Belgian town rejects radioactive waste dump

National radioactive waste authority to re-think disposal strategy after Beauraing referendum

The Belgian radioactive waste disposal authority (Ondraf) will have to re-think its long-term strategy after the population of Beauraing in southern Belgium voted overwhelmingly to block the construction of an underground radioactive waste dump in the area. In a referendum yesterday with 68% participation, 94% of voters rejected a proposal by Ondraf to convert a former army base into a national storage centre for low-level radioactive waste. The agency had planned to move its current stockpile of 10,000 cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste to a bunker at Beauraing, and aimed to store a total of 60,000 cubic metres there by 2050, mostly arisings from nuclear power stations. Beauraing was the only Belgian municipality to have expressed an interest in housing the nuclear waste, and Ondraf will probably now be restricted to using existing nuclear sites for waste storage. Evelyne Hooft of the agency said the waste would continue to be stored at Belgoprocess in the Mol-Dessel region while alternative solutions were examined. No final decision would now be made before 2001, she added. Greenpeace Belgium, which had campaigned against the proposed dump, was delighted by the vote and said it would continue to press for radioactive waste to be kept in surface storage where it could be inspected rather than in sealed underground bunkers.

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