How government, regulators and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority have neglected nuclear waste in Cumbria.
By Pete Roche (Friends of the Earth)
This study was undertaken with the aim of investigating how hazardous nuclear waste at
Sellafield has been stored and handled over the past 13 years, via three case studies:
- THORP Reprocessing and Plutonium separation Plant
- High Level Liquid Waste Treatment Facilities
- The Treatment of Solid Wastes
The study took place within the context of implementing the first three stages of the
Government’s 2008 Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper (1) in West Cumbria.
The initial stages were instigated through expressions of interest by Cumbria County Council and the western Boroughs of Copeland and Allerdale in 2008/9 in ‘volunteering’ to take part in the search for a site for a £12bn deep Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes in West Cumbria. The third stage of the process, funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, was managed by a Partnership (2) which incorporated public participation and consultation. The results of the Partnership’s
deliberations were reported in August 2012 (3) and the three Councils then took decisions
over whether to take part in a fourth stage.
On 30th January 2013 Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet voted 7-3 against taking forward a search for a GDF in Allerdale and Copeland. The County and the two Boroughs were the only local authorities in the UK which had made ‘expressions of interest’ and although the two Boroughs voted in favour, the Department of Energy and Climate Change required all tiers of government to support any move forward (4), and the process therefore came to a halt.
One of the critiques of the process’s Terms of Reference was that it concentrated on the GDF to the exclusion of other aspects of nuclear waste management (5). This was brought into sharp focus by a National Audit Office report published in November 2012 on managing risk reduction at Sellafield which clearly demonstrated the need for immediate improvements in the management of major projects at the 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 (6). The lack of progress exposed in the NAO report prompted Rt. Hon. Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to state that Sellafield posed an “intolerable risk” (7).
The full briefing. pdf document