The UK’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), which is conducting a ‘back to basics’ review of potential methods of disposal for the UK’s wastes, has announced the results of its initial meetings.

A ‘long list’ of options has been considered against nine criteria and a ‘short list’ has been compiled of techniques that merit closer study:

  • Disposal in ice sheets
  • Disposal in space
  • Interim storage
  • Disposal in tectonic subduction zones
  • Sub-seabed disposal
  • Deep disposal
  • Direct injection
  • Indefinite storage
  • Phased deep disposal
  • Disposal at sea
  • Near surface disposal
  • Dilute and disperse

Four options have been set aside for consideration with one or more of the above techniques:

  • Partitioning and transmutation
  • Use in reactors
  • Incineration
  • Melting

Surprisingly, disposal at sea remains on the list of potential solutions. Elliot Morley, a minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, told members of the UK’s upper house recently that “disposal at sea is clearly out.” Morley also said that a solution to the UK’s waste problems was a prerequisite for the future viability of nuclear power.

CoRWM’s aim is to give a recommendation to the UK government on a long-term strategy for the wastes in July 2006. The government will then begin its own decision making process.

Committee chair Gordon MacKerron said: “This is an exciting period of our work. It is the first time we have shared our thoughts in this way and taken steps towards making a rough short list. This is just the beginning of the process and the list is by no means definitive as we are still consulting on our initial long list of options, and the criteria we should use to move to a short list. The public’s views and concerns will also help to shape the list during our wide-reaching consultation period.”