Eddie Martin’s letter to the Whitehaven News, following Elaine Woodburn’s recent allegation of “government’s apparent failure…”

The Editor,
The Whitehaven News,
148 Queen Street,
CA28 7AZ


Perhaps the government’s apparent failure, as alleged by Elaine Woodburn, to take into account the views expressed by Copeland Borough Council (CBC) in the final version of the recent White Paper “Implementing Geological Disposal” (reported in the Whitehaven News of 28th August) was because CBC’s comments were simply not credible or the conclusions legitimate.

Whilst there are proposals in the White Paper with which the Cumbria Trust (CT) vehemently disagrees or mistrusts, and on which we would seek further explanation, there is no doubt that a number of our recommendations have been accepted, not the least of which is the commitment to undertake a national geological survey before seeking volunteer communities. Whether such a detailed and adequate survey can, in fact, be undertaken in that time frame is questionable. In a similar vein, the definition of a ‘community’ has yet to be decided by the government but it will not be a community such as Copeland (or any other district council) which will have the final say.

Whilst the international nuclear community advises that a deep geological disposal facility appears to be the optimum solution, no country has yet managed to achieve such a facility and the UK is already 35 years behind comparable countries such as Sweden, Finland, the USA and France.

Disposal of nuclear waste is a national problem and requires a national solution. In a letter to me from the Chairman of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) he states:

“CoRWM is wholly in agreement with you that geological disposal of the UK’s nuclear waste is not a Cumbrian issue; it is a national matter and should be dealt with accordingly.”

That being so how can Ms Woodburn complain that the White Paper is a “kick in the teeth”. It seems to me that maybe, just maybe, the government’s nuclear gurus might, at long last, be listening – at least with one ear – and not only to those who shout the loudest.

We are also advised that any GDF must be sited in an area of relatively slow and predictable hydraulic gradients; a requirement that is categorically not met in West Cumbria where the topology pitches from the mountains to the sea. It is also extremely doubtful whether any site in Cumbria could meet the second requirement of geological stability, The manner in which the geological suitability of apparently potential West Cumbrian sites has been misrepresented by those with an interest in ensuring its candidacy is deeply worrying and continues to give us considerable cause for concern.

It is encouraging that Sellafield appears to be making progress in dealing effectively with the highly radioactive material already stored at Sellafield but may I remind your readers that, not so long ago, the Public Accounts Committee stated that :

“Hazardous radioactive waste is housed in buildings which pose intolerable risks to people and the environment”.

That, surely, is something which local and national politicians should be campaigning about. Incessantly. Improved interim storage will be required far into the future, if not indefinitely.

For all our sakes we want Sellafield to flourish and, indeed, become a world-renown centre of nuclear excellence especially in ensuring the safety, storage and security of highly toxic materials. To that end, however, it will require even more investment; investment which should and must percolate into those areas of Copeland which are not immune to endemic poverty. Now that really is a cause celebre for Elaine and her colleagues!

Yours faithfully,

Eddie Martin

Chairman, Cumbria Trust.

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