Fallout on nuclear committee puts progress on waste storage into doubt

23 February 2005

A crisis in the UK’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has seen the one member suspended and another suspend himself in protest.

Keith Baverstock, the former head of the radiation protection division at the World Health Organisation, was suspended from the 13-member committee after writing to Environment Minister Elliot Morley to complain about the committee’s management under its chairman, Gordon MacKerron.

Another committee member, David Ball, suspended himself in support of Dr Baverstock. An arbitrator has been appointed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in order to resolve the issue. Sources say a hearing into Baverstock's fate was held last week and the verdict will soon be made public.

Defra is keen to avoid the kind of problems that befell its Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (CERRIE) in 2004 when irreconcilable differences between committee members eventually led to the acrimonious publication of a 'minority report' by two dissenters.

Observers say the government's aim of consulting widely has obscured CoRWM's objective of finding how best to dispose of the UK's intermediate- and high-level wastes. The committee's lengthy deliberations are raising concerns that a long-term solution to the UK's nuclear waste problem could be delayed leaving the waste in temporary sites around the country.

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