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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Nuclear store process finished in west Cumbria - Government

The Government has ruled out the prospect of an underground nuclear waste store being created in west Cumbria.

Eddie Martin photo
Eddie Martin, right and Stewart Young at today's meeting

Related: Replay our live coverage of the the council meetings

Energy secretary Ed Davey said they respected Cumbria council's decision not to go-ahead with the search for a suitable site.

Members of the county's cabinet voted 7-3 against proceeding at the end of a meeting lasting almost four hours in Carlisle.

That came after Copeland council's executive had earlier voted six to one in favour of moving to stage four of finding an underground site locally to house high-level nuclear waste.

It had been agreed that both county and borough councils needed to be in favour for the process to continue.

"As such, the current process will be brought to a close in west Cumbria," added Mr Davey. “We will now embark on a renewed drive to ensure that the case for hosting a GDF (geological disposal facility) is drawn to the attention of other communities.”

The county's decision followed an impassioned speech by leader Eddie Martin who urged members to vote against participation and instead "encourage the Government to make the necessary investment to improve surface storage facilities at Sellafield."

Mr Davey said that while the 'no' vote was disappointing, Cumbria would continue to play a central role in the energy and nuclear power sectors.

"I am confident that the programme to manage radioactive waste safely will ultimately be successful, and that the decisions made in Cumbria today will not undermine prospects for new nuclear power stations.

“We remain firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of radioactive waste. We also remain committed to the principles of voluntarism and a community-led approach," he added.

Speaking after today's meeting, Mr Martin said: “Cabinet believes there is sufficient doubt around the suitability of west Cumbria’s geology to put an end now to the uncertainty and worry this is causing for our communities. Cumbria is not the best place geologically in the UK – the Government’s efforts need to be focused on disposing of the waste underground in the safest place, not the easiest.

“Members have remained concerned throughout on the issue of the legal right of withdrawal if we proceed to the next stage. Despite assurances from Government that they intend to introduce this as primary legislation, we do believe that this could have been done far sooner to ease our concerns. The fact remains the right of withdrawal is not yet enshrined in statute and we could not take the risk of saying yes today without this being absolutely nailed down.

“Cumbria has a unique and world-renowned landscape which needs to be cherished and protected. While Sellafield and the Lake District have co-existed side by side successfully for decades, we fear that if the area becomes known in the national conscience as the place where nuclear waste is stored underground, the Lake District’s reputation may not be so resilient."

Deputy leader Stewart Young added the case for investment at Sellafield was now more pressing than ever.

"We had always raised concerns over the lack of any 'plan B' from Government and the fact that west Cumbria was the only area to express an interest in the process left the Government with few options if we decided not to proceed.

"It is now time for the Government to secure the long-term future of the nuclear industry and put in place robust storage arrangements at Sellafield while it decides how to continue the search for a repository elsewhere in the UK."

Elaine Woodburn told a meeting of Copeland council's executive: "I don't know whether a geological disposal facility is right for Copeland - and if the next stage finds that it's not then I will be the first to say we don't want it. But we have taken the right decision today to try and find out."

Stage four involves desktop studies and are expected to last between four and five years and the meeting heard that no precise locations can be identified until this takes place.

Councillors were given assurances that Copeland can opt out of the process right up to the point of construction.

Allerdale council's executive this afternoon voted 5-2 in favour of going to stage four.

Have your say

Fantastic news, a great weight off peoples shoulders. What was the point of spending more money in stage 4 to find the perfect site, (assuming the experts in the BGS were idiots and got all there previous studies wrong) and then not being able to proceed with the build because the majority of people oppose the very idea.

Lets wait and see how many others come forward to accept this, there are some deprived areas down south but even they won't be bribed into having this dumped on them.

Posted by Roy on 13 February 2013 at 20:11

I see you all still dont get it,everyone was happy before the vote,, Because you all thought it was a done deal to move to stage 4,,CCC represents the whole of Cumbria,,Thank goodness we have level headed people on the Council who locked at it from more than false promises..Now can we get all the dummys picked up of the road out of Whitehaven,its taken an age to get home,,,,,

Posted by Bill on 6 February 2013 at 13:12

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