Crunch vote on nuclear dump in Lake District

Plans to bury radioactive waste in Cumbria face growing local opposition. Mike Glover reports

Proposals to store nuclear waste under England's largest national park and other areas of outstanding natural beauty will face stormy opposition this week. A decision to abandon or press on with a nuclear waste dump in Cumbria will be made by three councils on Wednesday. The result will have major implications for energy policy, experts warn.

Copeland and Allerdale borough councils and Cumbria County Council will separately vote whether to advance to detailed geological surveys for the dump. Three possible sites – Ennerdale, Eskdale and the Solway Plain – have been identified. All three delayed a vote last November after councillors sought and got government assurances that they could reject the deal later.

But the delay has allowed a dramatic escalation in opposition. Yesterday protesters from Spand (Solway Plain Against Nuclear Dump) presented a 3,600-signature petition to county councillor Tony Markley, who wants the proposals to go to the next stage. In December an online petition attracted more than 6,000 signatories and a series of public meetings has seen a groundswell of opposition. At one meeting, in Keswick this month, 600 people voted to stop the process.

Influential groups including the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Tourism are concerned that the proposed dump is already damaging the Lake District "brand". Park authority chairman Bill Jefferson, in a letter to the energy minister Baroness Verma, warned: "There are growing and increasingly widespread concerns that a repository below the National Park, or indeed the perception of such a proposal, would not be in the long-term interests of the Lake District, its farming and resident communities and visitor economy."

Jack Ellerby, of Friends of the Lake District, said: "Public anxiety, by a wide range of interests and communities potentially affected, about the neutrality of the decision-making process is growing. The process has lost the trust of the people and businesses of Cumbria."

Petition organiser Susan Mathieson, of Ambleside, said: "Voting no would force the Government to take a more responsible attitude in its plans for nuclear expansion – burying the waste out of sight is not the safe answer to this dilemma." Peter Maher, a retired headteacher from Ennerdale, said: "They spent millions on consultation and yet the vast majority who turned up at a meeting locally had very little idea of what was involved. We were horrified."

The Nuclear Industry Association chairman, Lord Hutton, a former Cumbrian MP, has warned that a no vote by councillors would be an injustice for future generations. There is no alternative to a deep underground facility, he argues. Until now, all high-level nuclear waste – spent fuel rods sent by train from the UK's nuclear plants to Sellafield for reprocessing – has been stored in concrete buildings at the plant.

The Government and the industry are anxious for a permanent solution, especially after a National Audit Office report last November concluded an "intolerable risk" was being posed by hazardous waste stored in run-down buildings at Sellafield. A previous site near Sellafield was rejected as unsuitable in 1997.

The most recent idea saw councils asked to volunteer to house the waste but only one area – West Cumbria –has stayed the course. Thousands of local jobs depend on the industry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager - Vehicle Design and Build

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Engineering Project Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer and i...

Recruitment Genius: Document Controller

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Document Controller is required to join a le...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action