Response to Marianne Birkby’s CT NIMBY suggestion

In response to a letter from Colin Wales in the Whitehaven News (10th September), Marianne Birkby (Radiation Free Lakeland) challenged Cumbria Trust’s position of only opposing a GDF in Cumbria, and the fact that some CT members are pro-nuclear.


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Dear Marianne

We were surprised to see that you describe Cumbria Trust’s stance on a GDF as essentially Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY). That is not the case. We do place significant weight on the extensive studies of Professors Smythe and Haszeldine, who reached a clear conclusion that Cumbria’s geology is unsuitable for a GDF. A similar conclusion was reached by Chris McDonald, the Lead Inspector of the Nirex Inquiry after a £400m investigation. No subsequent work has effectively rebutted this.

It is true that unlike you, Cumbria Trust is not opposed in principle to geological disposal. Like you, we would prefer that the problem of what to do with legacy nuclear waste didn’t exist, however, given that it does, it seems appropriate to seek out the least bad solution. That may well be a GDF in our view, as CoRWM concluded, although there remain a significant number of problems with this approach, so currently it is far from certain that a GDF will be a safe option. It is very clear though that the long term safety of a GDF depends almost entirely on the geology in which it is constructed, since the engineered containment will fail long before the contents have decayed sufficiently to no longer pose a radiological risk. This informs Cumbria Trust’s view that geology remains paramount.

We do feel that the current state of legacy waste is very poor, and agree with Margaret Hodge that this poses an intolerable risk. There is an urgent need for secure interim storage on the Sellafield site, irrespective of progress on a GDF. The most dangerous parts of the waste inventory are not due to commence burial for over 120 years, and we simply cannot afford the risk of leaving it in its present state.

Cumbria Trust includes members with a wide range of views on nuclear power, from strong opposition to support, and everything in between. Therefore as a group we take a neutral stance on nuclear power but retain a strong interest in policies relating to waste storage/disposal especially where it affects Cumbria.

We would hope that despite the differences between Cumbria Trust and Radiation Free Lakeland, we can at least respect each other’s position. After all we all have the common aim of preventing the Government restarting its quest to locate a GDF within Cumbria.

Yours sincerely

Geoff Betsworth

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