UK "may miss Ospar nuclear discharge target"

Advisors say any expansion of reprocessing incompatible with government's 2020 commitment

The UK will probably not meet its Ospar commitment on reducing radioactive discharges if nuclear firm BNFL expands its commercial reprocessing business, official advisors said today. The radioactive waste management advisory committee (Rwmac) added that this prospect in fact looked unlikely following damage to BNFL's international reputation caused by this spring's data falsification scandal and opposition to continued reprocessing by BNFL's main domestic customer.

In a review of radioactive waste implications of nuclear reprocessing by BNFL, Rwmac makes a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring better management of reprocessing activities, greater transparency and lower radioactive emissions. It promotes further development of "passive" storage for some wastes and recommends that a proposed new "Magrox" fuel should be stored rather than reprocessed.

Regarding the UK's Ospar commitment, the committee suggests that the target of adding insignificant levels to historic marine radioactivity by 2020 is "probably achievable" under certain conditions. In addition to no "significant extension" of commercial reprocessing these are for reprocessing of domestic Magnox fuel to be ended by around 2012 and for new techniques to be developed to abate technetium-99 emissions.

The government is already planning to end Magnox fuel reprocessing by 2012 (ENDS Daily 22 June), but Rwmac "doubts that closure by this date will be possible" and calls for BNFL to review its business plan.

Another issue raised by the committee is the planned return of radioactive waste to BNFL's overseas reprocessing customers. Rwmac states that a lack of clarity of the issue "can only encourage criticism that the UK is in effect a nuclear dumping ground".

Follow Up:
Rwmac, tel: +44 20 79 44 62 60 and the reprocessing report .

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