Select Committee on Science and Technology First Report


By the Select Committee appointed to consider Science and Technology.


the Government's response


On 23 November 2001, this Committee published a Report entitled Managing Radioactive Waste: the Government's consultation[1]. In July 2002, the Government sent us a response. The response, which we[2] welcome, is published in Appendix 2 to this Report.

Outstanding point

We do, however, note that the Government has not responded explicitly to the point raised in paragraphs 32 and 33 of the Committee's Report. The paragraphs are:

32.  As long ago as 1976, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution recommended that there should be no significant expansion of nuclear power "until it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived highly radioactive waste for the indefinite future"[3]. We took this as axiomatic in our 1999 Report[4], and the Minister also concurred with this long-standing proposition (Q 13).

33.   We wish to emphasise that the test is not that disposal arrangements are in place but that, beyond reasonable doubt, they are in prospect. Although we are not yet satisfied that disposal arrangements are reasonably in prospect, that should not inhibit the thinking which can be done in parallel about the possible rôle for nuclear power in the future. However, should the need for new construction arise, we foresee the need to compress the currently proposed timetable for having permanent radioactive waste disposal arrangements in place.

We would welcome a response from the Government on that particular point.


We note particularly the last three sentences of the Government's response, which say:

"Words are easy. We have set out some aspirations. We must now put them into practice".

The Select Committee encourages the Government to do so, and will watch with interest to see what progress is made.

1   First Report Session 2001-02, HL Paper 36. Back

2   The Committee's current membership and declared interests are in Appendix 1. Back

3   Nuclear waste and the Environment, Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Sixth Report. Back

4   Management of Nuclear Waste, Third Report Session 1998-99, HL: Paper 41. Back

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