Anger over nuclear waste threat to homes

NUCLEAR waste could be buried near people's homes even if most of them disagree with the plan, the government has said.

NUCLEAR waste could be buried near people's homes even if most of them disagree with the plan, the government has said.

Yesterday, environment secretary Hilary Benn asked local communities to volunteer to have toxic waste buried nearby - and was accused of offering bribes to take the waste.

The government says “voluntarism” should be the principle behind finding a site to bury nuclear waste which would remain radioactive for hundreds of years.

But the white paper published yesterday says there is no set level of public support and that disposal could go ahead in the face of opposition. It says: “Not every resident in a potential host community will favour a decision to participate in the siting process. Government is not expecting, or seeking, a particular threshold of support but is keen to see evidence of appropriate community engagement and meaningful feedback on any concerns of those affected.”


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Sites can be put forward by a landowner, parish council or individual, but the approval will be down to the local authority - probably the district council or perhaps a unitary authority.

The Stanford training area, near Thetford, was on a secret list of 12 potential sites which was drawn up in 1989. But last night, it looked unlikely to be put forward again.

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A Defence Estates spokesman said: “We don't have any such plans for that particular site. It is not something we are looking at.”

And a Breckland Council spokesman said: “We have no plans to bid to become a nuclear site.”

More plausible might be Sizewell on the Suffolk coast, where living with two nuclear power stations has meant local people have become used to the idea of nuclear power. Sellafield in Cumbria is also regarded as a potential site.

Mr Benn said the waste disposal would provide hundreds of skilled jobs, and that the community involved would also receive “other benefits” in return for fulfilling “an essential service to the nation”. These benefits might include investment in education, better healthcare facilities, or new road or rail links, but are unlikely to involve hard cash.

He has written to every council in the country to ask for volunteers, and says communities can come forward for talks without making any commitment. It is likely to take at least 20 years until any burial site is ready.

Greenpeace's nuclear campaigner Nathan Argent said: “This is not about finding a solution for nuclear waste; it's about bribing a community with £1bn of taxpayers' money to bury waste in their back garden.

“But there's no guarantee a willing community will come forward or that they'll be able to find a geologically suitable site anywhere in this country.”

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