From: Alfred de Montesquiou, Associated Press
Published December 17, 2004 12:00 AM

Britain Decides to Bury Foreign Nuclear Waste

LONDON — Britain has agreed to bury foreign nuclear waste in the country, reversing a 30-year policy.


Intermediate level waste -- produced in Japan and several European states such as Germany, Spain and Italy -- will be disposed of in Britain after it is processed here, rather than being sent back to its countries of origin.


In exchange, these countries will import high-level waste produced in British reactors, which is more radioactive but takes up less space, said Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.


This policy ends a 30-year government agreement not to keep waste from the lucrative nuclear fuel reprocessing industry. The plan will significantly reduce the number of shipments of plutonium-contaminated material being sent to other countries.


Hewitt said Britain would make more money by keeping more wasted instead of sending it back to its countries of origin.


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This money will be used "for nuclear clean up which will result in savings for the UK taxpayer over the longer term," she said in a written statement to Parliament on Monday.


Three thousand cubic meters (3,900 cubic yards) of intermediate-level waste will remain in Britain and be stored above ground or buried in deep rock caverns, said British National Fuels, the state-owned company that runs the Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria, northwest England.


Lawmaker Normal Banker, environment spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats, criticized the plan.


"I don't think it's responsible for Britain to prostitute itself as a nuclear dump for the rest of the world," he said, adding that such waste remains radioactive for hundreds of years.


The government's decision followed a three-month study that considered other options, including burying treated waste in the Antarctic or even firing it into outer space.


Source: Associated Press


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