Communities across Britain could be blighted following the publication of a list of potential nuclear waste dumping sites by NIREX, the Government's nuclear waste disposal agency. NIREX was forced to reveal the site locations, chosen by the last Tory government in the 1980s, under the Freedom of Information Act. This issue is sensitive because, environmental campaigners argue, the Government is considering a new generation of nuclear power stations in order to meet its own pollution targets and cut CO2 emmissions.

Although NIREX insists that the list is purely historical, the most common worldwide solution to the problem of nuclear waste is to bury it underground. If this solution is adopted, the likelihood of sites from this list being used as dumping grounds is high.

According to New Scientist writer Rob Edwards, "Assuming we decide to bury our waste deep underground, which is what most countries and most experts think is right, we will have to go through this exercise again.

"Nirex itself says that if we do that we are likely to end up with a similar, but not identical, list. Any of the sites that have been previously selected could well be selected again. It's common sense." Greenpeace also accused NIREX of fixing the timing of the release to manipulate public debate around possible new reactors. NIREX has admitted the list was deliberately withheld for publication until after the election. Campaigner Jean McSorely said:

"The public has a right to know where dangerous radioactive wastes are going to be dumped, but after years of procrastination and manipulation NIREX still can't bring itself to front up to the public and tell them the exact truth. While locations on the list of 500 might still be included in a final shortlist, a massive nuclear blight hangs over hundreds of communities across Britain. The way the list came out, only weeks after an election, is symptomatic of a culture of secrecy and manipulation that has to end."

The 12 sites favoured by the Tories as nulear waste dumps were:

Bradwell, Essex
Potton Island, Essex
Two sites at Sellafield, Cumbria
Dounreay, Caithness
Altnabreac, Caithness
Fuday, Hebrides
Sandray, Hebrides
Killingholme, South Humberside
Stanford, Norfolk
Offshore site near Redcar
Offshore site near Hunterston

Greenpeace opposes the building of any new nuclear power stations for three reasons; the inherent dangers of the technology itself, their vulnerability to terrorist attacks, and the difficulty and expense of waste disposal. Instead, we support the dry storage of waste above ground at existing nuclear sites, and a controlled phase-out of nuclear power so no that new waste is created.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.