had last week (2) denied any mechanism existed to pay cash to councils for accepting a Low Level Waste site.

Jim Duffy said: "If a council wanted to position itself well to get short-term cash in return for the acknowledged long term risks from a deep nuclear repository, then Sedgemoor with West Somerset's support are doing exactly what's needed. We will be writing to the Government in its nuclear waste consultation to say deep disposal is the wrong answer to this serious problem."

Lorna Scott, from Forum 21 who co-hosted the meeting said: "We're pleased that such a wide range of people from as far as Bath and the Mendips came to discuss this issue. Forum 21 will be keeping an eye on local developments in the industry."

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator, 07968 974805


(1) Hinkley Point "Common Good Fund" Report No sc 83/07 by Tim Howes, Chief Executive WSC, 5th September 2007

(2) Dave Warner, NDA representative, Hinkley Site Stakeholder Group Friday 19th October


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Page Updated 24-Oct-2007