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Friday, 18 April 2014

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New energy minister in Sellafield nuclear plant visit

New energy minister Baroness Verma says the Government will clarify concerns about a possible nuclear dump in Cumbria.

Baroness Verma photo
Baroness Verma, centre, with, from left, Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council, Alan Smith, leader of Allerdale council, Tim Knowles, Cumbria County Council and Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland council

She has also called for a continued and strong focus on decommissioning at Sellafield while praising the professionalism of the workforce there.

Baroness Verma made the comments after meeting staff and holding talks with council leaders during a fact-finding mission to the west Cumbrian atomic complex.

Her visit came just days after an alliance of local authorities in the county said it was deferring a decision on whether to move into the next stage of a search to find a potential site for an underground nuclear dump.

Cumbria County, Copeland and Allerdale councils all said they wanted to further look into issues about whether west Cumbria should continue to be considered for a storage site. A decision is now expected in January.

Among the issues flagged as part of research into whether Cumbria should stay in the running has been the perception of a “lack of trust” surrounding the process from some areas of the public.

The minister said: “Finding a long-term and sustainable solution for dealing with our legacy of nuclear waste is absolutely vital for Cumbria and for the country as a whole.

“It has been extremely valuable to discuss with councillors the work that has already been done on the issue of siting a geological disposal facility, including the recent report by the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) partnership.

“In light of councillors’ move to defer a decision on whether to take part in the next stage of the process, I want to be clear that Government remains completely committed to a community-led and voluntarist approach.

“We will also work closely with the councils to provide the information and clarification they need.”

Meanwhile today, Professor Keith Baverstock, a former member of the UK Committee for Radioactive Waste Management, argued the search for a new nuclear dump was being done the wrong way around.

He said a suitable site should be found in Cumbria before any application is made to store it in the county.

Baroness Verma also learned about and saw for herself the vast amount of work carried out at Sellafield, where massive amounts of nuclear decommissioning work continues.

She added: “Visiting Sellafield really does drive home the sheer scale and size of the challenge posed by our nuclear legacy and why we must continue to focus relentlessly on our world-leading decommissioning efforts. Decommissioning and cleaning up the site will take many decades, but I am very encouraged by the progress being made and the dedication and professionalism of everyone at the site.”

The work on-going at Sellafield is crucial to the Cumbrian economy.

Decommissioning and the prospects of a new nuclear reactor being built are key components for economic regeneration as part of the Britain’s Energy Coast plan.

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