Cumbria vetos nuclear waste plans amid safety concerns

Cumbria County Council has rejected plans to explore the feasibility of building an underground nuclear waste storage facility on its turf because of safety fears.

The council decided that West Cumbria should no longer be considered as a potential location for a deep geological repository to dispose of higher activity radioactive waste.

It also ruled that two districts of Copeland and Allerdale should be excluded from further consideration in the Government’s ‘managing radioactive waste safely’ (MRWS) process – ending four years of formal involvement in the scheme.

The council had previously raised concerns over the findings of a National Audit Office report last November which looked at how risk reduction was being managed at the nearby Sellafield site.

The report criticised the site for posing a “significant risk to people and the environment” because of the deteriorating conditions of radioactive waste storage facilities.

The council reacted at the time by saying it needed to be more closely involved in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s improvement plans to improve the security and safety of interim storage facilities.

This on-going issue has proved to be highly contentious and according to council leader Cllr Eddie Martin, elected members felt there to be “sufficient doubt” over the suitability of West Cumbria’s geology to accommodate a new facility.

“Cumbria is not the best place geologically in the UK – the Government’s efforts need to be focused on disposing of the waste underground in the safest place, not the easiest,” he argued.

The council will now look to encourage ministers to make the necessary investment to improve existing surface storage facilities at Sellafield while the search continues for a permanent solution to deal with the country’s high-level radioactive waste.

The nuclear industry however will remain a key part of the Cumbrian economy, with West Cumbria being a world-renowned centre for nuclear skills and expertise.

Maxine Perella

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