Sunday, 07 February 2016

Cumbria County Council say 'no' to nuclear repository, despite Copeland voting in favour

CUMBRIA County Council's executive has voted against moving to the next stage of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process.

OPPOSITION Chairman of anti-nuclear campaign group Solway Plain Against Nuclear Dump, John Haywood, presents Cumbria County Council cabinet member Tony Markley with a 3,700-signature petition, opposing the search for an underground nuclear repository in Cumbria

Councillors voted seven against moving towards stage four of the process - desk based studies of West Cumbria, while only three said 'yes' to progressing.

The move comes after Copeland Borough Council's executive voted 'yes' on moving to the next stage of the process, with six councillors supporting the motion, while only one opposesed the move. 

Copeland Borough Council leader, Elaine Woodburn, said: “We have agreed to move to the next stage of the MRWS process, and have made this decision based on the evidence presented to us, both in the form of the MRWS Partnership’s final report, and the recent correspondence we have had with the government and a range or other organisations.

“Whilst we do not know whether this area will be suitable to host a repository, we thought it was appropriate to continue in the process to try and find out. The results of a statistically robust opinion poll showed that Copeland residents supported this decision.”

And Allerdale has been ruled out of the running by Cumbria County Council.

A statement from Cumbria County Council says: "Cumbria County Council's Cabinet has decided that West Cumbria should no longer be considered as a potential location for a deep geological repository to dispose of higher activity radioactive waste and the two districts of Copeland and Allerdale should be excluded from further consideration in the Government’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process.

"At a meeting in Carlisle, on January 30, the 10 members of the county council’s Cabinet also agreed that the council will encourage the Government to make the necessary investment to improve the existing surface storage facilities at Sellafield so that there is a more robust surface storage arrangement in the decades to come while the Government finds a permanent solution for the country’s higher activity radioactive waste.

"The decision effectively ends Cumbria County Council’s four-year formal involvement in the MRWS process and puts an end to the doubts and concerns of many local people, which have escalated around the crucial decision from the three local authorities of Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council and Copeland Borough Council on whether to progress to the next stage of allowing the Government to conduct desk-top geological surveys.

"As a decision to continue with the process needed the agreement of both the district and county councils, Cumbria County Council’s decision has removed both districts from consideration.

"The nuclear industry is, and will continue to be, a key part of the Cumbrian economy. West Cumbria is a world-renowned centre for nuclear skills and expertise and the ‘home’ of the UK’s nuclear industry. Most of the UK’s high-level radioactive waste is stored at Sellafield, and therefore what happens to that waste in the future is, and will continue to be, of vital interest to Cumbria.

"The findings of a National Audit Office report in November 2012 which looked at the way that the NDA and Sellafield Ltd were managing risk reduction at Sellafield clearly demonstrated the need for immediate improvements in the management of major projects at the site. The report criticised the site for posing a “significant risk to people and the environment” because of the deteriorating conditions of radioactive waste storage facilities. Cumbria County Council said when the report was published that it will need to be closely involved in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s improvement plan to improve the security and safety of interim storage and the management of the major investment that will continue to be needed into the site.

"Cabinet members made it clear at the meeting that this has been a highly contentious issue which has polarised opinions and that they had listened to and considered all of the evidence and opinions put forward during the MRWS process. This included the report produced by the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership, which as well including the local authorities, included representation from industry, parish councils, the Lake District National Park, the tourist sector, unions and other community groups.

"Councillors acknowledged the work that had been done by the Department for Energy and Climate Change since October 2012, when all three Cumbrian authorities asked for further information and clarification on a number of key principles before a decision could be taken. Despite reassurances from DECC that primary legislation would underpin the right of withdrawal, councils were still being asked to proceed to the next stage without legislation formalising the right of withdrawal.

Cllr Eddie Martin, Leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “Cabinet believes there is sufficient doubt around the suitability of West Cumbria’s geology to put an end now to the uncertainty and worry this is causing for our communities. Cumbria is not the best place geologically in the UK – the Government’s efforts need to be focused on disposing of the waste underground in the safest place, not the easiest.

“Members have remained concerned throughout on the issue of the legal right of withdrawal if we proceed to the next stage. Despite assurances from Government that they intend to introduce this as primary legislation, we do believe that this could have been done far sooner to ease our concerns. The fact remains the right of withdrawal is not yet enshrined in statute and we could not take the risk of saying yes today without this being absolutely nailed down.

“Cumbria has a unique and world-renowned landscape which needs to be cherished and protected. While Sellafield and the Lake District have co-existed side by side successfully for decades, we fear that if the area becomes known in the national conscience as the place where nuclear waste is stored underground, the Lake District’s reputation may not be so resilient."

Reacting to the county council's decision, Copeland MP, Jamie Reed, said the borough remained in a strong position within the nuclear industry.

He said: “Copeland is now in an exceptionally strong position to take forward the important work of radioactive waste management for the UK. There is an unprecedented cross-party mandate for this, an undeniable environmental and moral case and an overwhelming economic case for taking this issue forward. Most importantly, doing so is in the best interests of the people of Copeland and West Cumbria."

For further reaction, see tomorrow's Evening Mail





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