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Much of UK suitable for nuclear waste burial

发布时间:2019-03-01 03:03:01来源:未知点击:

By Catherine Brahic Burying nuclear waste deep underground is UK’s best way of dealing with the materials, and up to two-thirds of the country’s landmass could be suitable for burial sites, says a multi-disciplinary group of scientists. “We have a real opportunity to move forward with nuclear waste management,” said Charles Curtis of Manchester University, ahead of the release of a new report in London on Wednesday. The scientists back the 2006 conclusions of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), and say that there are “no insurmountable scientific or technological barriers” to building deep geological repositories for nuclear waste in the UK. The CoRWM report concluded that burying nuclear waste 500 to 1000 metres below ground was the “best available approach” – a recommendation which the UK government has accepted. Some scientists had greeted the CoRWM report with scepticism, saying the committee had taken three years to deliver obvious conclusions. CoRWM was appointed by the government, but the scientists behind the new report insist they are completely independent. And they say they go one step further than CoRWM by laying out a roadmap for what needs to be done next. First on the list, they say, is to draw up a description of what defines a safe geological repository for nuclear waste. Curtis says the UK government has yet to adopt a protocol for identifying suitable sites for geological repositories. Alan Hooper, of the government-owned nuclear waste company Nirex, said there were three types of rock and soil in which nuclear waste could be stored in the UK: granitic rocks, which only allow water to move through small fractures in the rock; clay, which also permits little water movement; and evaporites such as rock salt, which have the advantage of being very stable. All three were “pretty ubiquitous in the UK”, he said, adding that he expected that at least one-third – and perhaps up to two-thirds – of the UK landmass could safely house nuclear waste repositories. Once the government has identified a number of safe sites, the report scientists said local communities would have to be consulted to determine whether they would accept a repository. The group identified a number of other questions that must be addressed before repositories are built. One is whether or not to leave the repositories open. Closing them would ensure a better containment of the nuclear waste, but keeping them open would make it easier to monitor the repository. Another issue is the “greying” of their profession. “We are an ageing population of professionals,” said Curtis. He said a “nuclear skills renaissance” was “absolutely vital”. More on these topics: