Today marks the 8th anniversary of the last attempt to bury the UK’s nuclear waste in Cumbria. On 30th January 2013, Eddie Martin, then Leader of Cumbria County Council, made an impassioned speech to his Cabinet and urged them to call a halt to the search in Cumbria. The Cabinet agreed and by 7 votes to 3 the process known as Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) was stopped. Since West Cumbria was the only area in the country to volunteer, that decision also marked the end of the national search process.
During the 8 years since that decision, the government have been working on a new search process and have been busily rebranding in an attempt to distance themselves from some of the less honest practices which were used during the failed MRWS process. This time the developer is called Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. RWM frequently talk about transparency and openness of the new process, and to be fair we have seen some improvements in our discussions with them, but our suspicion remains that old habits die hard.
“The process appears to be designed to make it very simple to join, by allowing even individuals and landowners to express an interest, but very difficult to leave. The contrast between the openness and flexibility in joining, and the over-prescriptive and complex method of leaving is reminiscent of a timeshare scheme.”
As we mentioned 2 weeks ago when Allerdale volunteered, the new process doesn’t require an expression of interest from a local council. Even an individual can volunteer an entire borough – in fact anyone can volunteer anywhere. This process is also entirely asymmetrical as Cumbria Trust pointed out in the government (BEIS) consultation some 2 years ago:
True to form, BEIS ignored our concerns and went ahead with this policy with the result that we see an individual (via his limited company) has volunteered the whole of Allerdale. Unlike MRWS they have shown sufficient sense to exclude the Lake District National Park from the outset, but it is notable that this exclusion does not apply to the Solway Coast AONB near Silloth. Residents of that area may very well wonder why an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which benefits from the same level of protection as a National Park remains as a potential site for burying nuclear waste.
Cumbria Trust is in the process of arranging to meet both Allerdale’s and Copeland’s Working Groups.