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; 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.

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