All governments who have nuclear power stations have to deal with practicalities and have a problem that so far is unresolved: how to get rid of all the radioactive waste their existing nuclear plants have produced.
It is a contentious issue even in countries that are phasing out nuclear power, like Germany, because no communities want to be blighted by being a nation’s nuclear waste dump. But it is worse for countries that share this unresolved nuclear waste problem yet want to add to it by building a new generation of power stations.
An example is Britain, where the Government stated four years ago:
It was unacceptable to build a new generation of atomic power stations while having no depository to get rid of the existing waste.
It was confident its Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) would solve the problem of old power stations and increasing quantities of badly stored radioactive waste. The NDA has failed to do so. The stumbling block has been that, so far, no community in the United Kingdom has been prepared to accept a waste depository.
With 20 nuclear reactors already closed down because they are no longer economic or have safety problems the issue is becoming urgent, but there is still no solution in sight.
Pete Wilkinson, former member of the Government’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) and newly appointed director of the Nuclear Information Service, said the current state of affairs regarding the UK’s nuclear waste was intolerable. It was wrong to go ahead with a new nuclear power programme when the problem of dealing with waste was unsolved. He said:
“For government to single-mindedly and wilfully push ahead with its new nuclear build programme when a repository remains a mere aspiration and when even the waste it produces cannot be guaranteed to be disposable is nothing short of irresponsible and is a measure of the desperation of a country and a government in crisis over energy policy.”
He said the Government’s waste management organisation had failed to resolve hundreds of technical and scientific issues, never mind ethical problems, to do with new build nuclear waste depositories.
“It may be that disposal is not, after all, technically feasible or ethically acceptable. Meanwhile new nuclear build is threatening to give us and generations yet to come a future nuclear waste problem of disastrous proportions.”
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