Infrastructure Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015

Excerpts from the:

House of Lords Grand Committee, Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Infrastructure Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015

Motion to Consider

That the Grand Committee do consider the Infrastructure Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015

Baroness Verma (Con): My Lords, I will introduce the order before providing background on geological disposal and why the Government recommend that this order should be approved.

On 12 January, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change laid before the House a draft order to bring certain development relating to geological disposal facilities for radioactive waste within the definition of “nationally significant infrastructure projects” in the Planning Act 2008. Making this legislative change will help us to implement geological disposal, an action vital for both for our energy past and energy future. As a pioneer of nuclear technology, the UK has accumulated a legacy of higher-activity radioactive waste and materials. More will arise as existing nuclear facilities reach the end of their lifetime and are decommissioned and cleaned up, and through the operation and decommissioning of any new nuclear power stations. […]

Lord Liddle (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as a Cumbrian resident and a member of Cumbria County Council. I want to set my position on record right at the outset: I think that the Minister should withdraw this order. I do not believe it is right that the Government should be able to impose what we all colloquially refer to as a nuclear dump on Cumbria, regardless of the views of the whole Cumbria community and its county council, which is essentially what the Government are trying to do. […]

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, as a humble citizen of Cumbria, I was very reassured to hear my noble friend Lord Liddle speaking as powerfully as he did. He certainly reflects widespread feeling within the county. It is sometimes easy to exaggerate but I think that there is almost a breakdown in trust. There is a feeling that the Government have for a long time been absolutely determined to drive through this project in west Cumbria, and that everything will therefore be done to ensure that it happens. Scepticism, to use a milder word, is inevitable if you have a situation in which, under the established rules, the permissions of the local authorities—and very much the county council—were essential if the project were to go ahead. When it turned out that the county council, with its greater strategic responsibilities, was not in favour of the recent attempt to develop further research into the possibilities, the rules of the game were revised so that in further consultations it would not be necessary to involve the county council but other local authorities could be involved. This inevitably leads to doubt. […]

Lord Inglewood (Con): My Lords, like previous speakers in this debate, I am a Cumbrian, and I declare that with pride. I also have a number of interests associated with Cumbria. They are in the register, but I am not sure that there is any particular need to enumerate them now. […]

Secondly, going back to a point made by my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, if you write local authorities out of the process in the manner that has been described, how do you at the same time ensure that that will not take place in Cumbria without local support? Will the Minister spell out to us exactly how that local support will be measured and dealt with—and at what point in the process, because that is terribly important? I understand the argument that this is a national infrastructure project and that the way in which it is handled should take that into account. I am not criticising that, but, against that background, how, if it must have local support as a condition of proceeding, will that local support be measured? […]

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP): My Lords, I am not Cumbrian and I have absolutely no connection with Cumbria—I live in Southwark—but I support the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, in his request that this order be withdrawn. It is clear that he was speaking from a democratic point of view, which is an incredibly valid thing to be concerned about. The fact that it is Labour legislation does not mean that it has to be used; there is a lot of quite bad legislation still on the books that really ought to be repealed. […]

The above is just a sample from yesterday’s debate. If you would like to read more, the full original (Hansard) transcript can be found here

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