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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Sellafield unions blast Cumbria council over nuclear dump 'no' vote

Workers at Sellafield have branded the decision to withdraw from hosting an underground nuclear store “short-sighted and insulting”.

Craig Dobson photo
Craig Dobson

Craig Dobson, the secretary of the Sellafield Workers’ Campaign (SWC), said he was deeply disappointed with the county council’s decision to withdraw from the process.

He hit out at council members who voted against continuing the search for somewhere to site a proposed repository to hold nuclear waste yet “had the audacity to say they support the nuclear industry and Sellafield”.

“Cumbria County Council appear to want to have their cake and eat it,” he said. “We will leave it up to the Sellafield workers, their families and the silent pro-majority in our community to work out the real reason for their actions.

“But it was interesting, given that we are told there was to be no political whip, that some Conservative members of the cabinet spoke in favour of continuing with the process before then voting against.”

Mr Dobson said that to withdraw at this stage without a credible plan was bad enough but they had done so knowing the strong support of the Sellafield workforce, as well as Copeland’s council and MP.

He promised to join forces with MP Jamie Reed and leaders of Copeland and Allerdale councils in lobbying the Government for an answer as to what is to be done with the waste already stored at Sellafield.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed reacted to the county vote by hinting that the two west Cumbrian councils, which both backed further investigations to see if the area’s geology was suitable for an underground repository, may well join forces.

Both district council leaders have written to the Energy Secretary Ed Davy, seeking an urgent meeting.

County council leader Eddie Martin said that he was ‘not going to trade insults’ but if Copeland and Allerdale were serious about hosting the repository then they should look at becoming a unitary authority – because the county council was not going to change its position.

He added that he was in favour of unitary authorities because – with 384 councillors representing Cumbria at either a district or county level – he felt it was ‘economic madness’ that could not continue.

Mr Dobson said Mr Martin argued he wanted to put an end to the worry the proposed dump had put on the county and said “what about the worry they have now bestowed on people in Copeland and Allerdale?”.

“Doing nothing now is not an option – we cannot wish this issue away and we cannot wish the nuclear waste away,” he said.

“The ambiguity, drift and delay and re-packaging needs to stop. A better solution has to be found.”

The county council’s cabinet voted by seven votes to three to halt the process to identify a suitable repository site. Had the £12 billion facility been built, it would have housed nuclear waste from across the UK for thousands of years.

Mr Reed, who has promised to continue fighting for the repository process to continue, said: “It’s interesting that Eddie Martin is now choosing to raise this debate (about the county’s local authority structure). The reality is any process to deal with radioactive waste is likely to outlive the county’s current local government structures because of the financial pressures they are now facing.

“They’re already talking about a Copeland Allerdale merger. We are definitely at a fork in the road.”

A report is due to be published on Monday looking at the waste levels which have built up at Sellafield. No details of what the Committee of Public Accounts has found will be released until Monday morning. See the News & Star for the full story.

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