Disposal vs Storage

We have received the following in an email from one of our followers:

“The word “disposal” in my opinion is very confusing particularly as we will soon move on to the public consultation stage. As the only option for nuclear waste is storage, then I believe to conform with necessary transparency the word “disposal” should be replaced in all the relevant documents with the clearly correct explanatory word “storage” with depth of proposed burial sites and time scales included.”

The use of wording around storage or disposal of nuclear waste is always controversial.  We have often objected to the media using the term Nuclear Waste Store to describe a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).  Our problem with this is that there seems to be a widespread consensus that once nuclear waste has been placed and sealed in a GDF, it should be irretrievable.  If we leave tunnels or shafts for future access, these become short-return pathways for migration of gases and fluids back to the surface, particularly during the gas phase soon after it is sealed, hence the need for back-filling all access routes with a clay/rock mixture.
The word ‘Store’, if indeed it can never be retrieved, seems to us to downplay the commitment Cumbrians are being asked to make.  The most obvious alternative word is ‘dump’, but those who support a GDF often object to this!
While we can see the issue with the term disposal too, in the case of a permanently sealed GDF, it may still be the most appropriate term.  The nuclear waste will undergo radioactive decay within the GDF and consequently it will eventually no longer be radioactive, so in that sense it is disposal rather than storage.

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