Committee for Radioactive Waste Management

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Nuclear spin.png This article is part of the Nuclear Spin project of Spinwatch.


The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) is a group of "independent experts" appointed by Government to "scrutinise plans for managing UK higher activity radioactive waste now and into the future".[1]

It was set up in November 2003 after a public consultation called "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely" had been launched by the Government in September 2001.

Since November 2012, it has been chaired by Laurence Williams, Professor of Nuclear Safety at the University of Central Lancashire and a former Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations.[2]

The nuclear links of some of its current members...

Although CoRWM is independent some of its panel have some interesting associations with the nuclear industry:[3]

  • Robert Pickard, CORWM’s Chair, is Emeritus Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Cardiff. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • William Lee, Deputy Chair, is Director of the Centre for Advanced Structural Ceramics and Co-Director of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering at Imperial College London. He is a former Director of BNFL's University Research Alliance on Waste Immobilisation at Sheffield University and a technical expert for the International Atomic Energy Agency. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2014
  • David Broughton is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Retired, he worked at the UKAEA’s Dounreay plant from 1981 until 2007, where he was responsible for major radioactive waste management projects. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • Margaret Burns is Chair of NHS Health Scotland. She was a member of the Health and Safety Commission for nine years, representing the public interest and the devolved administrationswith particular responsibility for the nuclear industry. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • Brian Clark is Professor of Environmental Management and Planning at Aberdeen University. He has served on CoRWM since 2003. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2014
  • Mark Dutton is a nuclear consultant and has served on CoRWM since 2003. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Nuclear Engineers. He previously worked for the National Nuclear Corporation. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • Fergus Gibb is Emeritus Professor of Petrology & Geochemistry in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Sheffield. His post at the University of Sheffield was part-funded for a period by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • Simon Harley is Professor of Lower Crustal Processes in the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2014
  • Marion Hill is an independent consultant with 35 years' experience in standards for and assessments of the radiological impact of the nuclear industry on the public and the environment. She was a member of the Health and Safety Commission's Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee (NuSAC) from 2006 to 2008, when it was suspended. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • Francis Livens is Research Director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute and Director of the Manchester/ Sheffield Nuclear Fission Doctoral Training Centre. He has acted as an advisor to the nuclear industry both in the UK and overseas. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2014
  • Rebecca Lunn is a Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2014
  • Leslie Netherton runs an environmental health consultancy company. He is Chair of the Ministry of Defence Advisory Group for its Submarine Dismantling Project and sits on the project Steering Group. As Head of Service with Plymouth City Council from 1998-2007 he had responsibility for civil protection, waste management, cemeteries, building control, consumer protection, sustainability and environmental health. As lead Authority officer for the nuclear submarine refitting facility at Devonport Royal Dockyard, he was involved with major planning applications, discharge consent consultations, offsite emergency planning and extensive stakeholder engagement. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • Stephen Newson is Principal Mining Consultant for Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering and project management consultancy. He has worked for major companies, such as Shell and BHP Billiton, and has consulted for Nirex and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012
  • John Rennilson - is a Chartered Town Planner and a Chartered Surveyor. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2014
  • Lynda Warren is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Law at Aberystwyth University and visiting Professor at Birmingham City University. She has been a member of CoRWM since 2003 and, before that, was a member of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC). She is an associate of Integrated Decision Management, a consultancy that works in the nuclear sector. Current term of office ends: 31 October 2012

Members circa November 2013

...And previous ones

Some previous members also had links to the industry.[4]

Spinning safe waste

From 1st August 2005, CoRWM retained the PR Company, Luther Pendragon, to advise on "communication issues arising from the third phase of the Committee's public and stakeholder engagement process".

The Luther team working on the account includes two partners at the firm Mike Granatt and Ben Rich as well as Adam Lewis, Susie Winter and Aideen Lee. Mike Granatt is an ex-Government spin doctor. He used to be the Director General of the Government Information and Communication Service (GICS) for seven years and was responsible for the Government News Network, the regional press operation with offices across Great Britain. Before then he had been responsible for all news handling, marketing communication and internal communication for amongst others the Energy and Environment Departments, including working on nuclear power.

PR Week said that Luther Pendragon had been appointed to "help it reassure people that nuclear waste is being dealt with." [6] Luther Pendragon’s PR activities for CoRWM included, amongst others:

  • Identifying CoRWM’s critics and advocates
  • media monitoring
  • media relations including writing press releases
  • Drafting and placing feature articles
  • Drafting of letters to the press

The contract is however between NNC (later AMEC NNC) and Luther Pendragon.[7] - See below.

Sound-bite science

In November 2005, Luther Pendragon developed a series of "sound-bites" that CoRWM could use. These included:

  • "CoRWM is independent, impartial, and operates without preconceptions;"
  • "CoRWM will not suggest locations. Its job is to suggest how waste should be managed, not where;"
  • "Irrespective of whether we build more nuclear power stations we need to deal with the waste we already have;"
  • "CoRWM's work does take into acccount of the possibility of waste created by more nuclear power stations. However, CoRWM does not have a view on whether this is desirable or not;"
  • "To answer its remit, CoRWM must find solutions that are sound technically and inspire public confidence." [8]

But the waste is not so safe

In April 2006, a leading radiation expert yesterday attacked the unscientific approach being taken by a Government committee investigating the disposal of UK nuclear waste.

Keith Baverstock, a former World Health Organisation radiation expert, who was sacked from CoRWM in 2005 for describing it as amateurish, once again criticised the committee for its "distinctively non-scientific approach" who had done a "Mickey Mouse job".

He said enough radioactive material to fill the Albert Hall five times over was being stored "in very much less than ideal conditions" at power stations such as Sellafield and Dounreay. "If it were to be dispersed into the atmosphere, Chernobyl would look like a vicar's tea party," he said. [9]

So attack the critics

Luther Pendragon / CoRWM produced a document on "lines to take on attacks" by another CoRWM critic, Professor David Ball of Middlesex Univeristy. The document notes: "He is not an expert in nuclear science or the management of nuclease waste, although he does have a DPhil in physics."

It continues "it is categorically wrong for him to claim that the Committee is ignoring issues of security. Protecting future nuclear waste from terrorism or sabotage has been a key issue for CoRWM since its establishment in 2003... the allegation that we are tackling these issues in an 'amateurish fashion' is patently absurd". [10]

And stick the waste down a hole

In April 2006, CoRWM announced that deep geological disposal is the "best available approach" for the long term management of Britain’s 470,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste, despite the fact it was the same solution the Government has already rejected three times over the last 30 years.

Keith Baverstock, (see above) was unimpressed by its proposals. “With a gestation period longer than that of an elephant, it has delivered a mouse,” he said. “The public has been short-changed. The committee has not got as far as was originally intended.” [11]

Especially as it's a terrorist threat

The same week that CoRWM announced the review of its results, it was revealed that "security specialists" had warned it about the threat of a terrorist attack. The specialists told the committee that "it is our unanimous opinion that greater attention should be given to the current management of radioactive waste held in the UK, in the context of its vulnerability to potential terrorist attack"

"We are not aware of any UK Government programme that is addressing this issue with adequate detail or priority, and consider it unacceptable for some vulnerable waste forms such as spent fuel, to remain in their current condition and mode of storage." [12]

Can't we fire the waste into space .... or dump it out at sea?

CoRWM's PR company Luther Pendragon suggested that "CoRWM meet with the three key players on energy / environment issues in the Conservative party, as part of our wider political engagement programme".

Notes of the meeting, on 15th March 2006, show that Alan Duncan, Shadow Trade Secretary (left after a few minutes); Peter Ainsworth, Shadow Environment Secretary; Gregory Barker, Shadow Energy Minister and Chris Farmer, Alan Duncan's researcher attended along with Mark Dutton and Fiona Walthall from CoRWM and Bridget Hargreave from Luther Pendragon.

Under the issue of security, the minutes show: "The MPs raised some concerns over the current security of radioactive waste repositories. They asked how easy it might be to cause an explosion.

They also asked why firing the waste into space and burying it out at sea were not options. MD [Mark Dutton] / FW [Fiona Walthall] explained that they had both been considered initially but ruled out. Firing the waste into space was too high risk given the ability of a rocket to disperse the material should something go wrong. Burying at sea would be fraught with legal complications under international OSPAR rules, and changing the laws would take too long". [13]

Know your MP

Luther Pendragon has been preparing background briefing papers on influential MPs in the nuclear debate for CoRWM, including the Conservative MPs it met in March 2006 (see above).

MPs targeted include Jamie Reed [14]; Peter Ainsworth [15]; Alan Duncan [16]; John Thurso [17]; Gregory Barker [18]; David Howarth [19] and Chris Huhne [20]

How “Independent” is CoRWM?

CoRWM made much of its independence and neutral stance on nuclear. For example, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that in response to inquiries from journalists, CoRWM put out a statement saying “CoRWM has no position on the desirability or otherwise of nuclear new build”. [21]

This may be so, but:

Its programme staff are from a nuclear company who do have a vested interest in new build

In 2004, although the Secretariat for CoRWM came from Defra, its three full-time programme staff were from the subsidiary of the nuclear company AMEC, called AMEC NNC based in Cheshire. These three full-time staff were backed “by a large number of NNC specialists who work for CORWM as and when necessary, plus consultants and sub-contractors who between them can provide services ranging from advising on space rockets or terrorism risks, to running a website or arranging and facilitating a public meeting. [22] AMEC has a vested interest in both nuclear new build and decommissioning.

CoRWM meeting minutes show that NNC, the UK’s leading private sector supplier of nuclear engineering, technical and safety services - took up the CoRWM contract in 2004. In 2005 NNC merged with AMEC to form AMEC NNC. Since then AMEC has been at the heart of CoRWM’s process.

In September 2004, the Chair of CoRWM Gordon MacKerrron, “welcomed Sam Usher and his NNC team to their first meeting as CoRWM programme manager. Sam presented his report”. Also at the meeting committee members had to declare “any outside interest which might give rise to a conflict of interest. Mark Dutton declared his employment with NNC (CoRWM's programme management contractor) up to 2002, since when he was only undertaking NNC consultancy work outside the UK”. [23]

While Dutton obviously foresaw that his past employment with NNC was a potential conflict of interest, no one from CoRWM stopped to think that employing NNC was also a conflict of interest.

“Managing the discussion” at CoRWM plenary meetings

AMEC NNC became integral to the CoRWM process, including at plenary hearings of the committee. For example at the Committee’s plenary meeting in June 2005 there was a "CoRWM programme update" report by Sam Usher “on progress; decisions and discussions needed at the meeting; and programme risks and challenges”. [24]

Nearly a year later, documents showed that at the CoRWM Plenary meeting in May 2006, on one of the agenda items there was an “Introduction by Sam Usher and Fred Barker, including suggestions on managing the discussion”. Sam Usher had also prepared a briefing paper for the meeting. [25]

AMEC NNC are Involved in Public and Stakeholder Engagement for CoRWM

According to AMEC NNC it had a contract to manage and deliver CoRWM’s programme of work, that as well as providing scientific and technical input, which included "managing the largest public and stakeholder consultation of its kind in the UK nuclear industry.” [26]

AMEC NNC Control CoRWM’s PR Company

It's a private contract between two parties

In 2006, when NuclearSpin put in a Freedom of Information request for all correspondence between CoRWM and its PR company, Luther Pendragon, there was a discussion involving Defra staff, CoRWM and Luther Pendragon as to whether the information could be released.

On 14th March 2006, an official from Defra drafted a response for NuclearSpin. It said: "Thank you for your emailed Freedom of Information request dated 20 February 2006. [sic] Requesting copies of correspondence and various other forms of communications between CoRWM members and press/PR companies and political lobbying companies. I have been liaising with Defra’s Information Management Division and CoRWM’s current Media Advisors – Luther Pendragon. Unfortunately the majority of the information you requested cannot be disclosed as it is held by our Media Advisors who are a private sub-contracted company, and any communication/s they hold with CoRWM Members that does not channel via the secretariat (Defra) is held as confidential – between two private parties.” [27]

So here was an admission that CoRWM’s PR company was not actually contracted to the committee but to AMEC NNC, a nuclear company. To make matters worse, the officials had decided that the private contract was not subject to public scrutiny. This meant that the public had no right to the PR activities of an independent government committee because that committee’s PR company was contracted to a private nuclear company with a vested interest in new build.

CoRWM holds the information, but its the PR and nuclear company who decide what is released

However another Defra official offered the advice that “if you have another company dealing with your Media Company and they hold the information on CoRWM’s behalf then under legislation you still hold the information”.

On receipt of this, the Defra official wrote to CoRWM and Luther Pendragon and said that she had written to an official and “told her that LP (Luther Pendragon) are a private company sub-contracted by another private company AMEC NNC. But according to her as they are dealing with information on the Committee’s behalf “we still hold the info although it is not held here at Defra and we have to ask them to send to us any info they think can be released to the public Which will require time.”

Although Defra had now decided to release the information, the crucial part of the email was that “we have to ask them to send to us any info they think can be released to the public”, so the people making the decision about what should be released to the public were not Defra but CoRWM’s PR company, Luther Pendragon. [28]



  1. CORWM, Home, undated, accessed 12 October 2012
  2. DECC, New chair for Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, 10 July 2012
  3. CORWM, Who we are, undated, accessed 12 October 2012
  4. CoRWM website
  5. ['IDM assists CoRWM on assessing UK’s nuclear waste management options,'20 April, 2005,]
  6. D. Bloch (2005) "Luther Pendragon Takes On Nuclear Waste Brief", PR Week, 12 August, p8.
  7. TS 101 CoRWM Media Advisory Service Phase 3 Options Assessment
  8. Luther Pendragon, A Workable Solution Must Combine Both Good Science and Public Confidence, Briefing document for CoRWM, November, 2005.
  9. Robin McKie, "Britain 'Making a Poor Job' of Nuclear Waste", The Observer, 23 April, 2006.
  10. Luther Pendragon, Lines to Take on Attacks by Professor David Ball, Briefing document for CoRWM.
  11. Rob Edwards, Bury Your Nuclear Waste, UK Advised, New Scientist, 27 April , 2006.
  12. The Guardian, "Nuclear Waste 'Terror Target'", 27 April, 2006.
  13. Luther Pendragon, CoRWM meeting with Conservative Environment spokespeople, 15 March, 2006.
  14. Luther Pendragon, Briefing, Jamie Reed MP Prepared for CoRWM.
  15. Luther Pendragon, Peter Ainsworth MP profile prepared for CoRWM, March, 2006.
  16. Luther Pendragon, Alan Duncan MP profile prepared for CoRWM, March, 2006.
  17. Luther Pendragon, John Thurso MP profile prepared for CoRWM.
  18. Luther Pendragon, Gregory Barker MP profile prepared for CoRWM, March, 2006.
  19. Luther Pendragon, David Howarth MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy profile prepared for CoRWM, 2006.
  20. Luther Pendragon, Chris Huhne MP, liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs profile prepared for CoRWM, 2006.
  21. Reference needed
  22. CoRWM website
  23. CoRWM Minutes
  24. CoRWM Minutes
  25. CoRWM Minutes
  26. AMEC, In Touch Magazine
  27. Defra Emails
  28. Defra Email Exchange with Luther Pendragon and CoRWM