SIR – Cumbria Trust is delighted to see from Baroness Verma’s prompt reply (November 14) that she is an avid reader of The Whitehaven News. Given that the search for a nuclear waste repository is supposed to be a national process, we wonder if this interest extends to all local papers around the UK, or if West Cumbria is singled-out for special treatment?
The national consultation which she mentions, appears at first glance to be a positive step. Looking a little more closely, however, we find that the most common recommendation to the “call for evidence”, from 59 per cent of responses, was for a detailed national geological survey to take place BEFORE seeking volunteers from geologically promising areas. This advice has been ignored.
A national geological survey would cost around £5million, just 0.025 per cent of the total project cost, and yet we are told that this is too expensive.
Just three per cent of responses advocated stripping county councils of their democratic right to choose whether a repository search can go ahead in their county. Strangely, this recommendation has been eagerly adopted.
If you wanted to manufacture a process to ensure that an underground repository could be built in West Cumbria, irrespective of local opinion and geological suitability, this is how it would be done.
The consultation is a cynical exercise to give the impression of listening, while moving towards a predetermined outcome. We are not prepared to accept this.
The long-term safety of an underground repository depends almost entirely on the geology in which it is built. Yet the Baroness continues to downplay the importance of geology by describing it as just one of many factors. She then goes on to suggest that not enough is known about Cumbrian geology. This is simply untrue and appears to be a deliberate attempt to ignore the extensive survey work from Nirex and the oil and gas industries, amongst others. It is a very strange scientific process that chooses to ignore existing but inconvenient knowledge.
Perhaps she is unaware that had the abortive MRWS process continued to Stage 4 in January, no new survey work was required to complete that stage, as we have all of the data already.
Cumbria Trust has never advocated continued storage as an alternative to geological disposal. We do, however, agree with the government’s own committee on radioactive waste, that Secure Interim Storage on the Sellafield site is an urgent priority. While we appreciate that she is relatively new to her role, it is surprising that Baroness Verma seems unaware of their recommendations. Some of the waste types cannot be buried until well into the next century, so doing nothing or patching-up existing storage is simply not an option.
As well as removing the “intolerable risk” to Cumbrians recently described by the National Audit Office, Secure Interim Storage would bring the benefit of many new jobs to the Sellafield site for many years to come. International experience suggests that geological disposal would bring around 200 long-term jobs; a similar number to a large supermarket.
Cumbria Trust supports the principle of geological disposal, but only if we follow the route that every other civilised country has taken by first conducting a national geological survey and then seeking volunteers from geologically suitable areas.
It is very clear why Baroness Verma and her colleagues stubbornly refuse to follow this internationally accepted route as it would exclude West Cumbria from the start. This is not a local issue; it is a huge national issue and must be addressed as such.
Eddie MARTIN, Fiona GOLDIE, John WILSON, Colin WALES, Geoff BETSWORTH and Roger PARKER
SIR – The Sellafield Workers’ Campaign has gone on record as saying that we were exceptionally disappointed when Cumbria County Council voted against learning more about a geological disposal facility for radioactive waste in West Cumbria in January even though it was its stated policy.
We have welcomed the current national consultation about a national issue in which we have a big stake. Seventy per cent of the waste already exists at Sellafield and we firmly believe it should not remain in a state of perpetual storage – as some would have us believe.
We have been the custodians of this material for generations and have waited for 30 years for a decision to be made about a long term solution and it is not legitimate for any organisation, new or old, to burden nuclear workers and their community with an eternity of packaging and re-packaging nuclear waste…. especially when their aims are so inconsistent.
The Cumbria Trust offers no coherent alternative other than to wait for a “proper GDF”, whatever that is. Its only consistency is that it does not want a GDF in Cumbria at any cost. This is nothing new.
For 50 years the nuclear industry has been in West Cumbria and been the mainstay of our economy. And for 50 years the nuclear industry and the tourist industry have functioned perfectly well together. We are all part of Cumbria and we, too, wish to preserve the wonderful natural assets our county possesses. We do not see this as an “us versus them” and we look forward to living and working in harmony for the next 50 years.
It seems to us that this group is campaigning against a consultation to which anyone can make their views known. That does not seem very democratic to us. They claim to have been formed to “help protect the interests of the people of Cumbria”. Cumbria has many and varied interests. We do not recall, nor do our communities, ever having been consulted about their guardianship.
If at some stage the opportunity arises then it should be the democratically-elected representatives of West Cumbria who decide if it wants to find out more – especially about the geology. Ultimately, when all the facts are out there and understood, it should be the people of West Cumbria that will democratically decide if we are to host a GDF.
It is our understanding that the geology of West Cumbria is nowhere near being fully understood. That is what the authoritative organisations have said. We think the Trust’s real fear is that West Cumbria has a suitable geology. If they are so convinced that the geology is unsafe why are they opposing independent authoritative research?
The UK’s nuclear industry is the most stringently regulated in the world by its most competent regulator. We put our trust in them. If they say it is unsafe, we will believe them. The people of Cumbria have a right to know. The decision taken by the Cumbria County Council on January 30 deprived them from knowing.
If the geology is not suitable then the public can be assured that we will be at the vanguard of any campaign against a GDF. But first let us see what the outcome of the consultation brings.
Sellafield Workers’ Campaign Communications Officer
SIR – What part of democracy does Baroness Verma not understand?
A democratic process resulted in the majority of the people of Cumbria deciding to put a halt to the search for a GDF. If she and her department don’t like that outcome, then sorry, but that’s democracy.
I didn’t like the outcome of the general election but it was democratically arrived at so I accept it.
SIR – Eddie Martin’s ill-informed lecture in the pages of The Whitehaven News (November 7) only served to further damage his diminished credibility. In just one letter, Eddie proved yet again why it should be that the future of West Cumbria is decided by the people of West Cumbria.
If Eddie Martin’s self-appointed, self-important group is so convinced that the geology of our area is unsuited to a deep underground repository, then he has nothing to fear from having that theory tested. Sadly, all the evidence suggests that he and his fellow travellers are terrified of having their assertions scrutinised.
Our area might be suitable for a repository. It might not be. In my view, we need to know. No credible or honest decision to continue or not continue with any repository siting process can be made without the facts. This is the only honest position.
Typically, it should be noted that Eddie is now campaigning against what he campaigned for as the Tory leader of Cumbria County Council. As council leader he said that this decision was too big for a county council to take and that it should be taken nationally. This is precisely what the government is now consulting on. To be seen as credible, Eddie should really stop campaigning against himself.
As leader of the county council, Eddie refused to sign the West Cumbrian Memorandum of Agreement – a document designed to protect and stengthen our economy – when even this government has signed it under Jamie Reed’s chairmanship of the West Cumbria Strategic Forum.
As county council leader, Eddie did nothing to support our economic future. Let’s not forget that when he wasn’t abandoning Grade II listed buildings in Whitehaven town centre, closing care homes and presiding over rocketing levels of child poverty, he was working with his colleagues in government to deliver the most savage economic cuts to West Cumbria that we have ever seen.
As he reflects on his woeful record, Eddie might want to consider why it is that West Cumbrians are so determined to decide our own future.
SIR – Re. the recent correspondence relating to the proposed nuclear dump and the exclusion of some from the decision-making process. How many people will be at risk of exclusion in order to facilitate the positive result required by the government? Perhaps the decision should be made by just those using Sellafield’s canteen?
The development will affect, and put at risk, people from a much wider area than just Copeland or Allerdale. Therefore the decision should be reached by all those people, not just those with a selfish and vested interest.
We note Mr Reed’s recent statement about the running down of local services in The Times (November 4); how can we be assured that this is not part of a deliberate policy to force people to understand how vital nuclear development is to the area? Actually, of course, this running down is after having had the “benefit” of the nuclear industy for half a century. The area doesn’t really need more “benefits” of the same ilk! Just a small percentage of the money currently being lavished on nuclear would ensure much better services and amenities.
Ian F. HAWKES
SIR – I am writing in response to letters from the Cumbria Trust relating to the Government’s consultation on proposals to review the siting process for a geological disposal facility (GDF) for higher activity radioactive waste (The Whitehaven News, November 7).
I understand the concerns expressed in those letters, but am keen that there should be no misunderstanding about what the Government is proposing or why.
After the previous GDF siting process ended in West Cumbria, we considered what lessons could be learned both from that experience and from other processes internationally. We launched a national consultation, running from September 12 to December 5, in order to improve the future process.
Two points are fundamental: that this is an issue of huge strategic national importance; and that the solution will depend on local community support.
Our aim is that we can find potentially suitable sites throughout the country – which may or may not be in Cumbria – with a strong, clear and final voice for local communities in the decision-making process.
Safety and independent regulation will also be paramount. Establishing a proven safety case for a site will take years and be influenced by many factors – including geology – and a facility will not be constructed at any location until the project is demonstrably safe and secure against very stringent standards.
Contrary to statements made by some others, the geology of Cumbria has not been shown to be unsuitable for hosting a GDF. Previous geological studies were never completed in Cumbria. Further detailed exploration would be needed to establish the suitability or otherwise of geology in any specific area.
Continued storage would not (as has been suggested) provide an alternative solution, but would instead place a financial burden on future generations, as storage costs are recurrent. There would be no additional jobs associated with continued storage compared with the construction of a GDF.
Geological disposal is the right approach for the long-term safe and secure management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste, and is internationally recognised as the preferred approach for protecting human health and the environment.
I urge the people of Cumbria to consider the full facts when informing their view on the matter.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Energy and Climate Change
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SIR – It is interesting to read the comments and arguments put forward by the newly-formed Cumbria Trust.
At the moment it would appear that they are only a single-issue pressure group.
They state that they are not anti nuclear, anti-Sellafield nor anti-West Cumbria. How very odd! It begs the question, what is their real purpose and what outcome?
Several of their arguments convey mixed messages, deflecting attention away from the real issue to find a long-term solution for the nuclear waste stored here in West Cumbria.
Coun Knowles, in his letter, states that Cumbria Trust should consider engaging positively to try and solve this uniquely Cumbrian problem. I fully agree with him. This is a local issue and very much a unique one.
In order for this group to be seriously credible in the eyes of the community, they must offer clarity by way of a clear mission statement and a willingness to engage in rational debate with stakeholders, local politicians and the mandarins in Whitehall, rather than indulging in headline-grabbing hysteria.
Aikbank Road Whitehaven
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SIR – I rather think that being dismissive of, or sneering at, a “self-appointed pressure group”, as Tim Knowles did, is less than helpful. A pressure group (and is there any kind other than “self-appointed”?) may be an irritant to politicians, but it is quite simply an interest group that tries to influence public policy.
Many people have major concerns about the wisdom of burying nuclear waste in less than satisfactory geology. So would Coun Knowles have us sit on our hands, do nothing and leave these desperately important decisions to the debatable wisdom of politicians at either local or national-government level? I suspect not.
The Cumbria Trust is effectively a community-based organisation with a growing membership which has sprung out of local people’s own initiatives and their deep-rooted concerns. Although we are not in government and Coun Knowles is, does he suggest we should be denied the freedom and democratic right to influence people in power? Amnesty, Oxfam, Greenpeace, CPRE, the RSPCA and hundreds of others are all “self-appointed” pressure groups; so are the Copeland groups that are campaigning to stop on-street parking charges and protesting against the closure of the Civic Hall. The fact that individuals with similar beliefs come together in an attempt to influence politicians seems entirely reasonable and, more importantly, entirely democratic.
My colleagues and I are strongly of the opinion that if DECC, the government department responsible, attempts to focus, once again, on Cumbria, it is setting off on another futile search. Given that UK governments have spent more than 30 years looking for a suitable site and half a billion pounds on fruitless attempts to find it (including the failed Nirex process of 1997), we are anxious to ensure that no more time is lost in dealing with the “intolerable risk” at Sellafield and in finding a geologically-suitable and safe site in England.
The situation will, of course, be exacerbated by the commissioning of new nuclear power stations which, it is estimated, will increase our nuclear waste radioactivity levels by 400 per cent and triple the size of any repository. Whatever one’s views are on nuclear new-build, we must have a safe solution to the disposal of the nuclear waste. This is, indeed, a national problem requiring a national solution, so we are asking for a national geological survey of England before volunteer communities are invited to come forward. How complicated is that?
We maintain that safety (for countless generations yet to come) – not economic or political considerations – must surely be the overriding factor.
The Cumbria Trust is simply saying to the government: (a) find the safest place in England to bury nuclear waste, not the most politically convenient; (b) don’t rule out county councils, and do involve the parish councils; (c) do not bribe a community to host the waste and do give it the right to pull out; (e) invest more in Sellafield and build internationally-approved storage facilities; and (f) spend more of this, and the Sellafield decommissioning monies, in West Cumbria. The latter (now £1.8billion pa) is, according to Margaret Hodge, currently being “scattered like confetti” but, sadly, not in West Cumbria!
The Cumbria Trust will work with anyone to achieve these aims. We have told no mistruths, we are not scaremongering, we are not “the same old faces”. In fact, much of what we are saying is very supportive of the county council’s decision of January 30. And, as the ‘Call for Evidence’ and the latest consultation clearly demonstrate, it was, indeed, the right decision at the time.
Chairman, Cumbria Trust
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SIR – Having read Tim Knowles’ comments about the Cumbria Trust, I think he has a bare-faced cheek.
He accuses the Cumbria Trust of grandstanding, but what was the point of his letter, other than to raise his own profile? Most of his diatribe confirms that his own beliefs mirror those of the Cumbria Trust. So all he seems to be doing is to knock an organisation that is aiming to press for securing the safety of the population of West Cumbria, something he and his colleagues have patently failed at doing.
If Coun Knowles, together with the Copeland Cabal of Jamie Reed and Elaine Woodburn had done so well by West Cumbria, why, after all this time and the alleged support from the nuclear industry, is Copeland in such a state? (Please note, I say the “nuclear industry” – I do not seek to criticise the Sellafield workforce, but I certainly want to blame the oversight of Government and management that exposed the population of Cumbria to such an “intolerable” risk).
The people of West Cumbria should be adequately rewarded for the job they have been doing hosting the nation’s dangerous waste over the years, not held hostage to the Government’s “hurried and flawed” plans to dump its rubbish on Cumbria, just because it is expedient and no-one else wants it.
To use the words of our MP Jamie Reed, it is “morally indefensible” to place our nuclear waste in a leaky sieve and place future generations at risk. We need adequate investment to deal with the existing waste until a SAFE disposal site is found and constructed. If our current politicians have failed us, why should Coun Knowles pour scorn on an organisation that seeks to make sure that they up their game and do what they are supposed to do? That’s democracy. Stop grandstanding and get on with the job!
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SIR – Tim Knowles’ protestations always make me laugh as he tries to regain some semblance of credibility before the 2015 elections.
In the Keswick Reminder of November 7, his self-proclaimed Jedi MP friend stated in his tirade against people who were against the GDF that they were “embarking upon a deliberate campaign of scaremongering, lies and deceit”. From this point on the usage of this phrase, or parts of it, grew with Coun Woodburn and even the likes of Lord Hutton and Baroness Verma and himself jumping on this verbal and written bandwagon.
I am not a member of Cumbria Trust and don’t intend to be one, but decrying their existence and their democratic rights is simply wrong.
I also wonder what happened to the term “Brand Cumbria” that Copeland’s MP used in the letter quoted. If, as the councillor points out, “shameless, brazen, unlawful and outrageous” terms are being used why are the “unlawful” instances not being challenged in court by him and his ilk?
The councillor was against low-level waste from just across the border but, incredibly, promoted high-level waste from further north which is being shipped in by rail over the next five years. As some of the existing waste has come via various routes from around Britain and the world safely, and will no doubt continue to do so for reprocessing, how come it is not dangerous to bring it to Cumbria but dangerous to transport it back in a more refined or in its original state?
To admit that he was the one of the rotating MRWS Partnership “chairs” is to me his ultimate political folly as this was a three-year £3.25million catastrophic and biased attempt to act as both judge and jury on the GDF subject which can now only be resolved by holding democratically-guaranteed referendums in both Copeland and Allerdale, as the democratic principles of both borough councils and their MPs is irrefutably damaged by their past and present actions.
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SIR – Having failed to achieve their expensively hard-fought aim to convince Cumbria County Council to agree to host the intended high level toxic nuclear waste repository in our county, the so-called democratic government of this country most shockingly changed the goalposts to exclude all county councils from the Governments renewed efforts to find a willing host.
Elaine Woodburn and MP Jamie Reed are in favour of high-level nuclear waste storage in Cumbria. Therefore the existing highly toxic radioactive waste in Sellafield, and the predicted large increase in the amount of imported nuclear waste to that site, which all agree must be safely stored somewhere, and then Sellafield with the workforce and local politician’s blessings would appear to be the only sensible acceptable location.
Dependent on the local geology within the Sellafield site, I suggest a comparatively shallow bunker is excavated for the purpose of long-term safe storage of the highly toxic nuclear waste which is already on site. For safety the bunker would remain accessible at all times and be constantly manned by workers tasked with the vital responsibility of the 24- hour safe policing/monitoring of the highly toxic waste. By far a much cheaper and less alarming option than the government’s preference to bury the toxic potential time bomb waste underground in a hole the size of Carlisle at a depth of around 3,000ft then fill in the immense hole and seal it to leave it to its own unpredictable fate, simply praying nothing would go wrong in this untested method of storage, which incredibly the nuclear industry were actually proposing to do to our county until Cumbria County Council very wisely voted against the idea.
As I object in the strongest possible terms to Cumbria being the dumping ground for all high-level nuclear waste, immediate action should be initiated to immediately stop any more or future import into our county of what is accepted and known to be environmentally dangerous high-level nuclear waste. Current environmental law dictates that contaminated soil/waste from whatever source is stored as close to its origin as possible. Clearly this law is being flouted by the nuclear industry which regardless brings highly toxic nuclear waste to Sellafield from all over Britain on an almost daily basis.
Scotland is currently dumping into Sellafield their decommissioned highly radioactive dismantled nuclear buildings. Obviously with the blessing of our government who, despite great expense and many years of scientific effort, have found no satisfactory solution to the conundrum of safe long-term storage of toxic high level radioactive contaminated materials.
Scotland has thousands of acres of uninhabited land, which then begs the question why the Scots are not dealing with their own contaminated toxic nuclear waste? Is Cumbria heading towards becoming the nuclear dustbin for the whole world?
Low Seaton, Workington
SIR – Members of the newly-formed Cumbria Trust (CT) bring much expertise and experience to the table.Having a catholic membership from many different backgrounds, we do not agree on everything. Nonetheless, there is much that we are united on, not least the critical analysis of the government’s on-going consultation process on how and where to site a deep underground nuclear waste repository and which local authority should make the decision.
Given the county council’s many responsibilities, it would be quite bizarre, if not plain silly, to exclude it from the process; it would also be an affront to democracy. We believe, therefore, that many of the proposals in this consultation are fundamentally flawed.
You can read our extensive and considered response, and much else, on our website at http://www.cumbriatrust.org.
We are alarmed at the statement by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that the buildings at Sellafield present an “intolerable risk to people and the environment”. For over 30 years, the government has searched for an underground repository and spent half a billion pounds in the process. Thus far, however, their efforts have been futile and fruitless.
We are arguing, therefore, that there should be much greater and more focused investment in surface and sub-surface storage at Sellafield (generating many more jobs) and that the search for an underground repository must be nationwide and conducted through an independently-reviewed national geological survey.
Before communities are invited to volunteer, the final site selection MUST be based on the safest geology rather than being motivated by political or economic considerations.
Geological maps clearly show that, over many years, boreholes for gas, oil, and seismic activity have been drilled in the area stretching from Maryport to the south of Sellafield. There are hundreds of such boreholes. Contrary to what some people believe, we therefore know a great deal about the geological structure of West Cumbria. The inescapable conclusion is that it is simply not safe. It is riddled with fissures, fractures and fast-flowing aquifers. And disused coal mines.
The UK has, indeed, a moral obligation to deal with nuclear waste but it would be quite immoral to bury such waste in sites which could not geologically guarantee the safety of future generations.
It would be even more immoral to bury nuclear waste in Cumbria simply because of financial inducements.
We also believe that West Cumbria has been short-changed for many years: we need new schools, we have too many children (and adults) living in poverty next to the highest-paying company in Cumbria, the transport infrastructure is quite inadequate, the coastal rail needs investment, the local economy must diversify, we need enterprise zones… the list could go on and on.
Building an underground waste repository will not resolve those issues; greater investment in existing storage facilities at Sellafield would go some way towards addressing them. But, essentially, West Cumbria should be properly remunerated for the interim and surface storage solutions it already provides for most of the country’s nuclear waste. This should be a significant annual rental, paid in perpetuity. The present amounts paid out, whilst welcome, are frankly derisory.
Cumbria Trust is very supportive of Sellafield and West Cumbria, and we would wish to see both flourish. Neither will benefit, however, from 30 years of considerable disruption and uncertainty associated with building an underground nuclear waste repository, or by removing the county council from the equation.
Copeland’s MP may castigate us because we do not accept his assertions, but let me assure your readers that Cumbria Trust has issued no “mistruths”; we are not “scaremongering”; it remains neutral on the issue of nuclear energy – and we are certainly not the “same old faces”. Such remarks are the remarks of a bankrupt argument. I can only despair at his entirely predictable and uncooperative comments. Would that he might find it possible to work with us rather than simply resort to unhelpful confrontation. That would certainly benefit West Cumbria, if not the whole of our beautiful county.
Chair of Cumbria Trust
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SIR – The recent formation of Cumbria Trust has led to some inaccurate “assertions” about Cumbria Trust from Jamie Reed, the MP for Copeland.
These assertions include dishonesty regarding geology; scaremongering; claiming that Cumbria Trust aims to launch an attack upon the people and businesses of West Cumbria and a smear campaign against the people of West Cumbria.
Cumbria Trust is not anti-nuclear, nor is it anti-Sellafield, and it is most definitely not anti-West Cumbrian. Many of our founder members are themselves West Cumbrians.
Firstly, our views are honestly held. Secondly, our geological stance is based on the known geology of West Cumbria and the views of leading and independent academics as well as the accepted international criteria for any geological disposal facility; in short, geology has to be stable, simple and predictable.
In fact, it would be a nonsense for, and dishonest of, anyone with any knowledge of the subject to pretend that West Cumbria is some kind of frontier geological region which we need to explore. The fact is that, owing to the Nirex enquiry and the work of the oil and gas industries, we probably know more about West Cumbria’s geology than about that found anywhere else in the UK.
In the 1980s and ’90s, Nirex carried out a UK-wide search to find a site for a geological disposal facility. This process took many years and, overall, cost over £400million in old money, ending up in a huge planning enquiry in 1996 after Nirex had ended up “choosing” a site near Sellafield.
Nirex had originally identified more than 500 possible sites, pointing, alongside others, to vast areas of suitable geology elsewhere in the UK (East Anglia and East/Central England) which meet the international guidelines. In the end, Nirex, irrationally (according to the inspector) chose Sellafield as a location…
After a huge enquiry, and the submissions of a vast number of experts, the Nirex case was thrown out by the inspector and by the then Secretary of State.
In 2007, concerned about the new process about to start and the myths which had “evolved” over West Cumbrian geology, the inspector, Chris McDonald, wrote in The Guardian and clarified that: “The site (a GDF) should be in a region of low groundwater flow, and the geology should be readily characterisable and predictable, whereas the rocks there are actually of a complex volcanic nature, with significant faulting.”
He added: “The [Nirex] site selection process was flawed, not treating safety as the most important factor, and irrationally affected by a strong desire to locate close to Sellafield.”
On the subject of Nirex myths, it is a myth that:
(i) Nirex looked only at the Longlands-Farm site in West Cumbria;
ii) there is some pocket of suitable geology lurking somewhere in West Cumbria which no-one knows about.
Nirex spent hundreds of millions of pounds and surveyed an area of 65×60 km in West Cumbria, extending as far north as Workington and as far east as the eastern end of the Ennerdale valley. It also included a significant area offshore.
Nirex clearly did choose the best site they could find in West Cumbria, yet the site failed on safety.
As a consequence of Nirex, and oil and gas work, there are literally thousands of known boreholes in West Cumbria, as the British Geological Survey’s own data shows.
More recently, a geologist employed by the Managing Radioactive Waste Process (Dr Dearlove) admitted that the prospects of finding a suitable site in West Cumbria were slim and that, if it were a commercial operation, it would be aborted.
It is self-evident that, on geological criteria alone, no-one in their right mind would centre a UK-wide search for a geological disposal facility in West Cumbria, as there are obviously so much better and safer sites elsewhere.
Indeed, we believe that there should be an independent national survey to identify the best place for any geologic disposal facility.
WEST CUMBRIAN BUSINESS AND PEOPLE
For the record, our stated aims call for greater – not lesser – nuclear investment in West Cumbria. Specifically, we support a far greater investment in much better interim (meaning up to maybe 200 years) storage, quite possibly an enormous near-surface facility like that constructed in Sweden to deal with our legacy waste.
We also call for a greater proportion of the billions being expended on decommissioning Sellafield to be spent in West Cumbria. Amazingly, West Cumbrian politicians have allowed a situation to develop where over £500million – maybe £600million per annum – of Sellafield expenditure ends up outside Cumbria, let alone West Cumbria.
We also call for greater diversity in the West Cumbrian economy.
There is another myth: the jobs myth. The story which has been spun is that a geological disposal facility will generate many jobs. Not true.
Maybe hundreds (say 200 or so) would be employed in GDF once constructed – a number similar to that of those working in a large supermarket – but those jobs would probably be of mainly a janitorial and security nature.
It is true that the construction boom would be huge, and it would have an enormous effect on any region and its environment, but the actual tunnelling work would all go to specialist and outside contractors and, at best, lead to a short-term “Thorp-like” period of activity.
There is no evidence that a GDF would improve employment at Sellafield; in fact, the reverse might be true.
And as for community benefits – well, we believe that, over the last 60 years, West Cumbria has been treated derisorily and see no evidence whatsoever suggesting that this will ever change. For your evidence, look at the poor current infrastructure, including hospitals, and at social deprivation.
As for decision making – it is true: we do not believe that either Allerdale or Copeland should, on their own, be the decision-making bodies.
In terms of resources and personnel, both are very small local authorities incapable of dealing with a GDF on their own. Moreover, Copeland, in particular, appears to be struggling to survive at all. There are thus genuine concerns about the extent to which it may be increasingly reliant on the contribution and largesse of its biggest industry.
So we believe that Cumbria County Council must be involved in any decision-making and regard the DECC proposal to exclude the county council as an attempt to subvert democracy to get the result it wants. Similarly, with regard to the minimal proposed the role of parish and town councils.
We also note that Copeland, Allerdale and Cumbria all agreed with the Government that consent at local, county and government level was needed. Given the magnitude of the issue, this seems entirely reasonable in a democracy. Why the change?
We are also concerned that efforts to groom and control opinion leaders in West Cumbria have been successful.
WHEN nuclear waste is concerned, it is not scaremongering to put safety before everything else. Nor is it scaremongering to question the approach of the Government, bearing in mind that, Nirex has already tried to “irrationally site a GDF” in West Cumbria and Government is now taking an ostrich-like approach to what was learned during the process.
Nor is it scaremongering to be worried that Copeland’s position has changed so much since Nirex. For example, when, in 2008, the Government invited communities to volunteer for a GDF, the first to come forward (within a matter of weeks) was Copeland – this being the only area in England which had been ruled out before!
This unseemly eagerness flew in the face of the Copeland’s earlier objections to siting a GDF in West Cumbria. In Nirex 96, Copeland stated: “Although concerned that the future of civil nuclear activities in the Borough could be put at risk by investigations elsewhere, Copeland regards safety as being paramount in the search for the ‘best’ site, wherever it is”.
And: “As it is, Copeland regards the selection process as being flawed, with insufficient attention being given to alternative sites…”
Safety as paramount – there’s a thing!
Nor is it scaremongering to be worried that the Government is now downplaying the importance of geology by intimating that “engineering solutions” can remedy any geological shortcomings. Are we worried by this? Too right we are – given that this is plain nonsense and that no other civilised country has adopted this approach, nor will it.
All other countries are relying on a proper and suitable geological barrier for reasons which should be obvious to a small child.
It is not scaremongering to be concerned about the forces of political expediency. In fact, it would be naïve in the extreme for any community like West Cumbria not to be, at the very least, very distrustful of London-based politicians and civil servants, who are motivated by the easiest – not the best – solution.
Nor is it scaremongering to be, in this context, concerned about the effects of new nuclear waste on this process. As we all know, Sellafield currently houses the UK’s legacy nuclear waste, but the planned new nuclear build will apparently increase by over 400 per cent the radioactivity of the UK’s nuclear waste as well as tripling the size of any repository.
The West Cumbrian people need to understand that any repository will hold not just the legacy waste currently being stored at Sellafield but the vast amounts of new radioactive waste now to be produced elsewhere in the UK by – ironically – French and Chinese companies. And, for this, we will take all the risk but receive – probably – nothing in return.
To conclude, you don’t, in our view, have to be anti-nuclear, or against a nuclear waste repository, to realise that West Cumbria should not be the site for any UK geological disposal facility.
Director, Cumbria Trust
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SIR – Halloween was expected to bring some surprises, but the arrival of what sounded a worthy addition to our community resources turned out to be just a sad misrepresentation of the title “Trust”.
Years before I became involved with local politics, I was a founding trustee of the Cumbria Community Foundation, an organisation which, over many years, has raised millions to help Cumbrian communities. Everyone is rightly proud of the work done during foot and mouth, the floods, and the many grants for facilities and activities across our county, which the Foundation has delivered.
Now we have a “Cumbria Trust”, but what will it deliver? Apparently it is just a single-issue pressure group, opposing nuclear waste disposal in Cumbria, which seeks to give itself credibility by adopting a seriously misleading title. It also appears to be a desperate attempt by some to regain the headlines and dubious status they achieved earlier this year, while purporting to represent our county and the interests of its people.
It probably won’t matter to this self-appointed group that I and many others also feel that the Government’s latest policy proposals on higher level nuclear waste disposal are both hurried and flawed. Many of us also don’t agree that the county council should be squeezed out of its role and wouldn’t agree to the development of any repository, unless it was accepted as safe by independent regulators and complied with internationally accepted safety standards. Many of us also believe that any GDF should not be located in the Lake District National Park and that it should not be a location for intrusive research.
However and unfortunately, the facts are that 70 per cent of the nation’s higher level nuclear wastes are already at Sellafield, held in facilities with a limited lifespan. Many believe that current generations have created this waste and have the responsibility to ensure a safe future for it. I am certainly not in a minority in West Cumbria in preferring that we seek a disposal solution which utilises our community’s nuclear skills and minimises any need to move this material unnecessarily.
If that proves impossible, because genuine, comprehensive research and analysis proves it so, then alternatives must be sought. We cannot just turn our backs and use language like “shameless, brazen, unlawful and outrageous” to justify a massively negative, headline-seeking sulk about Government’s attempts to fumble its way to through this huge problem.
My message to the “Cumbria Trust” is: tone down the rhetoric, stop headline hunting, call yourselves what you are – a self-appointed pressure group – and consider engaging positively with trying to solve this uniquely Cumbrian problem.
County Councillor for Cleator Moor East & Frizington
Former Chair of West Cumbria MRWS Partnership
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Published, Thursday, 26 September 2013
SIR – Call me naive but I always believed we lived in a democracy; and also in a country where both the rule of law and natural justice were upheld.
It seems I was sorely mistaken on all three accounts.
As readers may recall, it was previously agreed that, in order for the MRWS process to proceed to the next stage, Cumbria County Council’s consent and the consent of the two district/borough councils were needed. The so-called “three green lights” – this was enshrined in a legal document and great play was made of it during the so-called “MRWS” process.
In January, despite enormous pressures being exerted by central Government to say yes, Cumbria County Council very bravely voted no for a plethora of reasons.
However, to no one’s great surprise, Copeland voted yes. So did Allerdale.
We now have, some eight months on, a new consultation paper with regard to a new process from those nice people at DECC – this can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/geological-disposal-facility-siting-process-review.
This is defective and worrying in very many ways but I write today about one point in particular; namely that most crucially DECC proposes that Cumbria County Council will be excluded from the key decision-making process!
In other words, having previously agreed that this issue was one which was relevant to all Cumbrians, they have now decided (after we said no!) to change the rules and dis-enfranchise two thirds of the Cumbrian electorate and also side-line the much more objective and generally much higher quality of local politician at county council level.
Anyone can see what is going on here – it is a brazen, shameless, unlawful and outrageous attempt to usurp our democratic rights to get the result they want.
These people (DECC and their cronies) are NOT looking at anywhere else in the country; notwithstanding their pathetically transparent attempt to re-launch MRWS as a national process. Government has been obsessed with siting the GDF in West Cumbria since the 1980s and is intent on rigging the process and also cooking the geological books to achieve this.
They got caught out with Nirex (lost in 96) but since then their iron grip on West Cumbria has tightened through the nuclear industry’s complete control over West Cumbria and, it would appear, its politicians.
All of this would be less important were we not dealing with the most dangerous substances known to us; radioactive waste. In this regard, safety has to be paramount.
For a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) to be safe the geology has to be right. Any GDF is designed to leak, the geology is the ultimate protection – or should be.
Our geology is unsafe; we know it’s unsafe; Nirex held it was unsafe; we know there are much, much better and safer areas elsewhere in the country but our central government is obsessed with the most convenient place and our West Cumbrian politicians are apparently suffering from “Nuclear Benefits Syndrome”; namely more interested in cash today than our grandchildren’s and their children’s futures.
I believe we must make our views known to DECC asap that we as a county are not prepared to be treated like this so, please respond to the consultation fully but if you do nothing else please (assuming you agree) revert to DECC and tell them your objections to excluding Cumbria County Council. Correspondence details are in the document referred to above.
In my opinion we should also re-iterate that any sensible policy would involve a nationwide geological survey to determine suitable areas before volunteers are sought. Germany has this year introduced legislation to this effect.
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Published, Thursday, 19 September 2013
SIR – A sad day for democracy when the government, having asked the public to approve its plans for a radioactive dump and got the wrong answer, decides to tweak the question and ask it again
More wasted money: the first consultation cost £3million – though that’s only a fraction of the cost to the taxpayer in disguised subsidies to continue the nuclear building programme.
As to that, the government has said it will only build more nuclear (which is wants to do) if it has solved the waste disposal problem which, like fracking, runs into the brick wall of nimbyism – except where a local council is, far from nimby, actually pimby – ie “please in my backyard” (leaving aside the geological objections).
Self-interest is, often enough, the first stage to self-delusion: Copeland believes that jobs, house prices and votes depend on the nuclear industry which itself is justified only by an economy built on waste.
It’s common knowledge that a third of food produced is junked – so junking all the energy and transport “demand” that goes into producing it; that a new nuclear deterrent will waste £30 billion; that high speed rail will swallow as much to shorten the times of rail journeys of, in many cases, little importance. Not forgetting the wars.
Maybe 50 per cent of the UK economy is waste based. We don’t need to damage the environment even more to keep on with this insanity; but where’s the hope with the Lib Dems doing a u-turn on nuclear and rolling over for fracking; except (a brave ray of sunlight out of the storm clouds) with the Greens.
Catherine Street, Whitehaven
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SIR – Elaine Woodburn has said in the past about a geological disposal facility that “We can’t just wash our hands of it; and we can’t just leave it to future generations as past generations have”. It is precisely to avoid leaving the problem to our children and grandchildren that the council, the government and all involved in the search for a permanent solution for our nuclear waste should by now have moved on from West Cumbria. Instead, what we have now is that, having failed twice to fit a square peg into a round hole, the answer is seemingly to try using a different hammer!
It is already well established that the geology is unsuitable in West Cumbria. Whilst the NDA, Copeland Council, and the unions may try to rewrite history by pretending that only one site was investigated at Longlands Farm in the previous failed search back in the 1990s, that site was chosen by Nirex precisely because it was the most promising.
Thus, by dragging out the search for a site in West Cumbria a third time, we may well waste a decade or more in a futile search before coming to the same conclusion as previously.
Meanwhile years will have been wasted, as they have been since the original Nirex enquiry, and we will be no nearer to finding a long-term solution. Better now, if the answer must be to bury nuclear waste in the ground, to move on and find ways to persuade a community in the more suitable areas of the country to accept a GDF.
One of the arguments put around is that “all” of the waste is already here therefore it wouldn’t be safe to move it elsewhere. Even if were true that it is all at Sellafield, and at present around a third is stored elsewhere with some of the remainder possibly needing to be repatriated depending on how the vote on independence goes in Scotland, Sellafield has been safely exporting nuclear waste back to its country of origin for several years. If nuclear waste can safely be moved thousands of miles by sea to Japan, it cannot be an issue moving it a few hundred miles to the areas in southern England that are more suitable for a repository!
I am not even sure why the unions are so adamant that there should be a repository built anyways.
Continuing employment opportunities for continued surface storage for the next hundred years, by which time the technology may have caught up to allow it be treated in a better way, are likely to be greater than the couple of hundred jobs working at the GDF once constructed.
One thing the unions have been correct on recently though is to encourage continued reprocessing. Given that the worldwide supply of uranium is likely to be exhausted before the 21st century is out, it is a nonsense to dispose of used nuclear fuel in the ground rather than recycle the 97 per cent of a nuclear fuel rod that can be reused as fresh fuel.
Deny future generations the choice as to, once fossil fuels are all gone, they wish to continue using nuclear power, or only have energy when its either sunny or the wind is blowing? Now that would be a poor legacy to leave.
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SIR – The recent headlines that the nuclear dump plans comes back. It is so obvious that no other place wants it on their doorstep.
Have we not learned a lesson from the nuclear disaster in Japan, where that area is contaminated and void of life.
Having worked in the coal mines I found a lot of faults which are well known in this area of mines.
So danger is there and you can’t hide it as a potential risk.