RWM (Radioactive Waste Management) agrees with Cumbria Trust’s view but do their sums add up?

Cumbria Trust was interested to read reports in several publications including The Guardian and F T yesterday of a briefing given to the media by Alun Ellis, Science and Technology Director of Radioactive Waste Management(RWM).

We were very surprised to see that these articles acknowledge that 30% of the UK (excluding Scotland) has potentially suitable geology for geological disposal. That agrees very closely with Cumbria Trust’s view, and the conclusions of the Nirex investigation during the 1990s, which spent around a billion pounds in today’s money investigating Cumbrian geology as well as a national survey. The Lead Inspector of the Nirex Inquiry, Chris McDonald, has stated that the search process should move away from Cumbria to the east and south of England where the geology is simple and predictable.

It is absolutely clear that West Cumbria would not be part of that 30% of the UK in any rational process, as Nirex concluded. Are we to assume that RWM has at last seen sense and now accepts the scientific consensus, amongst those without a vested interest, that Cumbria should be ruled out? Regrettably that seems unlikely.

RWM is due to conduct a national geological screening process, which has long been advocated by Cumbria Trust and many others. RWM then intends to seek volunteers to enter the siting process. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a requirement for volunteers to come from those areas within the 30% deemed likely to be suitable. This is a significant (but intentional) flaw in the process and leaves open the door for those politicians who prioritise short-term ‘community benefits’ over long-term safety.

The articles suggest however, that the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) will cost around £4bn to design and construct. Given that a quarter of that figure in today’s money was spent by Nirex, concluding that Cumbrian geology was unsuitable, it seems highly improbable that a GDF the size of a small city could be built for £4bn. It is likely to be a significant multiple of that figure.

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