Cumbria gets its chance to influence policy

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S first public hearing on government nuclear waste disposal policy will be held in Cumbria early next month, writes Tom Wilkie.

A study group set up by the Department of the Environment will investigate how sites for disposing of radioactive waste are selected and the safety standards which ought to apply. The investigation and the public hearing underscore concerns by the Environment Minister, Robert Atkins, that government policy should carry public confidence.

The members of the study group will be drawn from two powerful committees of independent experts: the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee, which reports to the Department of the Environment, and the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations, which, through the Health and Safety Executive, advises the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

Among the local councils and groups invited to make presentations will be Copeland Borough Council, Gosforth Parish Council, CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment), Friends of the Earth and trade unions representing the nuclear industry in West Cumbria.

The hearing has been organised at the behest of Cumbria County Council. John Burnet, chief executive, said: 'We are delighted that the department has agreed to our request to hold a special hearing here in the county. I am sure the Cumbrian perspective will help them in reaching their conclusions.'

Sir John Knill, the chairman of the joint study group, said: 'Cumbria is at the forefront of these issues . . . I and my colleagues very much welcome the opportunity to hear the views of the county at first hand.'

The group is expected to report to the environment department by the end of October.