Copeland Borough Council have volunteered to be part of a working group which will consider the burial of nuclear waste within the borough, or off Copeland’s coast in a geological disposal facility (GDF).
Cumbria Trust members will recall that the last process to search for a burial site in West Cumbria, named Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) was halted in early 2013, when Cumbria County Council vetoed Copeland’s decision to proceed to the next stage of the search process. However, there are some key differences in the new search process.
Significantly, the decision has been made to exclude the Lake District National Park from the search area. The inclusion of the Lakes in MRWS was an anomaly born out of political ineptitude and a failure to understand that planning law would make it impossible to choose a designated site without first surveying and excluding all non-designated sites, i.e. the remaining 91% of England and Wales which is not designated. This absurdity was lost on Copeland Borough Council and Copeland’s MP at the time, Jamie Reed. Fortunately this error of judgement has not been repeated in the new process.
A second key difference is that Cumbria County Council has lost its right to veto a Copeland decision to proceed, despite the scale of the potential project having significant implications for the county well beyond Copeland’s boundaries.
A third difference is that a substantial offshore area has been included. During MRWS the GDF could have been beneath the sea, up to 5km from the shore. The new process extends the offshore area from 5km to 22km from the shore of Copeland. Significantly this now includes some rock formations much further from the mountains of the Lake District, and this may mean that groundwater is slower moving and less problematic for a GDF.
Cumbria Trust will be scrutinising the working group and any search process which comes from it to ensure that the interests of Cumbrians are protected and that any search process is scientifically rigorous.