DISCUSSIONS around the underground disposal of nuclear waste in Allerdale have taken a step forward this week as a Community Partnership has been formed.

Allerdale is amongst the areas in talks to potentially host a Geological Disposal Facility.

A GDF would store higher level radioactive waste underground and it is hailed as the safest and most secure method of disposal.

The Allerdale GDF Working Group recommended a Search Area for consideration in 2021 comprised of 13 electoral wards: Aspatria; Broughton St Bridgets; Dalton; Ellen & Gilcrux; Flimby; Harrington & Salterbeck; Maryport North; Maryport South; Moorclose & Moss Bay; Seaton & Northside; St John’s; St Michael’s and Stainburn & Clifton.

And it was announced this week that a Community Partnership has launched to facilitate more detailed discussions about GDF in Allerdale.

Two Community Partnerships have formed already in Copeland and are made up of Radioactive Waste Management, elected councillors, the Local Authority and representatives of the community.

Gordon Grant, Community Engagement Manager representing RWM said: "We have business represented by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, we have the youth voice represented by Inspira and we have elected representatives on the partnership through Cumbria Association of Local Councils.

"We'll be looking to broaden that, we'd like to get health involved so we'll be talking to the health groups across the Search Area to see if we can encourage them to join.

"It is a key priority to broaden that membership so it becomes reflective of that area we're actually talking to."

Mr Grant said that part of the process will be to narrow down the Search Area.

"Two key objectives for us are to find a suitable site and a willing community and we will start to narrow that down as we undertake our site evaluation work and as we start talking to the community."

The factors the Community Partnership will focus on when considering if the Search Area is suitable for GDF include: safety, engineering, feasibility, the environment, transport, value for money and the community views.

Allerdale Borough Council's leadership voted to join the Community Partnership on the condition that the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is excluded from the Search Area. The Lake District National Park is also excluded.

The council's decision to take part in talks is not necessarily a yes to GDF, but simply a decision to be at the discussion table.

Mr Grant pointed out that it is the public who will have the final say.

The Interim Chair of the Allerdale GDF Community Partnership, Mary Bradley, said: “As Interim Chair, I’ll be here for the first few months to help establish the Community Partnership and continue the conversation with the community.

“It’s really important that residents in the Search Area understand that they have the final say on whether or not they want a Geological Disposal Facility, and the Community Partnership exists to make sure that all voices are heard."