EAST Lothian could become a permanent storage site for radioactive nuclear waste if Scottish Government proposals to deal with the country's "nuclear industry legacy" are approved. A new consultation document 'Scotland's Higher Activity Radioactive Waste Policy' was published by the Government last Friday, which argues for the creation of permanent "near surface, near site" underground storage units close to existing nuclear facilities, reducing the need for waste to be transported long distances.

The government has said that no specific locations had been identified at this stage but Scotland's current nuclear sites are located at Torness, by Dunbar, Rosyth, Hunterston, Chapelcross and Dounreay.

In June 2007 the Scottish Government announced that its policy for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive wastes arising in Scotland was to "support long-term near surface, near site storage facilities so that the waste is monitorable and retrievable and the need for transporting it over long distances is minimal".

Announcing the consultation, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP said: "The nuclear industry's legacy is higher activity radioactive waste that we have been left to manage at great expense.

"This is not a legacy we chose to be burdened with but it exists and we must now focus on finding a responsible solution for managing it." "Having an 'out of sight out of mind' policy is losing support and the Scottish Government is leading the way in reflecting the most up to date thinking and international practice.

"This is not a one size fits all approach; we want to see waste management plans and facilities that are designed to manage the different types of higher activity radioactive waste that we have in Scotland.

"The very fact we have to deal with this radioactive waste, left behind by those who came before us, underlines why the Scottish Government's decision to rule out new nuclear power stations was the right one.

"We do not want future generations to be confronted with even greater radioactive waste challenges than those we face today." The term "higher activity radioactive waste" is used collectively to describe different materials which are radioactively contaminated and, in some cases, will be for many thousands of years.

It typically comes from nuclear power research and electricity generation and 75 per cent of higher activity radioactive waste in Scotland comes from three materials: graphite; activated metals; and contaminated metals.

Waste currently produced by nuclear sites across Scotland is stored on-site to allow decay, or conditioned and packaged with the intention that the containers will be disposed of at some future date in a deep geological disposal facility, which does not currently exist but is the UK Government's preferred method of nuclear waste disposal.

Sellafield in Cumbria is seen as the most likely location for an UK underground storage facility.

East Lothian MSP and Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray blasted the proposals being rolled out by the Scottish Government, claiming they amounted to "cutting their nose off to spite their face".

"This is unnecessary," declared Mr Gray.

"What we need is a single British solution to managing nuclear waste, and that is what England and Wales are developing. "The Scottish Executive was co-operating with that too and there was no question of long term storage of this waste at Torness. "Then the SNP came along, refused to co-operate with the rest of Britain and declared "it's Scotland's waste".

Andrew Sharp, the SNP's Westminster candidate for East Lothian, opposed the possible storing of nuclear waste at Torness in East Lothian despite the Nationalists' stance at Holyrood in favour of the proposals.

"I cannot support the idea that nuclear waste should be stored for hundreds if not thousands of years in East Lothian," he said.

"If Torness should close in the future, we in East Lothian will be left with a legacy of potential contaminants which will remain a threat for potentially thousands of years.

"Why on earth should we continue to store the legacy of a power generation method which we have always opposed?

"I do not want to see the constituency used as a repository for this material, which will require costly investment in storage for many generations to come.

"If the UK government, which after all oversaw the creation of Torness, is willing to establish a specialised long term storage depository, then we should allow them to process and store radioactive waste from Torness.

"I will be contributing to the consultation exercise, and I would urge everyone who is concerned with the future of the county to do the same." Stuart Ritchie, the Lib Dems Westminster candidate for East Lothian, said the Scottish Government's proposal was a "more sensible idea".

"This highlights the problem with nuclear power the Westminster government is going ahead with more power stations but we have not sorted out what to do with the waste from the original sites," he said.

"I would lean towards the Scottish Government's view than Westminster. The Labour government in London seems to have thought up their idea on the back of a fag packet." The Conservative Westminster candidate, Michael Veitch, said: "It would seem to me to be nothing short of a disgrace for the SNP to be in favour of storing nuclear waste in the vicinity of Torness when the offer is there for it to be taken down south and stored deep underground."