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Act now to bury nuclear waste, gov told

These things take time, Royal Soc warns

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The government must act now to dispose of Britain's nuclear waste, the Royal Society has said, because the process itself will take decades.

Based on current scientific knowledge, the society said, the best option for dealing with the byproducts of the country's nuclear reactors is to bury the stuff in deep concrete bunkers.

The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has also spent the last three years looking into the storage options, and had already concluded that "deep geological storage" is the best option right now.

The body is set to issue its final report later today (Monday).

Currently, most of the UK's nuclear waste is distributed among 37 surface storage tanks, with most of it stashed at the Sellafield site.

The vast majority of the waste - 350,000 cubic metres of it, is classed as intermediate level waste (you can read up on the classifications here).

Relatively small amounts of the most hazardous material, high level waste (2,000 cubic metres), and around 120,000 cubic metres, combined, of plutonium, uranium, spent fuel and low level waste, are also in need of a permanent home.

"It is important that we act with urgency because identifying appropriate sites and then consulting on and building these deep storage facilities will take decades," society vice president Sir David Wallace said.

Sir David also called for an ongoing national dialogue on the issue of nuclear waste disposal including, but not confined to, the undoubtedly thorny issue of site selection.

Although the waste will be stored several hundred metres underground in reinforced concrete bunkers and in land considered geologically suitable for long term storage, it will be an unusual homeowner who would welcome a site in his neighbourhood.

Further, because setting up proper disposal facilities will be such a slow process, robust interim solutions are also needed, the society said.

The cost to the taxpayer of storing the waste, both short and long-term, is likely to be around £70bn over the next 40 years. ®

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