PROCESS TO FIND A GDF SITE RESTARTS
Just before Parliament’s Christmas break, two significant and alarming documents were released by the Department for Business and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) concerning its proposed policy for the construction of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for the permanent disposal of nuclear waste. The first is a “Summary of Responses to the Consultation Working with Communities: Implementing Geological Disposal” and the second is “An updated framework for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste”. This replaces the 2014 White Paper “Implementing Geological Disposal in England”.
Back in 2013 Michael Fallon MP, who at that time was the Energy Minister, stated that steps were being taken to prevent Cumbria County Council (CCC) blocking any new attempt to put a GDF in W Cumbria. Worryingly these documents prove that he was not wrong: CCC will not be able to exercise the Right of Withdrawal, as it did in 2013, or request a Test of Public Support without agreement from other principal local authorities – in short, if Copeland and or Allerdale wish the process to continue, there is nothing CCC can do about it. Also it will be for the Potential Host Community, through a Test of Public Support, to ultimately make the decision whether it is willing to host a GDF rather than it being left up to the principal local authorities. Under the proposals Potential Host Communities will be restricted to those directly impacted by the construction of a GDF or those along the route from the GDF to the nearest main road or port. Neighbouring communities, that may be blighted through the existence of the GDF, will have no involvement in any test of public support. Once a community has agreed to host a GDF through a Test of Public Support it loses its Right of Withdrawal.
The Government does not propose to allow Tests of Public Support to be carried out until all information has been gathered on the basis that Potential Host Communities should be fully informed before making their decision. Whilst this may sound commendable the reality is that in areas, such as the Lake District, prolonged potentially environmentally and economically damaging surveying work will be required to establish whether possible sites exist. This could take up to 20 years and from past experience the chances of finding any genuinely suitable sites are very low.
for and on behalf of Cumbria Trust