Cumbria owes a great debt of gratitude to Professor David Smythe who voluntarily gave his time and expertise to ensure that the MRWS process wasn’t a one-sided PR exercise. Without his expertise, and that of Professor Stuart Haszeldine, the process would no doubt have continued and the county would be blighted by decades of uncertainty.
Several million pounds of funding was made available for glossy brochures, newspaper advertising and slick meetings. All to convince the Cumbrian public that they should ignore the dangers of burying nuclear waste in geology which has already been proven unsuitable during the £400m Nirex investigation.
So how has Professor Smythe been rewarded for the many hundreds of hours of unpaid research work? The University of Glasgow have suspended Professor Smythe’s access to the scientific database on which he relies as an academic. Scientific institutions should always welcome and encourage debate between scientists. If they disagree with Professor Smythe’s work on nuclear waste, or in this case fracking, then they should issue a strong rebuttal. Science should always be open to challenge.
The University of Glasgow was founded in the fifteenth century, and has a proud history of scientific discovery. It includes seven Nobel laureates amongst its alumni. Over the last few decades all universities have come under increasing pressure to attract funding through commercial links, but there is a very real danger that commercial interests will be allowed to shape scientific debate, and to silence dissenting voices. Science will be weakened and we will all lose out if that is allowed to happen.
Cumbria Trust’s predecessor organisations have on several occasions invited the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to join us on stage during public meetings. We firmly believe that open debate with opponents and transparency is in the public interest, and leads to good decision-making. Cumbria Trust hopes that the University of Glasgow will look beyond its commercial interests and reverse its decision.