Cumbria Trust welcomes Radioactive Waste Management’s (RWM’s) national geological screening exercise. This has the potential to be a solid foundation for the next siting process for geological disposal. We also welcome the involvement of the Independent Review Panel (IRP) to oversee the screening process and to provide much needed scrutiny.
However, we have some serious reservations about the proposed geological screening process itself and especially how its findings will be presented and utilised. These are given below in our detailed response. In particular it isn’t yet clear that the output will be sufficiently detailed to allow potential host communities, however those are eventually defined and that remains a very contentious subject, to adequately understand the potential suitability of the geology found beneath them. There is no indication that suitability relative to other parts of the UK will be considered by the exercise. There is also no suggestion that regions with relatively unsuitable geology will be prevented or discouraged from volunteering or conversely that regions with potentially suitable geology will be actively encouraged to volunteer. A screening exercise which is certainly a step in the right direction, may in effect prove worthless if there is a reluctance to screen out less suitable areas.
As has been said previously the fundamental flaw in the whole Geological Disposal Facility Siting Process remains that areas selected for more detailed geological study will not be based on the findings of this national geological screening exercise but on the location those communities that might later, at the siting stage, express an interest in being considered as possible hosts. At worst this could unfortunately make the national screening exercise utterly irrelevant.
Continued involvement of the IRP is required to ensure that public trust in the siting process can be maintained. The lessons of the past failed attempts at finding a site for geological disposal must be fully taken into account. RWM has repeatedly described how this will be an open and transparent process, and yet they have tried to brush aside questions on previous failures as ‘past history’. This appears to be an early sign that the process will only be ‘open and transparent’ when it suits RWM.
Cumbria Trust is concerned by Professor Yardley’s role in the screening process, particularly having stated that ‘Cumbria is not the ideal place to site a repository’ in 2013, before taking up his position with RWM, and then apparently changing his view to match that of his new employer. The fact that he as RWM’s Chief Geologist is likely to be providing the interpretation of the BGS data is a matter of significant concern.
Public trust in nuclear waste disposal is at best delicate, and Cumbria Trust will scrutinise this entire process to ensure that science takes precedence over political expediency. We will not permit past failures and inconvenient science to be ignored.
Download the response as a pdf document here: