Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Group wants long-term nuclear plans

The Royal Society report said replacements for nuclear power stations such as Sellafield must not leave the wrong legacy for future generations
The Royal Society report said replacements for nuclear power stations such as Sellafield must not leave the wrong legacy for future generations

The Government must establish long-term plans for a new generation of nuclear power plants so future generations are not left dealing with its legacy, experts have urged.

Ministers must work with the industry to create a "holistic" strategy which deals effectively with reprocessing and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and does not treat it simply as "an afterthought", they warned.

The new build programme must also take into account the UK's stockpile of civil plutonium - the largest in the world - created as a waste fuel from nuclear reactors but which can potentially be reprocessed into new nuclear fuel.

The warning comes as the Government pushes ahead with a new generation of nuclear power stations in a bid to meet electricity demand and cut carbon emissions from the energy sector.

In a report from the Royal Society, the group of experts said the handling of nuclear fuel throughout its working cycle must be considered to reduce security risks and the danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Research and development programmes are needed from the outset of the new build project to ensure fuel is managed properly, they added.

Roger Cashmore, chairman of the Royal Society working group and head of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said: "The last time any UK government articulated a coherent long-term plan for nuclear power was in 1955. While the Government has made some positive moves towards an integrated approach to nuclear power, more must be done.

"We need a clearly articulated long-term plan, which also addresses the UK's current reprocessing capacity and the options that it provides in an uncertain future, both for the UK's nuclear power programme and, indeed, a global nuclear renaissance."

The call comes after Energy Secretary Chris Huhne signalled that a new generation of nuclear power plants would go ahead after a Government-ordered review into the Fukushima disaster in Japan found no reason to curtail the use of reactors in the UK.

Prof Cashmore added: "Fukushima has shown that we cannot be complacent about the safety of nuclear power. However, the same principle must apply to nuclear security and non-proliferation. Both governments and the nuclear industry need to seriously reassess their responsibilities in these areas."

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