Transcript of the DECC Webchat 18th November 2013

Transcript of today’s DECC webchat. “Thank you all for your input! Great questions.” ~ DECC

11:00

Comment From:  3 weeks to save the lakes

Considering the assurances given by DECC following the NO vote in January, is returning to Cumbria as a potential location for such a facility not in fact evidence of predeterminatiion?

11:00

DECC Team:

This is an important point to be clear on up front. The consultation is national in scope, it isn’t about returning to West Cumbria. The former process ended in january, but the waste still exists and still has to be managed. the current consultation is about finding a way forward nationally.

11:01

Richard Sargent:
Hi – I’m Richard Sargent in the GDF team. Happy to take questions now.

11:09

Comment From Chris L
Many in West Cumbria fear that DECC and the NDA have only one GDF host site in mind, namely West Cumbria. Is this not just a ‘box-ticking’ exercise by DECC in order to be able to claim that the widest consultation and public participation has been engaged in?

11:09

Bruce Cairns:
Hello. As with the first question today, I can reiterate that DECC and NDA do not have a site in west Cumbria in mind and we are very keen to start talking about this subject with a wider variety of people. In fact, one of the proposals in the current consultation is for a period of national awareness raising and public engagement to bring this important subject to a wider audience.

11:10

Comment From Amy
What infrastructure needs to be put in place in order to mine a geological nuclear waste facility (e.g. Roads) ?

11:10

Ian Streatfield:
Thanks Amy. The development of a GDF is a multi-billion pound project. This represents a huge investment for any area that hosts the facility. Any community hosting a GDF would receive significant economic benefits, high quality employment and infrastructure improvements, all of which would be maintained over a very long period. The exact nature of the infrastructure improvements will depend to a certain extent on the location of the site and existing infrastructure, but there will certainly be a need for road and rail access to the site.

11:11

Comment From Tom
How smoothly did the process in Cumbria go? Was it a good example of how the process should work?

Richard Sargent:
Hi Tom. In some aspects – in particular the timely provision of information to communities – the process in west Cumbria did not work as envisaged. This is why we have learnt lessons, run a Call for Evidence earlier this year and have now published a national consultation with proposals on potential improvements and clarifications to the siting process.

11:12

Bruce Cairns:
If your question doesn’t appear – don’t worry. They won’t be visible until we get to answer them.

11:21

Comment From Guest
Less a question then a comment in the hope someone is listening. Speaking as a local councillor who has invested much time and effort in trying to promote the benefits a GDF could have in West Cumbria (safer then storing above ground at Sellafield, transformational socio-economic package etc), I find it hard to comprehend how little DECC is doing to promote the idea. Your hands off approach creates a vacuum which the the likes of the Cumbria Trust, and NOEND etc can fill with half-truths and falsehoods. Your failure to properly manage the stakeholder engagement side of things was what caused stage four of MRWS to be rejected and is what, I fear, will cause this latest attempt to fall flat.

11:21

Bruce Cairns:
Thank you. Some of the proposals in the current consultation are intended to begin addressing lessons that can be learned from the way the previous process ran in practice. The engagement work that took place in the previous process in west Cumbria was very much run by the local Partnership group for a local audience but we have proposed that there must be a much clearer role in future for the NDA as developer in explaining what a GDF development could mean and in addressing alternative views in public. Please do use your direct experience to submit a consultation response.

11:24

Comment From Janet Thompson
Why is a district council with no remit over emergencies, planning, infrastructure or waste can deal with something as strategically massive as a gdf when this has already been voted against earlier this year?

11:25

Ian Streatfield:
Thanks Janet. We propose that the district council would be the representative authority in a two tier area, as set out in paragraphs 2.22 to 2.36 in the consultation document. The representative authority is for the purpose of volunteering (and exercising the right of withdrawal) in the siting process. The siting process is an additional stage over and above existing planning, emergency response and regulatory processes.

11:27

Comment From Alistair Grey
Those in charge have decided that the material is best hidden underground. Why is it not an option for overground storage where the material and storage vessels can be monitored?

Richard Sargent:
Hi Alistair. Radioactive waste is currently stored above ground and, as you imply, is monitored but this requires ongoing human intervention to ensure safety is maintained. The independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) considered this as an option for ongoing management but recognised that for the very long term, geological disposal provided the best available permanent solution, relieving future generations from the burden of managing the material on an ongoing basis.

11:28

Comment From DrDavidLowry, NWAA
Recommendation 4 from the CORWM1 final report of July 2006 stared “: There should be a commitment to an intensified programme of research and development into the long-term safety of geological disposal aimed at reducing uncertainties at generic and site-specific levels, as well as into improved means for storing wastes in the longer term.” The government of the day accepted the CORWM1 recommendations in their totality, so why has this recommendation not been implemented in the intervening 7 years, especially in respect of at reactor storage?

11:28

DECC Team:
David, CoRWM’s recommendations on interim storage and research and development have not been ignored. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority continues to make significant investment in safe interim storage (much more annually than in disposal) and also runs major programmes of research and development to support decommissioning, radioactive waste management and disposal.

11:28

Bruce Cairns:
We’ve been getting a few questions in about new nuclear waste. Waste and spent fuel from new nuclear power stations will be disposed of in a GDF. In the case of Hinkley Point C, spent fuel will be stored safely and securely on site until a GDF facility is ready. We’re satisifed that geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste from new power stations is technically achieveable, that suitable site can be idenitifed and that secure interim storage
arrangements will be available until GDF is ready.

11:35

Comment From Rod
With only one DECC organised workshop for Local Authorities and that was held in London and a seperate one just for Allerdale Councillors held in Allerdale, how can we believe you when you claim this is a NATIONAL exercise?

11:35

Bruce Cairns:
Hi Rod, there are stakeholder workshops happening on a regional basis as well as the ones designed for specific stakeholder groups so there are opportunities for local authorities to engage around the country. The Allerdale meeting was not a DECC event, it was an Allerdale Council meeting at which DECC officials were asked to come along and talk about the current consultation. We would expect to engage with any other local authority who asked us to come and speak to them in a similar way.

11:35

Comment From Amy
What would happen if there was a leak in geological nuclear waste dump?

11:35

DECC Team:
Hi Amy, geological disposal is widely accepted as the best international practice for dealing with higher activity radioactive waste as it provides isolation and containment without further human intervention, enabling safety to be achieved over longer timescales

11:37

Comment From Guest
How will DECC compensate the loss of tourism, the damage to businesses and the dramatic fall in property values affected by the extensive infrastructure necessary for the construction of a GDF?

Richard Sargent:
Thanks for your question. The impacts of a GDF in any potential community will clearly need to be understood and we believe communities should understand those impacts early in the siting process. One of the proposals in the consultation document is for a socio-economic study to be carried out (at Government’s expense) for a potentially interested community. The findings of this report would inform a community’s decision on further participation.

11:38

Comment From Cumbria Trust
Why has DECC not ruled out from the process National Parks, AONBs and environmentally sensitive sites? Is DECC aware Nirex did? Why does DECC think Nirex did so?

11:39

Ian Streatfield:
Dear Cumbria Trust, our proposal is that initially we do not use criteria to screen any areas as either suitable or unsuitable, as the environmentally sensitive sites that you mention are rarely contiguous with potential representative authority boundaries. Specific consideration of these sites would be undertaken during the course of environmental impact assessment, as the process progresses.

11:42

Comment From Guest
Copeland has been ruled out as an area suitable for a GDF so why is it being considered yet again?

Richard Sargent:
Thanks for your question. We’re getting a lot of questions that assume Government is trying to make this happen in west Cumbria. This is not the purpose of the consultation – it is a national consultation about a national process to site a GDF. One of the proposals in the consultation document is to initiate a period of national awareness raising to bring this opportunity to as wide an audience as possible.

11:43

Comment From Jeff Stevens
Why is DECC ignoring the majority of responses (59%) to the Call for Evidence requesting geology now be investigated at national level whilst proposing to vest decision making in District Councils when only 3% of respondents to Call for Evidence advocated this?

11:43

DECC Team:
The proposals in the consultation document were developed following a consideration of what lessons could be learned from the operation of the siting process since 2008, discussions with those involved so far, and a public ‘call evidence’. In developing its proposals, the Government gives greater weight to responses that are based on argument and evidence, rather than expressions of support or opposition.

11:43

Comment From Julia Dudley
Do you really really think that burying radioactive waste as close as humanly possible to the heated core of the planet (where all the geothermal energy/heat comes from) is a serious and intelligent way to hide the problem of lethal toxic waste away for future generations to come across, or not, as is happening now in the great hide and seek hunt for all the experimental contamination and waste from the 50’s & 60’s?

11:43

Bruce Cairns:
Hi Julia, GDF is designed to be deep enough to provide isolation from the surface environment, where rapid environmental and social change could impact it over the long term. Geological process tend to run over much longer timescales and can be tested, modelled, understood and predicted with greater certainty. Despite being deep compared with many other developments we are used to, it will only be up to 1000m deep so still a long way from the planet’s core. We have to remember that the waste already exists and the alternative would be leaving it for those future generations to deal with on an ongoing basis.

11:45

Comment From C Lane
Unless already heavily involved in MRWS (i.e. West Cumbria), how is anyone from any other area in the UK liable to hear of this webchat, or indeed any of the arguments surrounding geological nuclear waste disposal?

11:45

Bruce Cairns:
Re: C Lane – we recognise the need to raise the profile of this issue and generate much wider awareness and understanding of what is an important (and genuinely interesting!) issue. We would welcome suggestions in response to the current consultation on how we might do this more effectively. Thanks.

11:46

Comment From John McCreesh
If the consultation is truly national in scope, how do you intend to conclude an effective awareness raising phase in just one year?

11:46

DECC Team:
Thanks for your question John. National awareness raising in one year is just a proposal at the moment – feel free to submit your formal response and tell us what you think/offer suggestions or alternatives.

11:43

Comment From Julia Dudley
Do you really really think that burying radioactive waste as close as humanly possible to the heated core of the planet (where all the geothermal energy/heat comes from) is a serious and intelligent way to hide the problem of lethal toxic waste away for future generations to come across, or not, as is happening now in the great hide and seek hunt for all the experimental contamination and waste from the 50’s & 60’s?

11:43

Bruce Cairns:
Hi Julia, GDF is designed to be deep enough to provide isolation from the surface environment, where rapid environmental and social change could impact it over the long term. Geological process tend to run over much longer timescales and can be tested, modelled, understood and predicted with greater certainty. Despite being deep compared with many other developments we are used to, it will only be up to 1000m deep so still a long way from the planet’s core. We have to remember that the waste already exists and the alternative would be leaving it for those future generations to deal with on an ongoing basis.

11:45

Comment From C Lane
Unless already heavily involved in MRWS (i.e. West Cumbria), how is anyone from any other area in the UK liable to hear of this webchat, or indeed any of the arguments surrounding geological nuclear waste disposal?

11:45

Bruce Cairns:
Re: C Lane – we recognise the need to raise the profile of this issue and generate much wider awareness and understanding of what is an important (and genuinely interesting!) issue. We would welcome suggestions in response to the current consultation on how we might do this more effectively. Thanks.

11:46

Comment From John McCreesh
If the consultation is truly national in scope, how do you intend to conclude an effective awareness raising phase in just one year?

11:46

DECC Team:
Thanks for your question John. National awareness raising in one year is just a proposal at the moment – feel free to submit your formal response and tell us what you think/offer suggestions or alternatives.

11:48

Comment From Anna Nolan
1. Why does DECC imply that even a small district authority will have the “capability to exercise power” (2.27) over a decision with an impact extending far beyond its boundaries?

48

Ian Streatfield:
Thanks Anna. It is important to remember that the voluntarist process being proposed is not intended to replace the proper planning and regulatory processes. It is intended as a way of engaging with potential host communities and testing their willingness to participate. We propose that the decision that the representative authority would make is about volunteering (and potentially withdrawing) from the siting process. Impacts both within and beyond the volunteering community would be considered through the normal planning process.

11:49

Comment From Jeff Stevens
How much money has DECC spent on what appears to be a very contrived Webchat?

11:50

DECC Team:
Hi Jeff, the webchat hasn’t cost any money but we passionately believe it’s important to hear people’s views. All views are welcome.

11:50

Comment From 3 weeks
Why are DECC not putting safety of geology as their highest priority

Richard Sargent:
Thanks for your question. Safety is of paramount importance. A GDF cannot and will not be built unless the independent regulators are satisfied that the safety case made by the developer has passed their stringent safety, security and environmental standards.

11:51

DECC Team:
We’re getting lots of questions, so keep them coming. We’re doing our best to answer as many as we can, but for any we don’t get to we’ll publish a response on the websites over the next few days

Comment From Janet Thompson
Why arnt the government & DECC looking to more suitable places to build a GDF EG – nr London or Cambridge in the clay which is far more suitable geolgy and doesnt pose such a problem when the GDF leaks which they are designed to do?

11:51

Ian Streatfield:
Hi Janet, just a reminder that is is a national consultation on siting proposals for a GDF. We are not ruling out any potential site.

11:53

Comment From Eddie Martin
Will respondents receive an acknowledgement that their response to the Consultation process has been received by DECC?

11:53

DECC Team:
Hi Eddie, yes everyone’s response will be acknowledged

11:54

Comment From john Wilson
As many many generations of our ancestors will have to look after this national legacy the national repository has to be built in the safest place possible. Cumbria is not the safest place in the UK for the repository and many millions have been spent in trying to prove it is safe despite the overwhelming geographical evidence. How much has been spent on educating the local authorities in the most suitable geographical areas? This consultation has no intrest in finding the most suitable geographical area and is more concerned with finding the most compliant populous.You are taking the easy option and our many many ancestors deserve more than this and they must have the safest geographical site in the UK to manage the national legacy for thousands and thousands of years.

1:54

Bruce Cairns:
Thanks for your question John, The purpose of geological disposal is to ensure that our ancestors won’t have to bear the cost and responsibility for managing higher activity radioactivity waste on an ongoing basis. As the consultation document discusses, there is no such thing as ‘most suitable’ geology – there are different types of potentially suitable geology in which a GDF could be safely constructed but we are interested in engaging with communities on this rather than seeking to impose a facility.

11:54

Comment From june terry
one hour is clearly not enough,you havnt posted one of my emails yet!

11:54

DECC Team:
Hi June, we are getting lots of questions so are trying to answer on a range of subjects. Any questions we don’t get to we’ll publish a response on the website over the next few days

11:54

Comment From phil davies
An open question for you to answer: what are the three most important geological factors which you would look for when seeking a repository site. Then order them 1,2,3 in terms of absolute priority.

11:54

Ian Streatfield:
Hi Phil – the absolute priority is safety here. There are different types of geology that are potentially suitable within which a GDF could be safely engineered. There is no such thing as ‘the best’ or ‘the most suitable’ geology.

11:55

Comment From phil davies
Bruce Cairns at 11.43. Newbuild waste does NOT “already exist” Agreed?

11:56

Bruce Cairns:
Hello Phil – we have an extensive legacy inventory of nuclear waste that has to be managed, regardless of what happens with new build. Stopping new build would not remove the need to manage our existing nuclear waste safely and securely for the long term.

11:56

DECC Team:
We’re into the last few minutes. Please keep your questions coming. Any questions we don’t manage to answer we will publish a response on the website over the next few days

11:57

Comment From Montgomery
If geological disposal is such a good idea then why are there so few international examples? Why are the majority of nuclear EU members delaying their decisions on final options until 2020?

Ian Streatfield:
There are in fact numerous international programmes to implement geological disposal currently progressing – it is important to bear in mind that these are major infrastructure projects and delivering them safely in consultation with local communities takes time.

11:59

Comment From Suzy Kenyo
Are you going to answer Amys question ..What happens if or when it leaks? I understand a GDF is designed to leak.Explain?

Richard Sargent:
Thanks for your question, Suzy. The safety case for a GDF – which will be subject to review by the independent regulators – will have to demonstrate that people and the environment will continue to be protected after the facility has closed.

11:59

DECC Team:
We’re getting so many questions we’ll keep going for a bit. Keep the questions coming

12:00

Comment From Chris
How will you protect it. Putting that much radioactive material in one place will be a gift to terrorists wont it?

12:01

Ian Streatfield:
Chris – the purpose of geological disposal is to put the radioactive waste permanently beyond reach and it will of course be regulated by independent safety and security regulator.

2:01

Bruce Cairns:
Montgomery – every nation with a nuclear programme, that has taken a decision on long term waste management has selected geological disposal. I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say nuclear EU members are delaying decisions on final options. The French, Swedes, Finns and Belgians, for example, have been pursuing geological disposal for many years and have made a huge amount of progress in research, both above ground and below. The French have a deep laboratory in clay rock, the Swedes have an international underground research facility in hard, crystalline rock and have selected a site to develop for a final disposal facility. The Finns are building something now too (there is a really interesting film about their work called “Into Eternity”). In the USA there is also a functioning deep GDF for “transuranic” wastes, which is located in New Mexico.

12:02

Comment From Alix
If this is really a national debate, how many people on it are NOT from Cumbria?

12:02

DECC Team:
hi Alix, understandably there is lots of interest from people in Cumbia. But we really do want to hear views from people all over the country

12:03

Comment From Jill
At this rate of answering questions your hour will soon be up and we will be no better informed

Richard Sargent:
Thanks, Jill. There have been a large volume of questions. Anything we don’t answer within the hour will be answered subsequently – in the next few days – and answers published online.

12:07

Bruce Cairns:
Thank you to everyone for questions received. There have been a lot of questions from Cumbria and more than we can answer in real time (there are a lot more people out there asking than sitting in here answering). We will keep all the questions that have been asked and will pull together answers to publish after the live event closes.
Apologies to someone logged in as “Guest” who keeps asking me to answer his/her earlier question. Sorry but it’s impossible to identify what question you were interested in from all the mass of earlier questions from people logged in as “Guest”. I hope you see a helpful answer either elsewhere on today’s list or in the fuller list of responses to follow.

12:07

DECC Team:
We’re bringing the chat to a close now. Sorry to everyone whose question we haven’t managed to answer. we will publish a response to unanswered questions on the website over the next few days

12:09
DECC Team:
In the meantime you can respond to the consultation until 5 December onlinehttps://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/geological-disposal-facility-siting-process-review

12:12
Ian Streatfield:
Thank you all for your questions. Ian

12:13

Comment From Mary Gillespie
Why are you proposing to remove County Councils and Parish Councils from the decision making process? Surely support at all levels is essential for a project that has effects on areas far beyond the GDF site itself, and which could blight a small parish community.

Richard Sargent:
Thanks, Mary. The proposal to make district councils the representative authority does not replace the formal planning and regulatory processes, which will be an important part of the siting process. Specifically on planning, local authorities at all levels will have a formal opportunity to make representations to the planning inspectorate. It is also important to note that both county and parish councils will have the opportunity to influence the process as participants.