Italy to send nuclear waste
abroad for disposal and UK to keep
foreign nuclear waste
December 18th 2004 - Italy to send nuclear waste abroad for
Italy's nuclear waste is to be sent
abroad for disposal. The Italian state-owned company SOGIN said
Environment Minister Altero Matteoli had drawn up a decree authorizing
the 20-year-old waste to be sent abroad, probably to France or Britain.
SOGIN said the decree covered 250 tons of waste, most of which is
currently stored at two plants in Piedmont and a third plan in Emilia
Romagna. It said the cost of the transport and disposal operation
would come to some 300 million euros.
Most of the waste is spent fuel from Italy's four reactors, one of
which was shut down in 1978. The other three were closed down after a
1987 referendum halted Italy's nuclear power production.
Last year, Italian Premier Silvio
Berlusconi's government bowed to popular pressure to consider
alternative sites for a proposed national nuclear dump that was to be
set up in the southern region of Basilicata. The dump was to store
80,000 cubic meters of medium and high grade nuclear waste that is
expected to remain radioactive for between 20,000 and 150,000 years.
The national nuclear dump was to be set up at the tiny town of
Scanzano Jonico on Italy's south coast, but locals were outraged at
the government decision. Thousands joined protests including road
blocks, marches and hunger strikes. 
December 15th 2004 -
UK to keep foreign nuclear waste
The U.K. government has decided to
bury Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Swiss and Swedish nuclear
waste in Britain as a money-making venture to help pay for the UK's
own unresolved nuclear waste problems. The decision, announced in a
written Commons statement, has been taken by the trade secretary
Patricia Hewitt despite the fact that Britain as yet has no depository
for the waste. It overturns a 30-year-old policy that the UK would not
become a dumping ground for other countries' nuclear waste.
Previously both Conservative and Labour governments have said waste
arising as a result of lucrative nuclear fuel reprocessing contracts
at Sellafield in Cumbria should be returned to the country of origin.
Successive governments had intended to return all highly dangerous
waste contaminated with plutonium to its country of origin - a total
of 225 nuclear shipments. This week's decision means keeping and
disposing of the bulk of that toxic waste in Britain.
Mrs Hewitt said: "The benefits are both environmental and economic."
She said the additional income - up to £680m - would be "used for
nuclear clean-up which will result in savings for the UK taxpayer over
the longer term".
Environmental groups warn that it will leave Britain with thousands
of tonnes of waste for which there is currently no form of disposal.
Jean McSorley, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "The
government is trying to encourage Japanese utilities, and others, to
sign more reprocessing contracts at Sellafield knowing that they will
not have to have their nuclear waste returned."
The government has set up a committee to find a way of disposing of
high- and intermediate-level nuclear waste safely. It considered 20
options, including burying the waste in the Antarctic and firing it at
the sun. No preferred method has been established, but it is likely to
be either storage above ground or disposal below ground in deep rock
British Nuclear Fuels, which currently stores the foreign waste at
Sellafield, said it was delighted by the decision. A spokesman said it
would mean up to 3,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste would now not
need to be shipped back to its place of origin, saving tens of
thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases in ship fuel.
As a result of this week's decision, the foreign waste that will
remain in Britain will be exchanged for much smaller quantities of
waste of a higher radioactivity produced from British reactors - up to
38 shipments. The government says this trade amounts to an equal
quantity of radioactivity.
Critics though raise the prospect of the British waste being hijacked
by terrorists. Llew Smith, Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent, last night
asked a written question of Ms Hewitt about her assessment of any
increased terrorist threat. "Intermediate level waste is bulky and
difficult to handle but shipments of high level waste in smaller
cannisters might be an attractive terrorist target," he said.
The policy would mean very long-lived, high-activity radioactive waste
from Sellafield being shipped to Japan. To European continental
customers it will be carried on ferries and trains to Germany,
Switzerland, Spain, Sweden and Italy. The government says using armed
police and transports mounted with guns to escort the high level waste
minimises the risk.
Currently overseas nuclear waste is stored at Sellafield either in the
form of glass blocks, untreated liquid waste, or in drums of solid
waste. It is mixed up together with UK waste but British Nuclear Fuels
keeps a log of how much radioactivity had been allocated to each
Gordon MacKerron, head of the government's committee on radioactive
waste management, said: "Of course the volumes of nuclear waste we
will have to deal with in Britain will be substantially greater... but
overall because of the large existing volume of UK waste it will not
make a big difference in percentage terms.
"In practical terms it does not make a lot of difference to our
overall nuclear waste problem." 
January 5th 2005 -
Italy to export nuclear waste to UK
Italy is hoping to export 99% of its
nuclear waste to the UK after public demonstrations made it impossible
to find a suitable site on Italian soil.
The Italian government has 235 tonnes of spent fuel from the country's
long decommissioned reactors in deteriorating stores.
Contracts worth £200m are on offer to British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) at
Cumbria to reprocess the nuclear fuel, provided the UK keeps the waste
and the plutonium and uranium that would be recovered. The Italian
nuclear industry was shut down after the Chernobyl disaster.
The Department of Trade and Industry cleared the way for the import of
nuclear fuel and retention of overseas nuclear waste in Britain a week
before Christmas, when rules insisting that waste should be returned
to the country of origin were relaxed.
The government said retaining waste from half a dozen customers of
BNFL would increase the revenue of the state-owned company by £680m,
and this would go towards the £2bn a year clean-up costs.
Any plan to import waste from Italy is bound to be controversial
because the UK has failed to find its own depository for waste and is
not expected to have one for another 30 years. The government says
that importing spent fuel for reprocessing and keeping the waste only
adds a few per cent to the UK's waste that is already stored at sites
round the country.
The department said yesterday that it had had no formal contact with
the Italians over the proposed contract. A public consultation would
be held before any new contracts were signed, and Patricia Hewitt, the
trade and industry secretary, would make a final decision.
BNFL, which has told local groups in Cumbria that it had informal
talks with the Italians in the summer, said yesterday that there had
been no formal approach.
A decree allowing the export of waste was signed in Italy last month.
Sogin, the Italian government organisation charged with dealing with
the country's nuclear legacy, has said it will approach the UK next
month when the decree becomes law.
The Guardian, meanwhile, is challenging the government's refusal to
publish details of its contracts allowing Italy to send nuclear waste
The DTI has claimed the information was too "sensitive" and would
embarrass the Italian government.
Now the newspaper has submitted a request under the Freedom of
Information Act which requires the DTI to respond within 20 working