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Thursday, 05 March 2015

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Nuclear staff union urges Cumbrian councils to start search for underground store

The nuclear industry’s biggest staff union wants Cumbrian councils to start searching for a site to bury highly radioactive nuclear waste.

Nuclear dump graphic
Artist's impression of how the underground repository might look

Prospect also claims that arguments against building a repository – up to four times bigger than Sellafield – are flawed.

Cumbria county, Copeland and Allerdale borough councils will decide on January 30 whether or not to go ahead and look for a suitable site deep underground in west Cumbria.

Nearly two months ago the three councils put off the crucial decision in a bid to get Government assurances on issues including the promise of a ‘right of withdrawal’ to be made legally binding if a community decided at a later stage that it wanted to pull out of the process.

But Prospect which represents 120,000 managers and specialists in the nuclear industry and has a large membership at Sellafield regrets the postponement. The union is urging the Cumbrian councils to push ahead with geological investigations saying that’s the best way to ensure proper debate.

Prospect North national secretary Mike Graham said: “The more comprehensive way to assess whether the geology of west Cumbria is suitable to host a geological disposal facility is to proceed to the next stage of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process. We will be calling on the councils, MPs and other stakeholders to choose that action.”

Prospect says it is not seeking to pre-empt or stifle debate but to ensure the exercise can move to a stage which allows more detailed and balanced considerations of the argument.

It contends that the arguments so far put into the public domain are largely based on the work of two geologists – David Smythe and Professor Stuart Haszeldine – and should not be taken at face value.

Professor Haszeldine, of Edinburgh University and David Smythe, a retired Professor of Geophysics spoke at public meetings in Silloth and Maryport last month at which they said research for the Nirex inquiry in the 1990s, had already ruled out the whole area as unsuitable.

However, working with the Sellafield Workers’ Campaign, the staff union has drawn up a briefing paper highlighting areas of concern in the research.


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