When will Britain’s nuclear waste be pumped out of the country’s nuclear power plants?
It is a key question that has come up in the aftermath of a series of scandals and the deaths of hundreds of people from radioactive contamination at Fukushima, including those at the crippled reactors.
The question is being raised again in the wake of the deadly triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The latest, which was published in The Times newspaper, said the government would start pumping some of the radioactive waste from the countrys nuclear power stations in 2020.
The issue has been raised because the government has so far been unable to explain the level of radioactive waste it is storing at two nuclear power units, Unit 1 and Unit 2, at the reactors.
The Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Friday that the UK Government had a long-term commitment to ensuring the safety and security of the nuclear sites at Fukushima Dai-ichi and Hasegawa.
“The government has a long history of investing in the safety of the reactors at both units, and the UK has been a world leader in nuclear safety for many years,” it said.
In January, a report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that the nuclear waste could be stored in the UK for as long as 50 years at the Hasegasawa nuclear power station in Iwate prefecture.
It said that as a result, there was a risk that the government could not safely dispose of the waste once the nuclear plants shut down.
The report said that it was “likely that waste from both reactors will be stored at Hasega, but the Government’s position is that it will only be disposed of at Hosegawa in 2020.”
The report also warned that nuclear waste would likely be stored for 50 years in a sealed storage facility and could be released if there was an accident.
‘We can’t be blamed’Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement at a press conference at 11:00am on Friday to confirm the start of the process for storing the waste.
Meanwhile, nuclear safety experts are urging the Government to speed up the process of releasing radioactive waste in the first instance.
It has been more than two years since a series from the Japanese government and the nuclear industry, and since the Japanese regulator ordered the plant to shut down, the situation has not improved, said nuclear expert Dr Tom Ritchie.
We can only be blamed for the accident, said Dr Ritchie, from the University of Exeter, who has researched the nuclear power industry for nearly 40 years.
Ritchie said the first step was to “take the right steps”, adding that “there is still a lot to do”.
He also called on the Government “to do everything it can to ensure that the waste does not leak”.
“I would say the first two steps are good enough.
We have to do them, but I think the third step is the most important,” said Ritchie who also heads the Institute of Nuclear and Nuclear Engineering at the University.
While the Government has been quick to admit that the problem is not solved, it has been slow to commit to actually building a storage facility, and said it was not yet clear how it would do that.
Earlier this month, the Government said it would not proceed with the construction of a storage site for radioactive waste at the units.
‘Worst-case scenario’The report by nuclear experts warned that the risk of an accident would be high if there were a leak of radioactive material.
An accident would also make it more difficult to protect the public, said Ritton, and “it is very difficult to say how long the nuclear plant will last”.
The government is also facing criticism that it is not acting fast enough in response to the accident at the nuclear reactors.
A letter sent to the Prime Minister by the Nuclear Waste Management Association (NVMA), which represents the companies that operate the reactors, says that “the government should consider more aggressive measures” to dispose of waste.
“As the situation worsens, the nuclear facilities at Fukushima and Hainchi should be closed immediately, while other reactors should be restarted and their nuclear waste disposed of,” the letter states.
A Department for Energy and Climate Change spokesman said that while the Government was committed to protecting the safety, security and quality of life of nuclear facilities, it was still unclear how it planned to deal with the risks.
Nuclear safety experts have urged the Government and the regulator to speed the process to safely dispose and safely store the waste at nuclear power facilities. More: