Dear Joan Walley MP and other Members of the Environmental Audit Committee
SUGGESTED FUTURE EAC REPORT SUBJECT –
GEOLOGICAL DISPOSAL FACILITIES (GDFs) FOR RADIOACTIVE WASTE
Following your work on the “Environmental Risks of Fracking” might I suggest you turn your attention to the potentially even greater environmental risks that could result from the present Government’s (and quite possibly future governments’) policy for the disposal of the UK’s present and undeterminable quantities of additional stocks of new nuclear waste. As yet it remains unclear whether some highly radioactive materials, such as plutonium, should be classified as being part of this waste.
As you are no doubt aware, the Government’s chosen option for the permanent disposal (not storage) of this material is to place it into a GDF or GDFs. The argument is that we owe it to future generations to make it safe – a sentiment that no one would contradict. However, it is still disputed whether GDFs are the correct solution to the problem. If that is to remain the preferred option, then it stands to reason that only locations with the most suitable geology for the construction of safe disposal sites should be even considered. If we get it wrong and harmful leakages reach the surface, it will be those future generations that will suffer. A poor legacy for us to leave them!
Regrettably in its search for a site the Government is sticking with a policy based on voluntarism rather than geological safety. Superficially the recent White Paper “Implementing Geological Disposal” suggests that a National Geological Survey is to be carried out but, at the end of the day, volunteer communities will be sought. There is great suspicion in Cumbria that no such willing communities will be found other than in Copeland, where the district council and many of the local population are dependent upon Sellafield. The Government has blatantly paved the way in the White Paper, by effectively excluding the previous obstacle (the County Council) from the decision making process, to enable it to deal solely with this small impoverished local district council. The fact that the geology of West Cumbria is probably the most studied in the country and has been proved to be most unlikely (virtually impossible) to be suitable for the construction of a safe GDF is downplayed – you could say ignored. The nuclear industry believes that engineered solutions can be found to get over such deficiencies. We would suggest that the industry has an over inflated view of its capabilities. We are talking about the disposal of highly dangerous materials that will remain active for over 100,000 years. You just need to think of what has happened recently at the Carlbad WIPP site in New Mexico where faulty packaging of waste has caused major problems. Unexpected failings through corrosion have also been found with the cylinders they intended to use in Sweden to contain waste.
Cumbria already hosts at Sellafield old decaying storage pools containing nuclear waste that are considered some of the most dangerous structures in the world. It also holds on the Sellafield site about 70% of the country’s nuclear waste. It is intended that three new nuclear power plants will be built beside Sellafield at Moorside – these will produce yet more waste. To even contemplate building a GDF in an area that fails to meet the geological requirements would be madness and would only help to ensure that our nuclear past will permanently haunt the area’s future.
One further consideration – Fracking is not going to be allowed within National Parks nor in AONB. This should also apply to any GDFs that might eventually be constructed wherever that might be.
If you would like further information, I suggest you look at the Cumbria Trust’s website http://www.cumbriatrust.org
For and on behalf of The Cumbria Trust
Copies of the above letter have also been sent to:
The Daily Mail
The Mail on Sunday
Ed Hanson (BBC)
Times and Star