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Caithness News Bulletins January 2004
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|Nuclear Dumping Question Gets Politicians Going|
9 January 04
Nuclear dump fears raised again - but MP says it's scaremongering
A Greenpeace activist is claiming that Sutherland could be at risk of becoming a dumping ground for the UK's nuclear waste.
Edinburgh-based Pete Roche sounded his warning as the Government reconsiders its policy for the management of solid radioactive waste. He believes sites identified in the county nearly three decades ago as suitable for the underground disposal of high-level nuclear waste could now once again come under consideration.
However, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP John Thurso has dismissed the claim as "extremely opportunist scaremongering" and unhelpful to serious environmentalists who need to take the problem of the legacy of the nuclear industry seriously. "There are no proposals currently for any dumping of highlevel waste on any of the sites pinpointed by Mr Roche and no one in the industry is seriously suggesting it at this time. I do not see the point in trying to frighten people in Caithness and Sutherland, " he said.
The UK presently has no long-term management strategy for the high and intermediate-level nuclear waste currently stored in the sites where it originated - or for that likely to arise over the next century.
A Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has been set up by the Government to recommend a long-term solution. It is due to report in 2005.
Anti-nuclear campaigner Mr Roche recently spent three months researching areas which have been officially identified as possible nuclear waste sites since around 1976. His findings are available, along with maps of the locations, on the Greenpeace website. He discovered that seven sites in Sutherland were proposed in the 1970s and 1980s as suitable places to dump underground high-level waste which generates its own heat and is considered the most dangerous of all radioactive waste The sites were at Strathy, Altnabreac (on the Sutherland/Caithness border), the Ben Armine area, Rogart, Shin Forest, Scourie, and Loch Laxford to Enard Bay. Mr Roche discovered that an opposition meeting had been held in October 1978 to the proposal for a nuclear dump at Shin Forest, owned by the Forestry Commission. According to Mr Roche there was also stiff opposition at Scourie which resulted in the landowner withdrawing permission.
Mr Roche said: "In late 1976 reports began to appear in the press that a team of UK Atomic Energy Authority scientists from Harwell in Oxfordshire had selected the Highlands and Islands and the Scottish Uplands as offering the most suitable granite formations for a high-level nuclear waste dump. There was massive public opposition to the waste programme, but test drilling was only ever carried out at one site near Dounreay at a site called Altnabreac. Finally the government backed down and abandoned the high-level waste programme in December 1981, claiming that it had decided that vitrified (solidified into glass blocks) high-level waste should be stored for at least 50 years until the rate of heat-generation had been substantially reduced."
Mr Roche The Northern Times on Wednesday: "The point is that the Government is currently carrying out consultations on what to do with nuclear waste. Should this committee decide that nuclear waste should be dumped in a hole in the ground, then obviously the sites on the maps could be in the frame again because their geology has not changed."
He added: "As a consequence of the nuclear industry's activities since 1950, and successive governments' refusal to abandon this technology, every area of the country is once again living with the threat of being chosen as a dump or storage site.
Radioactive garbage could soon be travelling to your locality threatening the environment and the health of future generations of residents."
Local MSP Jamie Stone commented: "I stand by my party's policy which is above-ground storage, preferably on the site where the waste was generated. Speaking personally as someone who studied geology at university, I have grave doubts regarding the disposal of waste in sedimentary rocks and I remain very much to be persuaded that this could alternatively be workable in igneous rocks such as granite or gneiss."
Golspie and Rogart councillor Ian Ross, in whose ward two of the sites are sited, said that as a result of an article in the national press, the issue of a nuclear dump locally had been discussed at a meeting of Rogart Community Council in December. "An understandable degree of concern was expressed by community councillors and members of the public. There has also been contact with NIREX who claim that there are no current considerations of any nuclear dumps in Sutherland, " he said.
"I wrote to the Highland Council chief executive in December last year asking him to investigate this matter and to see if we could establish if there was any current substance to proposals for such dumps in the Highlands and in particular the Rogart area. I suspect the newspaper stories are a consequence of the investigative site work carried out in the 1970s, but we need to be ever-vigilant to this threat and to remain aware that there is an ongoing exercise to identify and ultimately develop a national nuclear repository. My own position, and that of Highland Council, is to oppose the import of any nuclear waste to the Highlands - this would totally taint the justifiable claim that the Highlands, and Sutherland in particular, is a clean and safe environment to live in and visit
12 January 04
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands dismissed the intervention by Far North Lib Dem MP Lord Thurso in the nuclear waste disposal debate as a smokescreen.
'The UK waste management company Nirex has recently admitted that it was 'guilty in the past of viewing the issue merely as a scientific and technical one, rather than primarily a societal and ethical one'. That's when they targeted most of their possible long-term nuclear waste storage site in Scotland.'
'Surely Lord Thurso would agree that the Home Counties lobby twenty years ago ruled out the Thames Valley where the sedimentary geology could have been the safest place for nuclear waste storage in the country? This stance had backing at the very top in then Tory government and that is why areas farthest from London, such as the Highlands and Islands, were targeted.'
Rob Gibson has consulted colleagues at the SNP's Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Constituency Association meeting in Helmsdale at the weekend. Members agreed that Lord Thurso is not a credible critic of local people's nuclear waste concerns. Late last year he was exposed as being at odds with his party and most local people in welcoming the chance to decommission nuclear submarines in Caithness.
Rob Gibson concluded,
The Committee AGREED that the
Council’s response to the UKAEA consultation should reflect the following
UKAEA - Waste Management
UKAEA - Decommissioning
Greenpeace Nuclear Campaign