The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s main voice in the call for more waste sites for west Cumbria has been branded as out of order. Alun Ellis, the NDA’s Repository Project Manager reassured people that ” the outcome of the Nirex Inquiry would have been favourable to geological disposal of high level nuclear wastes had all the information been available at that time”. Now Radiation Free Lakeland has been able to release a letter sent by the lead Nirex Inspector Chris McDonald to Mr Ellis, expressing grave concerns at comments made at the recent public drop-in sessions. In his letter, McDonald said: “This was not a view put forward by Nirex on publication of Nirex 97, and it causes me some concern now. The fundamental conclusion of the expert Assessor and myself was that the Proposed Repository Zone had been chosen for these studies in an arbitrary manner, without conforming to internationally agreed, geological criteria. The Secretary of State remarked in his formal decision that the site selection process had singularly failed to impress in terms of its transparency and the rigour of its technical and scientific logic. Moreover, notwithstanding the preliminary post-closure safety assessments, he shared our concerns over uncertainties and deficiencies. The introduction of the novel concept of the chemical barrier, in order to reinforce safety, was one of those. We also concluded that the ongoing work programme would not range over an extensive enough hydrological field, nor make sufficiently lengthy observations, to resolve uncertainties. Therefore we advised that another site be sought elsewhere. Nothing claimed for Nirex 97 has changed that position, in my view: the uncertainties inherent in these theoretical exercises were still too large.
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