办事指南

Trouble in store

点击量:   时间:2019-03-08 09:04:01

By Rob Edwards MORE than half of the 70 000 cubic metres of radioactive waste stored at 22 sites throughout Britain is in danger of leaking, an official report claims. It warns that the stores are crumbling and that some of the waste could explode. There is even a risk of an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. The study is the first comprehensive review of radioactive waste by Britain’s safety watchdog, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). Due to be published in January, it says that to make the waste safe the nuclear industry must “condition” it—dry it and mix it with concrete before sealing it in drums—and build 20 additional secure waste stores within the next 20 years. The worst problems are at the Sellafield complex in Cumbria, where the bulk of the waste is stored; the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire; and eight magnox power stations around the country. Over 40 000 cubic metres of raw intermediate-level waste at these sites is in a hazardous condition, warns the NII. At Sellafield, waste storage buildings are “in poor structural condition”. There are also risks that plutonium could escape from drums or come together in a critical mass in crates. The study warns of a “significant potential hazard” from large volumes of combustible radioactive solvent in steel tanks. The crisis over waste storage has been developing for decades, but it came to a head in 1997 when the government rejected plans by the nuclear waste company, Nirex, for an underground repository near Sellafield. Nuclear operators had been hoping that a central repository would be available by 2012, but this no longer looks likely. Environmental groups argue that the crisis is largely a result of Britain’s insistence on reprocessing fuel from power stations at Sellafield. “The shambolic state of nuclear waste management underlines the stupidity of continuing with reprocessing,” claims David Lowry,