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EC falls out with UK over nuclear waste

Failure to comply with Euratom Treaty

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The European Commission yesterday accused the UK government of failing to tell Brussels how it disposes nuclear waste. And it is threatening legal proceedings unless it gets a satisfactory reply from London.

Member states of the Euratom Treaty must provide general data relating to the disposal of radioactive waste. The European Commission alleges that it has received no data for the disposal of waste from the Atomic Weapons Establishments (AWE) in Aldermaston and Burghfield.

AWE employs 3,600 people at these two centres and designs, builds, maintains and disposes of nuclear warheads.

Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty stipulates that the European Commission must be informed of any new plan to dispose of nuclear waste so that it may assess the scheme before it goes into effect. A press release from the European Commission states that the UK failed to abide by this condition, alleging that "no data were submitted to the Commission, neither in the course of the licensing procedure nor after its closure."

A spokesman for the Commission said the infringement procedure "has now reached the stage of the reasoned opinion, the last step before a formal complaint to the Court of Justice."

The Ministry of Defence disputes the European Commission's claims. A spokesman told Reuters: "We are in disagreement with the Commission but it would be inappropriate for us to argue the issues in public when this case is likely to come before the European Court of Justice."

The UK does not accept that the Euratom Treaty - on which the accusation rests - covers defence activities, he said. "The Ministry of Defence abides by international accepted safety and environmental standards as published by bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Commission for Radiological Protection."

Last month the EC said it would take the UK to court for barring EU inspectors from full access to the Sellafield nuclear site to account for highly radioactive materials. ®

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