00.01 FRIDAY 10 DECEMBER 2004


The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee publishes a damning report today on the UK Government's slow progress in developing a coherent radioactive waste management policy.

The Committee is astonished that without consulting its own scientific experts the Government instructed a new advisory body, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), to start from 'a blank sheet of paper', despite an overwhelming international scientific consensus that underground disposal or storage is a safe long-term solution.

The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Oxburgh, said:

"In 1976 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution emphasised the urgent need to find a long-term solution to storing radioactive waste. In March 1999 and again in November 2001 this Committee argued the case for rapid action, but still no firm progress has been made, even though the events of 9/11 raise questions of the vulnerability of existing storage facilities."

"We are dismayed by the Government's lack of urgency. The UK has generated radioactive waste for more than half a century and still hasn't decided how to deal with it. Ministers seem to be using perpetual consultation exercises to put off making the crucial decisions."

The Committee concluded that:

  • CoRWM should stop wasting time considering options that have been discarded by the rest of the international community (such as blasting waste into space!). Instead it should focus on the variants of underground storage or disposal.

  • CoRWM appears to lack the relevant scientific and technical expertise to assess the various options for radioactive waste management.

  • Ministers failed to take adequate scientific advice when CoRWM was established, failing to consult Defra's Chief Scientific Adviser.

  • The Government should either appoint extra members to CoRWM with expertise in earth science, materials or civil engineering or establish a technical sub-committee.

  • The Government should no longer allow delays in developing a long-term radioactive waste management strategy to be used as a pretext for deferring decisions on the future of nuclear power.


1. The members of  the Science and Technology Committee who conducted this inquiry were:

Lord Broers

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

Lord Flowers

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Lord Lewis of Newnham

Lord Mitchell

Lord Oxburgh (Chairman)

Lord Paul

Baroness Perry of Southwark

Baroness Platt of Writtle

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood

Lord Tombs

Lord Turnberg

Baroness Walmsley

Lord Winston

Lord Young of Graffham

2. The report is published by the Stationery Office: Radioactive Waste Management, Science and Technology Committee, 5th Report, Session 2003−04 , HL Paper 200, ISBN 0 10 400 5688, price £11.00.

3. The Committee has published two earlier report on this subject.

On 24 March 1999 it published, Management of Nuclear Waste, HL Paper 41, ISBN 0 10 404 1994, £12.20. The evidence was published separately in two volumes: HL Paper 89, ISBN 0 10 478598 5, £24.50 and HL Paper 26, ISBN 0 10 402699 5, £29.30.

On 26 November 2001 it published Managing Radioactive Waste: the Government's consultation, ISBN 0 10 402902 1, price £7.50.

For further background information contact:

  • Chris Johnson, Clerk to the Committee on 020 7219 6072.

For copies of the report or requests for interviews with Lord Oxburgh contact:

  • Jillian Bailey, (Press & Publicity Officer, Committees) on 020 7219 8659.