Thursday, January 31, 2008

What about the waste?

The Energy Bill has no clear statement on the waste disposal regime that will be necessary for new build nuclear.

The problem is underscored by a new National Audit Office report on the costs of cleaning up waste from Britain's first civil nuclear power programme, which it says "are still rising and uncertainties abound". It says the current £73bn cost of decommissioning the 19 existing nuclear sites over the next century is 18% above initial estimates, and the costs of even near-term actions are still rising when they should have stabilised.

CoRWM, the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, said in 2006 nuclear waste, which remains toxic for centuries, should be kept forever in a specially built safe storage facility deep underground. But while the government pointed to this as the solution to waste from any new plants, CoRWM said it only meant this solution to apply to waste from Britain's old military nuclear programme dating back to the 1950s, so called legacy waste.

So each company wishing to invest in nuclear power will have to submit a 'funded decommissioning programm' to the Secretary of State for BERR's approval. This will lay out how hazardous material will be treated, stored, transported and disposed of 'during the operation of a nuclear installation'.

The Government has asked for communities to volunteer to have nuclear waste stored in its location, but none have been forthcoming so far. However, an agreement between Copeland, Cumbria county council and the government has been made to set up a “community fund” in return for allowing the continued operation and expansion of a low-level waste repository, where lightly contaminated material such as clothing is stored.

The government will put £10m ($19m, €13m) into the fund as well as £1.5m for each year the repository is operating - the first such arrangement in the UK, after 18 months of talks. Much bigger sums and tougher negotiations would be involved before any community agreed to host a long-term deep-level waste dump.

Yet the government has said taxpayers will not foot the bill for the storage of waste from new nuclear build. So how are we to trust such statements?

No comments: