THE word “support” has been removed from Copeland council’s position on controversial plans to build underground storage bunkers for nuclear waste.

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

However, earlier this year coun Sam Pollen of the Strategic and Nuclear Energy Board raised “moral” concerns over the very idea of a multi-million-pound geological disposal facility (GDF).

The first statement said that the Council “supports” the Government’s approach for the disposal of radioactive waste, but the revised version adopted this week stops short of endorsing the GDF plans.

The revised version now says that the Council “acknowledges” that the creation of storage vaults is Government policy, adding a new clause that the “safety and security of the facility must take precedence over other considerations including timescales for delivery.”

The changes were discussed as leading councillors formally adopted a raft of nuclear position statements, among them their present stance on the siting of the GDF.

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

David Moore, the council’s portfolio-holder for nuclear, said: “A great deal of work has been put into these. They are the council’s position statements; they’re not policies.

“The amount of work that’s going on with nuclear within this council is unique throughout the country, and I think it is important that we have the clarity through these position statements, so both council members and council officers have a clear structure to work around.

“To do that, we went through a refresh. We took it to the SNEB meeting. SNEB raised a number of questions, which we needed to do quite a bit of work on around getting that careful wording.”

Coun Moore stressed that the report was a “living document” which should be reviewed to take account of new priorities in an ever-changing industry.

The revised statement, which is similar in most respects to the original, stressed that Copeland is already home to radioactive material now stored at Sellafield and will therefore be affected whatever the outcome of the search for a host community.

The council said it would continue to seek “clarity” on the likely timescale for availability of a potential future GDF and would “continue to press government to make progress”.

The GDF 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.

At this stage, the Council still has “no preference” for the location of the GDF which could potentially be sited anywhere in the country.

Mr Moore said that wording had been changed to give members with concerns “extra comfort” and that they were now satisfied with the updated statement.