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The Fortnight

Waste-deep controversies

Aug 15, 1995 | From the print edition

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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