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Saturday, 22 November 2014

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Survey will identify west Cumbrian sites unsuitable for nuclear waste dump

A geological survey of west Cumbria has begun to “screen out” areas unsuitable for an underground repository.

UK independent geological experts The British Geological Survey (BGS) has been commissioned by the Government to carry out a study of the geology of the area as part of the early stages for locating a site for a disposal facility for higher activity radioactive waste.

Copeland currently houses 99 per cent of the UK’s low level waste, 75 per cent of intermediate waste, and all the country’s high level waste.

Allerdale, Copeland and Cumbria county councils last year all asked to be involved in the process and a working group West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Partnership, which includes a wide range of organisations in the area, was set up and public opinion is being sought.

The councils believe because of the social, environmental and economic impact – both positive and negative – the waste would have on West Cumbria, communities must be involved in the process to decide what happens to it. Construction would not start for more than 10 years and councils could withdraw up until that point. They jointly set up the to help people make an informed decision.

A spokesman from the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “The British Geological Survey will look at the information that is already available about the geology of the whole of Allerdale and Copeland and up to 5 km offshore, and screen out any areas that clearly have unsuitable geology for a disposal facility, based on the criteria set out in the Government’s MRWS White Paper.

“The screening will be led by the BGS Chief Geologist and carried out by a team of experienced BGS geoscientists. It will be what is called a ‘desk-based study’ only. This means that it will only use information that is already available and there will be no drilling or field-based investigative studies. It will not be ‘in depth’ and the BGS will not be looking at non-geological factors.”

The study by the BGS will only rule out unsuitable sites, a more rigorous assessment would be undertaken if west Cumbria makes a decision to continue in further stages of site selection.

Tim Knowles from the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership and the Cumbria County Council Cabinet member responsible for environment said: “The Partnership meets every six weeks to consider the issues involved. We are also keen to ensure that as many people as possible get involved and have the chance to express their views. If the BGS study does not rule out the whole of west Cumbria we will be starting the next stage of a comprehensive public and stakeholder engagement programme in September.”

The results of the BGS study are expected to be available in September. A decision about whether or not west Cumbria should participate in the Government siting process is then likely to be taken in the second half of 2011.

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