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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Council calls for geological survey over Cumbria's nuclear dump prospects

Allerdale council is calling for a detailed national geological survey and a referendum of any affected community before any decision is taken on the site of an underground nuclear waste dump.

Mark Fryer photo
Mark Fryer

The council’s executive met to agree its response to a Government consultation on a proposed process to find a site.

Councillors agreed that the facility should be built in an area with the best geology and called for the Government to carry out the survey as a starting point before calling for expressions of interest, despite the high cost.

They have called for more clarity over the Government’s definition of the affected community and said its views should be paramount in any decision about whether or not an area should host a geological disposal facility (GDF).

Following Cumbria County Council’s decision to call an end to the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process in January, the Government put forward a new process to search for a site for a UK geological disposal facility.

Under the consultation any district council which expresses an interest in hosting the facility could be considered – effectively sidelining the county as well as town and parish councils.

However councillor Mark Fryer said: “I don’t think any public body has primacy over another. On such a significant issue as this it’s only the community that has primacy. The whole community should have an input. That can only come through a referendum.”

He added a referendum must be government funded.

Barbara Cannon, Allerdale’s deputy leader, said: “It’s almost lunacy to have a national project like this and enforce austerity on it, particularly as billions are spent on the nuclear industry. It’s so important that they should be prepared to spend the money on it and do it properly. It might be that Cumbria isn’t in the process in the future. We are not wanting a GDF for the sake of it. We are wanting a solution that’s safe for future generations.”

Currently 70 per cent of the radioactive waste in the country by volume is stored at Sellafield – the figure rises to 90 per cent in terms of radioactivity.

The Government has confirmed that waste from new UK nuclear power stations would go into the facility.

Councillor Mike Heaslip said: “We should be killing the idea that we are in pole position. We should not assume Cumbria’s in the running at all.”

Alan Smith, the council leader, said: “This is not an expression of interest. It’s not looking for a site or anything else. It’s purely a consultation that’s being held throughout the country.

“I have done everything in my power to make it open and transparent.”

The draft response was due to be amended after the meeting and signed off by the leader and deputy leader before being submitted to the government.

Neighbouring Copeland council is also planning to submit its response.

A spokeswoman said the response has been drafted by leader Elaine Woodburn, opposition leader David Moore and chief executive Paul Walker.

The response has not been discussed by the council’s executive.

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