Up to 100,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste could be buried near the village of East Hendred if plans for a nuclear store on the former atomic energy research site nearby go ahead.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority is considering recommending storing high-volume, low-level nuclear waste close to the surface of the ground on the western side of the current UKAEA site. The store would be within the boundary of East Hendred parish, about two miles from the village.

The sealed waste could take 1,000 years to decompose, although the site is due to be decontaminated for new development by 2025.

UKAEA has stressed the dumped material would be "only slightly contaminated" and said risk assessments would be carried out.

But villagers are concerned radioactive material could get into water supplies, after chemicals from the site contaminated local wells in the past.

They also pointed out that a new reservoir had been proposed for a site a few miles from the proposed store.

East Hendred Parish Council chairman Dr John Sharp said: "Building a long-term store isn't consistent with the definition of Harwell as a 100 per cent delicensed site.

"The proposed store would be built on chalk, which is pervious. Water flows could carry radioactive waste that has leached through the membrane and so enter the local water supplies.

"Our preference is for an existing nuclear waste disposal site to be used for the material, in a place where it will continue to be maintained."

He said that the parish's questions had not been adequately answered about whether the store would be permanent and what types of radiation would be involved.

Villagers also wanted to know what protection would be needed and how the store would be monitored.

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey wrote to UKAEA asking it to consult villagers at every step of the process.

He said: "My chief concern is to make sure that UKAEA keeps East Hendred as informed about what they are doing as possible.

"I would expect the proper safeguards to be put in place to manage the waste."

UKAEA has assured residents that any contamination of water would be very low risk and the location of any potential reservoir would be taken into account.

UKAEA site head John Wilkins said that the danger caused by the waste would be minimal.

He said: "The low-level waste would consist of things like building materials, which are only slightly contaminated.

"We have been through local consultation and we will continue to do so, because we are always keen to involve the community."