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‘We’ll go it alone’ say councils despite county’s nuclear veto

West Cumbria’s two borough councils have joined forces to lobby the Government in a bid to salvage search plans for an underground nuclear waste store site in the area.

The dramatic twist came less than 24 hours after Cumbria County Council vetoed the next stage of the search – and after the Government said the process would be brought to a close in West Cumbria.

The new move has already sparked an outcry from protestors who believed that decisions taken on Wednesday were final.

Allerdale and Copeland council leaders have written a letter to the Energy Secretary Ed Davy, seeking an urgent meeting.

After £3.2 million had been spent on the project and five years of work, the county council’s cabinet voted on Wednesday against moving to the next stage of identifying potential sites.

Allerdale and Copeland district councils both separately voted to continue with the process.

The county’s veto, under the Government’s agreed process, left the plans dead in the water.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change immediately said that the current process in West Cumbria had ended and it would look for volunteer communities elsewhere.

However, a department spokesman last night responded to the latest move by the district councils by saying they could put forward alternative proposals.

Workington MP Sir Tony Cunningham said he would support the borough councils in their lobbying if asked.

Councillor Alan Smith, leader of Allerdale council, said: “Both Allerdale and Copeland need to sit down and find a way forward because we have still got the problem of the waste at Sellafield.

“It’s a question of whether we can pick up the ball and run with it to find out whether the geology is safe.

“This is the same situation we were in 20 years ago with Nirex. Nothing’s happening except the degeneration of the silos where the waste is stored. I don’t think it’s right to say ‘let’s wait another 20 years’.”

Coun Smith said he would look at every option, from deep geological disposal to above-ground storage and new reactors which could use the waste as fuel.

Sir Tony said: “It’s the end of this particular process but we still need to deal with the problem.

“We need to make sure that where it is at the moment is safe, look at other sites and look at other technologies.”

The three councils were the only ones in the country to express an interest in hosting an underground store for the country’s high-level nuclear waste, most of which is stored above ground at Sellafield.

Leading members of the three councils each met on Wednesday to decide whether to move to stage four of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process.

Further votes would have been needed from the councils before any store was built and the Government had pledged that the area could withdraw at any point before construction.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “Both Allerdale and Copeland voted in favour. How they take that forward is a matter for them in the first instance.

“Whatever happens in the future, this will always be a community-led voluntarist process.

“Any new process would have to go through public consultation.”

The Government had said on Wednesday that it would embark on a renewed drive to ensure that the case for hosting a geological disposal facility was drawn to the attention of communities, and to encourage further local authorities to come forward over the coming years to join the process.

A Copeland council spokesman said the council would continue talking to the Government to consider all the options.

Copeland leader Elaine Woodburn said: “We have a moral duty to look at this because the waste is here and it touches on every aspect of my community.

“The repository might not be the right solution but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.”

Jamie Reed, Copeland MP, said Copeland was in a strong position to take forward the radioactive waste management process.

He said he had already begun exploring options with industry and with the Government.

Geoff Betsworth, of campaign group Solway Plain Against Nuclear Dump, which was set up to fight an underground store being built near Silloth, said: “We will not give up the fight. We won a battle on Wednesday but the war isn’t won yet.”

Charles Graves, director of Lake District Hotels and Armathwaite Hall at Bassenthwaite, who had called on the district councils to pull out amid fears of harm to tourism, said: “We were extremely happy with the result but Allerdale and Copeland have an awful lot to do and we will deal with it when the time comes.

“It is the whole country’s problem, not just ours.”

Protestor John Wilson, of Portinscale, Keswick, said: “I believe the decision on the part of Allerdale and Copeland was irrational.

“I don’t think the current process can proceed in West Cumbria and the DECC has confirmed that.”

l Comment and Letters – Page 10

Have your say

It just not credible to contemplate that, given the choice, any community anywhere will ever want this waste beneath the ground in their locality. Sellafield jobs reliant on this thing underground dump being built? Hardly! It's just then end of one project and the start of another, with ever more escalating costs, people that would have built a dump underground now employed building a dump above ground and shovelling the same stuff around ad infinitum whilst the pile grows.

Posted by Paul on 6 February 2013 at 12:26

Sorry Angela but I think that the silent majority are with Allerdale, there are a lot of people shouting about this but don't forget Sellafield employs over 9000 people and if you count family members and local businesses that depend on Sellafield directly or indirectly probably 40,000 people isn't a high estimate. Secondly managing the existing waste isn't an option, it needs to be rehoused in proper facilities as most of these projects that are running latre are finding that records kept in the 1950's are not reliable. The buildings were not designed to be up this long and need replacing, to do it properly you are looking at an area at least the size of Workington. The councils are already developing the docks, but with a huge input from the NMP and Britains energy coast, as without these businesses there is nothing to deliver too and no road network capable of coping to take anything elsewhere. Sorry but Sellafield is important to the whole of Cumbria and I hope that it continues to invest in the area for years to come.

Posted by Mark on 5 February 2013 at 13:39

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