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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Campaigners to continue fight against nuclear storage plans

Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight to prevent Cumbria hosting an underground nuclear waste store.

Eddie Martin photo
Eddie Martin

The Government set out its new process to search for a site for a geological disposal facility (GDF) last week to dispose of the country’s highly radioactive waste – of which 70 per cent is currently stored in west Cumbria at Sellafield.

Last year the search in Cumbria collapsed when the county council overruled both Copeland and Allerdale’s vote to move forward with investigations.

However, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have revealed in its new white paper, that no single authority in local Government will now be able to veto any decision. Instead they will each have an input and it will be the community which has the final say, through a test of public support.

Pressure group Cumbria Trust – which was set up in the wake of last year’s decision – is passionate in making the point clear that Cumbria is not the “right place” to build a GDF.

Chairman Eddie Martin, who was the county council’s leader when the authority vetoed the search, said his initial response was “generally positive” to the Government’s white paper, although he still had “considerable reservations.”

He has welcomed the news that a national geological screening programme was to be carried out – which the group has previously argued for.

Mr Martin said: “Instead of saying Cumbria is the place, they’ll do a screening programme on the entire UK, except for Scotland, and that’s fine providing it’s a detailed survey and not cursory.

“It is reckless to encourage a GDF in Cumbria, which would become a huge construction site for the foreseeable future, especially when we know that Cumbria is simply not geologically suitable.”

Mr Martin said that removing the authority’s right to veto “worries him.” “You cannot rule the county council out – it is nonsense,” he added.

“Excluding the county council leads to an interesting constitutional, if not, legal problem.

“The county council has responsibility for all of Cumbria’s infrastructure including highways, waste disposal, emergency evacuation, fire and rescue etc. Is the Government going to ride rough-shod over those statutory obligations?”

Mr Martin also said he was disappointed there was no “unqualified protection” for the national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

DECC new policy will now see two years’ worth of investigations take place. In 2016 talks will begin with communities, which will result in £1m being paid each year, increasing to £2.5m if it progresses to bore-hole tests. Site investigations and designing a facility will take up to 20 years and then, construction would begin in late 2020.

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