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Isle of Man Government Representative invited to talks on UK Nuclear Waste Disposal Plans 16 January 2006

    The Department of Local Government and the Environment has been invited, on behalf of Isle of Man Government, to participate in discussions regarding the development of plans for permanent disposal of the UK’s stockpile of nuclear waste. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) will be holding a 2 day national stakeholder forum meeting in Manchester (18-19 January) to present and discuss their disposal plans. CoRWM’s latest plans were developed from a long-list of 15 options and now comprise a shortlist of four options which are:

    • Long-term interim storage, with waste being stored above the ground or just below the surface.

    • Deep geological disposal, putting the waste at between 300 meters and 2 kilometres underground in an area of suitable geology, where the rocks act as the protective chamber.

    • Phased deep geological disposal, which is the same process as deep disposal but where the waste will be monitored and retrievable for a period of up to several hundred years.

    • Near-surface disposal (for limited volumes) of waste having only short-lived radioactivity where waste is buried just below the surface within engineered barriers.

    Significantly, CoRWM's recommendations will not cover the selection at this stage of a location for disposal of the UK’s nuclear waste, that ‘site-selection’ process is expected to involve further, subsequent consultations, to be initiated by the UK Government. Roughly 60% of the UK's intermediate level and most of its high level radioactive waste is already at Sellafield. The Department has made clear to CoRWM the serious concerns of Isle of Man Government that, in any site-selection process, Cumbria may be viewed as the least difficult ‘political option’ for a nuclear waste repository. CoRWM will assess which option or combination of options best meets the assessment criteria, which cover such matters as security, risk to human health and the environment and costs. CoRWM have been asked to provide recommendations to the UK Government by July 2006.

    The CoRWM national stakeholder forum involves representatives from around 20 national organisations including the nuclear industry, environmental organisations, environment and safety regulators, and relevant UK Government departments. Isle of Man Government will be represented by the Department’s Dr Paul McKenna, a specialist scientific officer on nuclear issues, who has experience in presenting the Island’s objections to the nuclear industry’s plans. Most significantly, he was involved in presenting the Island’s case on the NIREX proposal in the mid-90s, to build an underground facility at Sellafield to research nuclear waste disposal concepts. That proposal was eventually abandoned.

    Environment Minister, John Rimington, MHK, commenting on his Department’s RECENT discussions with CoRWM said:

    “Nuclear waste is a subject about which Isle of Man Government has long standing concerns. As far back as 1977 at the ‘Windscale Public Inquiry’, the Department presented the Island’s case against the building of the THORP reprocessing plant at Sellafield. Unfortunately we could not stop THORP, but we had more success at the NIREX Planning Appeal Inquiry in 1997 when, working with others such as the Irish Government and many concerned people in Cumbria, we were successful in preventing the construction of the NIREX underground laboratory at Sellafield. Many of us believed at the time that the NIREX proposal was simply a pretext for choosing Sellafield as a deep disposal site for all of the UK’s nuclear waste.
    In January last year (2005) I was pleased to talk with Prof. Andrew Blowers on a visit to Sellafield. He is a member of CoRWM, and he made it clear that his Committee does wish to hear Isle of Man Government’s views regarding nuclear waste disposal. I told him that we do want to have our say and wished to be involved in consultation and discussion on any and all proposals. I believe the subject of the meeting on the 18th and 19th January will be an issue of some importance to us over the next few years.”

    16th January 2006

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