In a recent post we wrote about the Radio Cumbria report on the latest developments in the continuing search for a suitable site for a GDF. In addition to interviewing Eddie Martin during the news feature, Radio Cumbria also interviewed Tim Knowles, who chaired the last search process, known as Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS).
It was striking that Tim has changed his view since 2013 and no longer supports the idea of geological disposal of nuclear waste in Cumbria. He appears to share Cumbria Trust’s view that Cumbria does not have suitable geology, and that there are much better sites elsewhere in the country. It is interesting that we have now had 2 search processes in Cumbria and both the Lead Inspector of the first Nirex process, and now the Chair of the second MRWS process have reached the same conclusion – that the search should move to an area of simple geology in the east or south of the country. Both of them want Cumbria to not volunteer again.
Tim suggested that near surface secure interim storage may be a better solution and that this could be under the Sellafield site. The key difference between this and a GDF, is that these facilities are retrievable stores, typically around 30 metres below the surface, with a lifespan of 100-200 years, rather than deep permanent disposal sites, so geology is much less important.
Tim also highlighted the government’s history of underfunding Cumbria’s infrastructure, so that promises of substantial community benefits were treated with understandable scepticism during the last process.
In a few months the national geological screening report will be published before councils are asked to volunteer for the third search process. We know that the GDF developer, Radioactive Waste Management, has decided to take control of this report by producing the narrative itself, and our concern is that they may manipulate the output to suit their intention to return to Cumbria for a third time.
Cumbria Trust will be scrutinising this report, with the help of experts in the field, to look for evidence of this. We know that during MRWS, the geological screening report was significantly altered between draft and final versions, which resulted in the Solway Plain being brought back into play, having been excluded in the draft version. No justification for this was ever given, and the draft report was suppressed. Behaviour of this type led to a breakdown of trust, and contributed to the failure of MRWS.