Waste-deep controversies

Tuesday 15 August 1995

-- ENVIRONMENTALISTS in Britain are up in arms against what they perceive as a plan to turn the country into a "nuclear dustbin." Their alarm is rooted in a government decision to accept the British Nuclear Fuel Limited's (BNFL) proposal for "substitution" of high level nuclear waste for low level waste.

Under its contracts with foreign nuclear utilities, the BNFL has the right to return all wastes to the countries of origin. However, it has been pressing for permission to return the wastes in a concentrated form which would be highly radioactive but less bulky. This would trim transport costs and ensure that the same amount of radioactive toxicity left the country. BNFL would then be left only to contend with a residue of lower level wastes which it would then dispose of itself.

Environmental groups refuse to take the government's permission to BNFL at face value. In London, Patrick Green of the Friends of the Earth described it as "a major policy mistake" and climb- down by a government which had promised that all nuclear wastes would be returned to the country of origin.

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