Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Panglossian puffery for mini reactors in new report from UK Government advisors that avoids addressing security and nuclear waste problems of small modular reactors


 

Today the Financial Times published an article by its new energy editor, Sylvia Pfeifer, headlined  ‘Subsidies for ‘mini’ nuclear power plant backed by review: Nascent industry should have same help as offshore wind, expert report says’ https://www.ft.com/content/8882090a-999a-11e8-ab77-f854c65a4465)

 

“I was very pleased to be asked to chair the Expert Financing Working Group, particularly at such an important time for the nuclear industry in the UK. The UK has a strong heritage in nuclear energy and it continues to be recognised by HMG as an important part of the UK’s diverse energy mix, recognising its impact as a low carbon technology. It plays an important role in delivering HMG’s Clean Growth Strategy providing clean, green, on-demand and baseload low carbon energy.

It should be remembered that civil nuclear has a much wider role in the global market and will continue to do so in the future. Nuclear and nuclear isotopes are recognised as important to so many areas. Nuclear energy alone currently accounts for 11% of the world’s electricity (with the objective of raising this to 25% by 2050) however nuclear and nuclear isotopes have a much wider application. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda sets out 17 goals and how they will be implemented to meet the United Nation’s objectives around people, the planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. Nuclear and nuclear isotopes play an important role in nine of the 17 goals including: food security, improved nutrition, water and sanitation, climate change, conserving oceans and ecosystems, medical, energy for all and resilient infrastructure, industrialisation and innovation. (my emphasis – DL)) The emergence of small nuclear as, I believe, a commercially viable technology will further contribute to delivering these goals and the UK is well placed to take a leading role in their development both in the UK and across the global energy market.”

 

This is part of the preface to a new  80-page report published on 7 August  on ‘Market framework for financing small nuclear  prepared by the Expert Finance Working Group on Small Nuclear Reactors established by BEIS, written by its chair, Fiona Reilly. (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/732220/DBEIS_11_-_Market_Framework_for_Financing_Small_Nuclear_EFWG_Final_Report_.pdf)

Even for an atomic aficionado, finding so many positive atomic applications is quite an achievement!

One of the SDGs is: “to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.”

The report boldly asserts “Small reactors could play an important role in achieving these goals” without spelling  out how. I cannot relate this SDG to SMRs, however  hard I try.

Fiona Reilly is currently an Executive Partner at Atlantic SuperConnection - a Disruptive Capital group company-  and a Director of the Nuclear Industry Association. (https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/expert-finance-working-group-on-small-reactors) and a non- executive director of the nuclear sector primary lobby group, the Nuclear Industry Association. She was previously Global Head of Nuclear at Norton Rose Fulbright and Global Nuclear Lead for CPI at PwC. She has over 20 years’ experience in the nuclear sector and often serves as an expert for the IAEA

The Expert Finance Working Group (EFWG)* is described as “an independent group” convened by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in January 2018 ”to consider what was needed to attract private financing to small reactor projects. The EFWG has settled on a number of recommendations for Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) to consider to assist in enabling the development of small nuclear projects in the UK. “

Quite how” “independent” could such a group be if its chair is a director of the main cheerleading organization -  the Nuclear Industry Association -  for the nuclear industry in the UK?

Key EFWG recommendations included:

·          HMG should help to de-risk (perceived and real risks) the small nuclear market in order to enable the private sector to develop and finance projects.

·          The EFWG concludes that, subject to the recommendations below, the UK could be well placed to develop first-of-a-kind (FOAK) small reactors projects, with overnight costs of less than £2.5 billion, by 2030.

·          The characteristics of small nuclear reactors and the mechanisms by which they can be delivered are such that they may be commercially viable propositions both in the UK and for an export market, however, as with any significant energy or infrastructure project, attracting private finance will be challenging for the FOAK projects.

The recommendations also contains the ultimate Panglossian assertion on nuclear in the UK: “HMG’s actions could build on the momentum, trust and confidence created by large nuclear such as Hinkley Point C and now Horizon.” (emphasis added-DL) (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/732220/DBEIS_11_-_Market_Framework_for_Financing_Small_Nuclear_EFWG_Final_Report_.pdf)

The EFWG states that “risk allocation, risk management and managing the consequences of risk within a market framework (created by HMG) became a clear focus of the EFWG’s discussions.”

EFWG also states (p.16) “So far as is currently discernible, the risks attaching to small nuclear of any description are no different to those attaching to the conventional designs.”

This suggests despite several of the report authors being  institutional cheerleaders for SMRs, and having been involved in earlier reports for SMRs, they are determined to  avoid the inconvenient truth that if you  proliferate sites  and transports of  nuclear fuel associated with SMRs, especially at a time when terrorists threats and acts are increasing, thi swill hugely increase to cost of  insuring SMRs

The report laments “the financing sector’s potential misunderstanding of nuclear specific risks and how such risks can be mitigated, and that nuclear specific risks aside, nuclear energy projects are no different to any other energy project..”

But it makes no attempt to provide an analysis of how to provide market-based insurance for SMRs, against accidents and terrorist attack on modules in transit to site and in situ; nor how to privately fund SMR radioactive waste management: yet these are  real risks for nuclear power, SMRs included

For example, the EFWG (p.11) talks of “road transportable modules which are easily installed on site” but makes no calculation of the exposure to disruption or indeed destruction of such an SMR  module being transported on public roads from fabrication facility to  operating site,  possible hundreds of miles distant.

All EFWG does is to assert (p.17) without any supporting evidence that “these are as insurable for small nuclear as for conventional projects ”

EFWG does present the almost utopian suggestion (p.23), again without supporting evidence,  that : “In terms of nuclear third party risks, small reactor designs are being simplified to reduce the probability of safety events occurring, and some technologies being designed such that a nuclear incident with the release of radiation cannot occur”

Ministers should take such unsupported assurances with handfuls of salt..

Yet the Financial Times reports energy minister Richard Harrington receiving the report very enthusiastically, saying that it “recognises the opportunity presented by small nuclear reactors” adding “Advanced nuclear technologies provide a major opportunity to drive clean growth and could create high-skilled, well-paid jobs around the country as part of our modern industrial strategy,”

*Other EFWG members were:

  • Amjad Ghori (Ex Credit-Agricole)
  • Dougald Middleton (EY)
  • Giorgio Locatelli (University of Leeds)
  • Greg Pearce (Commonwealth Bank of Australia)
  • Larry Henry (KBR)
  • Michael Redican (MAR Consult)
  • Richard Abadie (PwC)

Government members:

  • Craig Lester (BEIS)
  • Joshua Buckland (HMT)
  • Helen Lister / David Clayton (IPA)
  • Andrew Howarth (NIRO)

The Secretariat was provided by BEIS and the Nuclear Innovation & Research Office (NIRO).

Its independent make up is further illustrated by the fact Dr Locatelli is listed in hi Leeds University bio as being a  Member of the World Nuclear Organisation (WNA) – SMR “Ad hoc” group.”( https://engineering.leeds.ac.uk/staff/739/dr_giorgio_locatelli) and  another group member, Dougald Middleton, working for EY, who were jointly contracted to  produce a strongly pro SMR 120-page report – published on 21 July 2016 - titled ‘SMR Techno-Economic Assessment Project 1: Comprehensive Analysis and Assessment Techno-Economic Assessment Final Report. Volume 1’ “(https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/665197/TEA_Project_1_Vol_1_-_Comprehensive_Analysis_and_Assessment_SMRs.pdf); and  Amjad Ghori’s own consultancy site states that “Since 2008, Amjad has  been very active in the nuclear sector having lead Financial Advisory teams in NPP transactions in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Finland working on behalf of private sector clients.” (https://nuclear-economics.com/amjad-ghori/)

Monday, 6 August 2018

Labour's atomic aficionados are ruining chances of a greener more secure UK future

Letter to Morning Star:
I strongly agree with the  main messages of Labour front  bench shadow ministers  Rebecca Long-Bailey (energy) and  Fabian Hamilton  ( peace and disarmament) in the respective Star articles ( 6 August)  “Labour plans to invest in Green technologies” and  “The anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing should encourage the government to sign the UN Nuclear Ban treaty.”( https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/anniversary-hiroshima-bombing-should-encourage-government-sign-un-nuclear-ban-treaty)

But both positive aspirations are severely hamstrung because Labour also strongly supports both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, which completely undermines achieving as sustainable future economy and safer planet. But Rebecca does mention this inexplicable support for pouring billions  into publicly subsidising new nuclear,           ( “Labour pledges to ‘Build it in Britain’ and create an energy system that delivers for people, businesses and our environment; supporting manufacturing and high-skill energy jobs in Britain https://labour.org.uk/press/bring-energy-jobs-contracts-back-britain/);  and Fabian does not mention Trident – the giant atomic bull in the peaceful china shop - at all.
I also find it deeply sad that the key reason the Labour  Party  has this  catastrophic contradiction in its police is the determination of certain trades unions, led by Unite, to back both new nuclear power stations and  replacement for Trident nuclear WMDs, ata cost of hundreds of billions of  public money that could be sensibly spent on greener technologies in manufacturing  and on public services like new public housing, the NHS and  education

A few days  before Rebecca issued he green technology  pledge, on 30 July, her energy team colleague, Bill Esterson, the Shadow Small Business Minister, published a nonsensical statement asserting “Labour has been consistent in its support for  Moorside [the new nuclear power station at Sellafield]and has called on the Government to take a public stake to ensure that this vital power station is finally built; guaranteeing the creation of thousands of highly-skilled and well-paid jobs that communities in Cumbria need and deserve.

 “Labour supports new nuclear as part of the UK’s energy mix to keep the lights on and tackle climate change.” ( https://labour.org.uk/press/bill-esterson-comments-planned-moorside-nuclear-power-station/

Moreover,  a month earlier, Fabian  was present at the launch in Parliament of a very important new report  on how alternative secure jobs can  be created in the long term for the workforce currently dependent on building nuclear w nuclear WMD systems like Trident(“Halting renewal of Trident  ‘could create more jobs,’” Star, 28 June).

You correctly report him as saying ”it is not Labour’s policy to get rid of Trident.”

Labour’s leadership is going to have to make some important policy and investment choices: they cannot back both green  energy technologies and  new nuclear power; they cannot both pledge to sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons and support  renewing Trident at an astronomical  cost of what CND’s Kate Hudson correctly  reports will be at least £205 billion. (“A day to recommit to a world without nuclear weapons,” 6 August ; https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/day-recommit-world-without-nuclear-weapons)

Friday, 3 August 2018

How Japanese ‘peaceful’ plutonium could end up in British bombs


 

 
Just ten days before the 73rd commemoration of the day the United States deliberately dropped an atomic bomb containing around 6 kilogrammes of the nuclear explosive plutonium on the southern Japanese city of Nagasaki (on 9 August 1945), killing at least 65,000 instantly, the current Japanese Government’s Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) made an important announcement (on 31 July) on ‘The Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium.’ (http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/iinkai/teirei/3-3set.pdf).

Alongside this on the same day, the Japanese Government’s Office of Atomic Energy Policy –located inside the Cabinet Office - published an 11-page ‘Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan – 2017, which revealed that out of 47,300 kilogrammes of plutonium owned by Japan, only 10,500 kilogrammes of

which was held domestically and the rest -  approximately 36,700 kilogrammes  is held abroad, with 15,500  located in France and the biggest single overseas managed  consignment, 22,200 kilogrammes, held at Sellafield in the UK. It adds the detail:” “Approximately, 0.6 ton (600 kgs )of plutonium from the remaining spent fuel

contracted out to the UK is expected to be added to the stockpile around by 2019,

when the reprocessing facility in the UK (THORP, at Sellafield) is scheduled to be closed.” (http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/about/kettei/180731_e.pdf)

 
The fact that enough fissile plutonium to make around 4,440 nuclear warheads is being held on behalf of Japan at Sellafield is important, considering the documented (see for example: https://drdavidlowry.blogspot.com/2014/01/puzzled-by-plutonium.html and

http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/a-blast-from-past-hintons-hidden-history.html)past record of successive  British government deliberately proliferating by blurring the distinction between civil and military activities across nearly 70 years of nuclear activities.

 

The 31 July statement opens by asserting “Japan has been using nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes and upholding the principle of not possessing plutonium without specific purposes under the Atomic Energy Basic Act.”

 

While this may we well be accurate for atomic activities inside of Japan, it is certainly not true for Japanese-owned nuclear materials sent to the UK for processing and long- term management.

 

The JAEC statement also stresses “While taking into account recent circumstances surrounding the use of nuclear energy not only in Japan but also in the world, Japan, cooperating with the international community and attaching greatest importance to nuclear non-proliferation, follows the policies below as it promotes the utilization of plutonium, in order to enhance transparency of its peaceful use.” This is doubtful, to put it kindly.

 

It goes on to announce, inter alia, that “Japan will reduce the size of its plutonium stockpile. …and will “work on reducing Japan’s plutonium stockpile stored overseas through measures including promoting collaboration and cooperation among the operators.”

 

The new “Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan” boldly asserts that

“Japan upholds the principles of not possessing plutonium without specific purposes guided by the policy of peaceful use. ..” adding  “Given the importance of

enhancing transparency and gaining public understanding on use of plutonium at

home and abroad, Japan has published the status report of management of

unirradiated separated plutonium (hereinafter referred to as “separated plutonium”)

including usage and stockpile both within and outside of Japan since 1994. Moreover,

Japan has also reported the status annually to the IAEA in conformity with the

“Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium.”  ( for 2018 declaration see https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/publications/documents/infcircs/1998/infcirc549a1-21.pdf)

 

On plutonium controls, JAEC asserts that ”Under the Treaty on the non- proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), based on the Comprehensive Safeguards

Agreement concluded with the IAEA and its Additional Protocol, Japan accepts

safeguards by the IAEA on all nuclear materials including plutonium in Japan.(emphasis added-DL)

It adds : “The IAEA’s Board of Governors held in June 2018 has affirmatively concluded that the safeguards implemented by the IAEA in 2017 found that all nuclear material

remained in peaceful activities (The broader conclusion) on the basis that there are

no indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear

activities and no indication of undeclared nuclear material or activities in Japan.”

 

The majority of the remainder of report then details the quantities, quality and locations of plutonium stocks held inside Japan. But the vast bulk of Japan-owned plutonium is managed outside its borders, in France and the UK

 

It concludes pointing out that “in Feb.1994, the nine countries, i.e. US, Russia, UK, France, China, Japan, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland started to deliberate on the establishment of an international framework aimed at enhancing the transparency of plutonium utilization. In Dec.1997, these nine countries decided on the Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium that provided the basic norms about plutonium management, transparency through publication of the amount of plutonium held in each country and the importance of non-proliferation.

In Mar.1998, the IAEA published for the first time the amount of plutonium held in

each country and the policy of each country about plutonium utilization reported to the

IAEA under the Guidelines.” (


 

In the build up to the July 31st atomic announcement by the JAEC, an important public policy forum on plutonium was held on 28 June in Tokyo An account was published by Kyodo News -‘How not to reduce Japan's plutonium stockpile’ July 13, 2018 (https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/07/f91d38319475-refiling-opinion-how-not-to-reduce-japans-plutonium-stockpile.html) written by  Alan J. Kuperman, associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin,  founding coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, and a former senior policy research associate wither Nuclear Control Institute in Washington DC.

Kuperman explained the context of the Tokyo symposium thus: )Facing U.S. pressure and the expiration on July 16 [2018] of the initial term of the 1988 U.S.-Japan nuclear agreement, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission is expected to propose plans to reduce Japan's massive 48-ton stockpile of unirradiated plutonium by boosting the use of plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in nuclear power reactors.”

https://img.kyodonews.net/english/public/images/posts/85a8061379a76427f4fd24307c573cc2/image_l.jpeg(Alan J. Kuperman)


 “ Japan and the United States extended a bilateral nuclear agreement Tuesday that has served as the basis for Tokyo’s push for policies emphasizing the recycling of nuclear fuel.

The pact, which entered into force in July 1988, has authorized this nation to reprocess spent fuel, extract plutonium and enrich uranium for 30 years. As neither side sought to review it before the end of its term the deal will remain effective, leaving Japan the only country without nuclear arms that is allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The passing of the initial 30-year period does raise uncertainty over the future of the pact, as it can now be terminated at any time six months after either party notifies the other.

The United States is perceived to be concerned about Japan’s stockpiles of plutonium, though Tokyo has limited its research, development and use of nuclear energy to peaceful purposes.

“Japan will do all it can to maintain the nuclear nonproliferation regime while keeping the (Japan-U.S.) nuclear pact,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters.

“It will be important to make efforts toward reducing the large amount of plutonium that Japan possesses,” Kono added.”

(“Japan and U.S. extend nuclear pact as Tokyo looks to reduce plutonium stockpile,” Kyodo/Japan Times, July 17, 2018; https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/07/17/national/japan-u-s-extend-nuclear-pact-tokyo-looks-reduce-plutonium-stockpile/#.W1BCWqaWzjq)

Kuperman proposed five point plan to deal with Japan’s  plutonium stockpile. His third point  reads as follows:

https://img.kyodonews.net/english/public/images/posts/13b55ae233dd9f26f3a217518ed08275/image_l.jpeg(Kuperman, 2nd from”

“Nearly half of Japan's stockpile, 22 tons, is in Britain, which has offered to take ownership for a price, as it did for Germany, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. Overnight, Japan could cut its stockpile by 46 percent. Japanese utilities (and their customers) would also save money by avoiding the expense of storing plutonium abroad and then fabricating it into MOX, which costs eight times more than traditional uranium fuel.”

He concludes: “By transferring the British plutonium, and disposing of unusable domestic stocks, Japan would be left with a more manageable quantity of 15 tons in France and two in Japan, which could be dispositioned faster using both MOX and disposal as waste. Japan could thus eliminate its plutonium stockpile in perhaps five years, if it also terminated the overpriced, dangerous, and incomplete domestic facilities for reprocessing and MOX fabrication. Japan could switch to disposing its spent fuel as waste, exactly as all other countries (except France) that previously used MOX in multiple thermal reactors already have done.

Assuming Japan does not secretly wish to preserve a nuclear-weapons option, this roadmap could reduce its plutonium stockpile rapidly. If Japan instead expands use of MOX fuel as the JAEC recommends, thereby increasing its domestic plutonium, neighboring countries will understand the message and respond accordingly.”

But how might the Japanese-owned plutonium held abroad, especially the UK, be covered by the same nonproliferation framework applied to nuclear explosive material in Japan? Demonstrable experience suggests it will not be segregated from military use material, and against the Japanese constitution, could be diverted to bomb or other military use.

It is now established that the spent nuclear fuel discharged from the Magnox nuclear plant  the UK sold Japan in the late 1950s at Tokai Mura  was co-processed (ie reprocessed together) - based on the calculated burn-up of the irradiate fuel - with  SNF from UK Magnox reactors of broadly similar burn up, including the two dedicated military production reactors at Calder Hall at Sellafield and Chapel Cross in Scotland, on whose  basic design the  Tokai plant was based. The reprocessed plutonium was thereafter  allocated  to  owner customers by weight, not isotopic composition, by adopting a principle of fungeability (astonishingly permitted by the IAEA and other regional regulators), under which customers do not  get the same  atoms of plutonium back, but it is allocated by weight from the overall stockpile held at Sellafield in different isotopic  bands.

The result is a net gain in directly weapons-useable  plutonium for the military, including plutonium from nominally civil reactors  in the UK and overseas, including Japan and Italy, where the UK sold its only other reactor export, the now shut Latina plant.

Tokai Mura generated electricity from 1966 until it was decommissioned in 1998. In a detailed 70-page analysis presented to the International Plutonium Conference held in Omiya in 1991, I explained how the plutonium from this reactor – as reprocessed at the UK reprocessing factory at Sellafield – with almost total certainty was added to the UK military stockpile of nuclear explosive materials for the British nuclear warhead programme. Some might also have been exported to the US, for use in its nuclear weapons programme, under a 1959 mutual cooperation agreement on atomic energy matters between the US and UK.( NukeInfoTokyo, No.26, Nov/Dec 1991; www.cnic.jp/english/newsletter/pdffiles/nit26_.pdf)

I suggested at the time that this was contrary to Japan’s “Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons, in line with Japan’s Peace Constitution.” (Statement by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato at the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives, December 11th,1967.)

This solemn statement was repeated by a successor Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, four years ago, demonstrating continuity of the importance of the pledge at the highest level of Japanese diplomacy and politics: “People must never forget, nor repeat, the horrors caused by nuclear weapons here in Hiroshima 66 years ago. On behalf of the Government of Japan, I pledge that Japan, the only country to have experienced nuclear devastation in war, will observe its Constitution and firmly maintain the Three Non-Nuclear Principles for the sake of the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons and the realization of eternal world peace. (“Japan’s atomic ambivalence over nuclear relations with UK,” by CNIC· August 6, 2015; http://www.cnic.jp/english/?p=3126)


I have explained the problems of the light water reactor SNF sent to Sellafield under contracts drawn up in the mid-1970s to be reprocessed in THORP in the following recent blog: 'Mark-your-own-homework' nuclear "safeguards" proposed by UK Government as part of Brexit plans” (https://drdavidlowry.blogspot.com/2018/07/mark-your-own-homework-nuclear.html)

It essentially points out how the UK, as a self-appointed nuclear weapons state, has aggregated to itself the permission to withdraw  any - or indeed all - of the  plutonium under nominal IAEA safeguards”  from these safeguards for unspecifield “national security” reasons. The US, Russia, France and China each have similar exclusion clauses: in this way the self-appointed global nuclear police in the declared nuclear weapons states have unfettered permission to  proliferate from civil nuclear programmes to aggrandize their own  nuclear WMD programmes entirely with the permission of the UN’s global nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as long as notification is made to the Agency of these intended withdrawals.

The do-as-we-say, not-as-we-do nature of this is stunningly hypocritical, yet remains inexplicably unchallenged by the non-nuclear weapons states.

In the UK new developments are covered by the negotiations to establish a so-called ‘domestic’ safeguards regime. The Business and Energy department (BEIS) published its Nuclear Safeguards Regulations for consultation on 9 July 2018. Chapter VIII on ‘Civil Activities’ contains the following section on exemptions to safeguards coverage:

 

Withdrawal from civil activities

 

173. Regulation 33 prohibits an operator from withdrawing qualifying nuclear material from civil activities except with the prior written consent of the Office for Nuclear Regulation. This is a key obligation that the UK has undertaken though its current Voluntary Offer Agreement and will undertake in its future Voluntary Offer Agreement.


The Japanese foreign ministry should be worried that the UK is enshrining its permission to proliferate with plutonium - including that reprocessed from SNF sent to the UK for reprocessing. Tokyo should be sending a diplomatic demarche to London forthwith.

 

Backstory

Japan Announces Policy Change on Plutonium Overhang

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Nowhere to glow for nuclear waste


Letter submitted to The Guardian:
Your environment editor’s front page story (“Allow nuclear waste disposal under national parks, say MPs,” 31 July; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/31/allow-nuclear-waste-disposal-in-national-parks-say-mps) understandably concentrates on the most egregiously unacceptable recommendation of the business and energy select committee report on burying  radioactive waste.

However, there are other unacceptable elements of this select committee inquiry, which is not like any usual select committee proceedings, as it does not just make recommendations which ministers may or may not chose to accept, but is regarded by ministers as an integral part of the legitimisation of the government’s contentious proposals for subterranean emplacement  of nuclear waste in a policy that amounts long term to ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind.’

One recommendation made by the committee states: “It is of paramount importance that prospective host communities understand how their ‘right of withdrawal’ interacts with the development consent orders for boreholes and geological disposal…The Government should clarify the degree of priority afforded to community consent in the national policy statement for nuclear waste (NPS) in a way that is accessible to a lay audience so as to give prospective communities all the tools they need to engage with the siting process.” (Paragraph 44)  

But as important as ‘host’ communities are ‘affected’ communities, through which thousands of transports of nuclear waste will take place, which formed the core of my own submission to the committee in June. This issue was fleetingly raised in the oral evidence session on 10 July , when Conservative MP Mark Pawsey asked one inquiry witness, Bruce McKirdy, managing director of Radioactive Waste Management Ltd: “Is it your view that communities are more concerned about transport of material to the facility or the actual storage of the material once it is there?”(Q58)

McKirdy replied: We have heard both views.  They are generally concerned about transport and immediate environmental effects…”

After a series of email exchanges in June with the committee clerk over my written submission, the committee declined to publish it, nor did they make any reference to  the potential health and safety impact of  many transports  by rail and/or road of  very dangerous radioactive wastes through possible hundreds of  en route communities.
 
In ignoring this crucial issue, the committee has failed to properly scrutinise the government proposals and has, by default,  endorsed a prospective  future threat to  human health and welfare for many decades as the very long- lived radioactive waste is transported to the repository.