Nuclear Waste

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th January 1995.

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Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm , Edinburgh Leith 12:00 am, 18th January 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to make a decision about the proposal to use local authority landfill sites for the dumping of low-level nuclear waste.

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Currently, hospitals, universities and laboratories dispose of low-level radioactive waste at a small number of landfill sites under strictly controlled conditions. By low-level radioactive waste, I mean rubber gloves, wrappings and clothing, for instance, that may have been contaminated in the handling of radioactive material such as that used in the treatment of cancer. The extent of use of this method has been reviewed, the results have been out to consultation and conclusions will be announced in due course.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm , Edinburgh Leith

Will the Minister reject the recommendation of his own Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee that local authorities should be forced to accept low-level nuclear waste, including waste from nuclear power stations, against their wishes? Does he admit that that is a cost-cutting proposal, connected at least in part with future privatisation of the nuclear industry?

Hon. Members:

Nonsense.

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Hon. Members on both sides of the House put the point rather well; it is absolute nonsense. The committee to which the hon. Gentleman refers is an advisory committee, and is not forcing anyone to do anything.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Will my hon. Friend confirm that low-level waste usually has a half life of only a few months? That means that, after a couple of years, the level of radioactivity is asymptotic to zero and virtually non-existent.

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

My hon. Friend has put the matter into perspective. The radioactivity level is extremely low, and if any movement took place in the wrong direction there would be an outcry from the national health authorities about disposal facilities.