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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Underground nuclear store debate reignited

The debate over a possible underground nuclear dump in Cumbria has been reignited after evidence emerged of strong public opposition to the notion of district councils ever being given the final say.

Nuclear waste repository graphic
Artist’s impression of the repository

It is just over a year since Cumbria County Council voted to pull out of the search for a possible site for a long-term repository. The ruling cabinet vetoed the process despite that being wanted by both Allerdale and Copeland councils.

Were it ever to go ahead, the £12 billion repository would be used to store higher level nuclear waste deep underground for centuries.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) last year published a proposal that district rather than county councils should have the final say on continuing the search for a site but public consultation has shown that most of those who responded support the original approach, leaving county councils in the driving seat.

That response has been seized upon by Cumbrians campaigning against by dump – and also drew a strong response from Cumbria County Council leader Stewart Young.

Along with others in the county, he fears that the Department for Energy and Climate Change may still have its sights set on Cumbria as a possible home for the dump – despite last year’s decision to end the search.

He said: “The whole thing is deeply, deeply, flawed. They just don’t seem to be listening.

“It’s perverse to suggest that the county council should have no say in the decision-making process.

“Cumbria said no last January, and as far as we are concerned the reasons why we said no are still there.”

Mr Young said underground storage may not now be deliverable in the UK. Anti-dump campaigners from Cumbria Trust say the Government should concentrate first on a national survey to find the area in the UK most geologically suitable for the disposal facility.

The idea of leaving the decision to district councils was “bizarre”, said the group’s chairman Eddie Martin.

He said: “It’s an affront to democracy – an attempt to disenfranchise 500,000 people in Cumbria. DECC have simply got it wrong but I fear that this issue has not yet gone away.”

West Cumbrian MP Jamie Reed and other politicians in Copeland and Allerdale say the exploration of that area as a potential site for the dump should continue.

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