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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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New nuclear store process ignores our views, says Copeland council leader

A new process to find a site for an underground repository for high-level nuclear waste in Cumbria is lacking detail, it has been claimed.

 Elaine Woodburn photo
Elaine Woodburn

Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland council, has expressed concern about the White Paper published last month, saying the process is “a kick in the teeth” for the community.

She feels the council’s views put forward after the previous failed search procedure were ignored.

At Copeland council’s executive meeting, she said: “They seem to have come up with a process that I’m not convinced that they will deliver.”

The new White Paper aims to find a site for a geological disposal facility (GDF), which would provide long-term storage for higher activity radioactive waste.

It comes after a previous MRWS process, where Cumbria County Council’s “no” vote in January 2013 to proceed to the next stage ended Copeland and Allerdale’s involvement against their wishes.

Councillors put their views forward after the process ended but said these have not been taken into account in the new White Paper.

Ms Woodburn said there were numerous questions to further clarify including which level of local authority has the final say, and what form a test of public support would be. The council will now write to the Department of Energy and Climate Change to raise these fresh concerns.

She added: “I feel that this community has had a bit of a kick in the teeth in the process. I’m not sure if this process stays as it is that we would want to participate in it. It means for four years Copeland will be in limbo. Ultimately that will be someone else’s decision in four years’ time.”

The document sets out a new process for finding a site, includes stating that no one tier of local authority can veto the plans against the wishes of others.

Other conclusions in the White Paper include a payment of £1 million per year for up to five years will be made to councils to enter initial formal discussions, rising to £2.5m per year as the design/planning process begins.

It also says national geological screening will take place before 2016 so that possible locations can be ruled in or out early in the process.

Communities will have the right of withdrawal from discussions at any stage before the test of public support. Also, community benefits “might include” improved education and skills investment, transport infrastructure and recreation facilities.

Councillor Hugh Branney said: “Elaine has outlined very well our issues and concerns. My concern is there is no ‘plan B’.”

Further concern was raised about the timescale that the process may take and when a community can exercise its right of withdrawal. Formal discussions involving communities will not begin until 2016.

The Government is set to form a community representation working group to lay out how the process will be taken forward, including the specifics of how communities volunteer.

The construction of the disposal facility would guarantee around 570 jobs for decades to come and around 1,000 jobs during the construction phase – but it might not be ready until 2050 at the earliest.

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