New nuclear dumps needed

The UK may need to build more than one deep underground repository for the disposal its nuclear waste, a House of Lords scientific committee advised this week. The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology recommended far-reaching changes in the management of radioactive wastes in a move that is expected to determine government […]

The UK may need to build more than one deep underground repository for the disposal its nuclear waste, a House of Lords scientific committee advised this week.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology recommended far-reaching changes in the management of radioactive wastes in a move that is expected to determine government policy.

Its proposals include the reclassification of much of the UK’s civil and military plutonium stock as radioactive waste.

Plutonium burial involves risks not associated with other waste, and could require a separate facility.

‘More than one deep repository may be needed to take all our wastes,’ said the report.

The committee suggested the plutonium reclassification should be part of a comprehensive strategy for the long-term management of nuclear waste, with a new Commission set up to oversee the consultation process on policy.

It also favoured a change in the policy on waste substitution on overseas fuel reprocessing contracts. This would allow British Nuclear Fuels to return some high-level waste to overseas customers rather than the much bulkier intermediate-level waste that is produced from reprocessing the fuel.

The committee said the current policy stipulation that substitution depends on a UK repository being available within 25 years should be lifted a move critical for BNFL to win overseas business for its £3bn Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant at Sellafield.