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Friday, 25 April 2014

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Inquiry to be held into Cumbria council nuclear store decision

A council decision to rule Cumbria out of the running to house a massive nuclear waste store is to be investigated.

Tim KNowles photo
Tim Knowles

Cumbria County Council’s ruling cabinet’s opposition to the area being considered for an underground repository has triggered a political storm.

Tim Knowles, who was the authority’s spokesman for the nuclear industry, has already quit his cabinet role in protest at the decision.

Now other disgruntled councillors have had the decision, which they have branded “flawed”, called in to be discussed by a scrutiny committee.

Further debate on the issue will take place tomorrow.

The county council stopped west Cumbria being considered last month, meaning a list of possible sites could not be drawn up. Copeland and Allerdale councils, however, wanted to remain in the running.

But because districts and the county councils had to agree for each area to progress to the next stage of a site search, Cumbria cannot continue.

The move to the next stage would have involved tests to identify a suitable geological site for the facility.

The county’s decision is to be investigated by members of the authority’s economy and environment scrutiny advisory board.

According to the council report, a valid call-in was received regarding ‘participation in stage four of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MWRS) process’.

The call-in letter has been signed by councillors David Southward MBE, Frank Morgan and Wendy Skillicorn – who all represent divisions in the west of the county.

In their letter they said: “The above decision has been called in to test the merits of the Cabinet decision and to scrutinise the basis on which it was taken.

“The decision before the Cabinet was to determine whether to participate in stage four of the (MRWS) process that would seek to identify suitable sites for an underground repository for nuclear waste.

“We believe the decision not to participate was flawed for a number of reasons.”

The reasons given include:

  • Cabinet gave no coherent reason for the decision;
  • The decision foregoes the opportunity to identify suitable sites indefinitely;
  • It flew in the face of Government and county council policy;
  • It discounted the view of the majority of Copeland residents;
  • It jeopardised relations between the Government and the county council in relation to nuclear new-build;
  • It limited economic development in Copeland for a generation.

Tomorrow’s meeting, at The Courts in Carlisle, comes as the future of Cumbria’s huge stockpile of higher level radioactive nuclear waste stored at Sellafield remains shrouded in confusion.

Senior councillors and west Cumbria’s two MPs – Copeland’s Jamie Reed, and Workington MP Tony Cunningham – have met with energy minister Baroness Verma and Energy Secretary Ed Davey for talks to find a solution to the problem.

A spokesman for Baroness Verma refused to rule out a new process to find a site for the dump which would allow Copeland and Allerdale to remain as possible candidate communities.

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