NUCLEAR chiefs in Copeland are split on the creation of controversial storage vaults for radioactive waste amid “moral” concerns.

The Government launched its search for a host community before Christmas, prompting the council to come up with a statement that was broadly supportive of the project but also non-committal in terms of the authority’s involvement.

But it emerged at a meeting of the borough council’s Strategic Nuclear and Energy Board (SNEB) this week that panel members disagreed over the council’s current position.

The board heard that some councillors were “fundamentally” opposed to the very idea of a multi-million-pound underground Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

Speaking at the meeting, councillors Sam Pollen and David Banks both criticised the GDF plans.

Mr Pollen said he was not in a position to argue with experts over the facility but stressed that “morality and ethics” should also be considered. He questioned the “rush” to develop a GDF amid concerns over safety and the lack of “retrievability” of the waste once deposited.

The councillor, who works at Sellafield, said the waste was now stored “extremely safely” on the Sellafield site which he described as a “big tick in a box for me”.

He said: “I can’t argue against the expertise, but I can argue about morals and ethics. This is what we are talking about: it’s forever. It’s a big issue. There is no building burning down.

“It’s not credible to believe that the safest place in Britain to dispose of that waste would be on the Sellafield site but the suspicion is that’s where it’s going.

“A lot of people feel we are not rewarded for what we have got now – the most complex hazardous nuclear site on planet earth with the biggest stockpile of plutonium.”

But David Moore, Copeland’s nuclear portfolio-holder, said councillors had already been given the opportunity to give feedback.

He said: “If members feel they need to have another debate because they haven’t got what they want in it, that’s fair enough. I am not going to debate the rights and wrongs of GDF.”

The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), the organisation which advised the Government, is due to give a presentation to the board on the GDF.

Mr Moore suggested that this might be a chance for members to “challenge” some of the CoRWM advice.

And the borough would have to be involved whatever the outcome because Copeland is already a “host community”,  with Sellafield home to nuclear waste.

He added that the search for a nuclear waste repository was a Government policy, not a council one.

But Mr Pollen said: “It might be the Government’s position, but I am against quite a lot of the Government’s positions.”

Councillors agreed to hold a “separate session” to discuss concerns, to seek “clarification” and possibly to amend the wording of their holding statement.

SNEB chairman Steven Morgan said: “I do think that there’s probably some disagreements, some fractures between us. Not everyone’s opinion can be accommodated but we will do the best we can.

“We are representing generations who haven’t even been born yet, so I do think we have to keep that at the forefront of our thinking, but it (the nuclear waste) isn’t going to go away.”

The council’s original statement said that the authority had “no preference or position” as to the location of the GDF locally or nationally.

The plans caused huge controversy in West Cumbria when first mooted, before being rejected by the county council in 2013.

Public opinion was split at the time, with geologists and environmental campaigners making impassioned pleas to reject the plans.

The nuclear waste repository could potentially be based anywhere in Wales, Northern Ireland or England.

No sites have been earmarked for the huge storage vaults which would be built many hundreds of metres beneath the ground - a major undertaking creating hundreds of jobs and taking many decades.