Law could force nuclear waste on Cumbria
Despite the county council voting against a storage site, the Government may have the power to impose a facility on the region
A nuclear waste dump may still be sited in Cumbria despite a decision by county councillors last week to reject the plans.
Local district councillors in west Cumbria are seeking an urgent meeting with ministers in an effort to revive the storage scheme. Leaders of Copeland and Allerdale borough councils said they had a mandate to explore the next stage of the UK's nuclear waste storage plan, and accused Cumbria county councillors of ignoring the views of local people. Copeland MP Jamie Reed said he would lobby the Government to continue searching for a solution to nuclear waste storage in the area.
Widespread opposition to the plans, highlighted in last week's Independent on Sunday, resulted in Cumbria County Council voting 7-3 not to proceed with a detailed geological survey for a suitable site. The decision is a blow to the Government's energy policy, which relies on nuclear power but has still to work out a safe way of dealing with the toxic waste. Until the vote, Cumbria was the only county in the UK to consider formally looking for a safe site to store nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for up to a million years.
After the reversal, the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, said: "It is absolutely vital that we get to grips with our national nuclear legacy. The issue has been kicked into the long grass for far too long. We remain firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of radioactive waste. We also remain committed to the principles of voluntarism and a community-led approach."
Critics of the waste-dump policy point out that if no council voluntarily agrees to host a waste dump, the Government has the power to impose one. A clause in the 2008 'Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper' states: "In the event that at some point in the future, voluntarism and partnership does not look likely to work, the Government reserves the right to explore other approaches." Critics believe this will mean the Government will ultimately force a facility on to a community.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) refuses to rule this out. It claims that other communities held back as they assumed west Cumbria was a "done deal" because of Sellafield's importance to the economy of the county. As many as 10,000 direct jobs and up to 50,000 indirect jobs are reliant on the nuclear power plant and waste-handling facilities there. Steve Nicholson of the Sellafield Workers' Campaign said they were shocked and disappointed by the county council decision but pledged to continue to try to further the plans.
Pro- and anti-dump campaigners agree that more investment is needed to improve the surface storage at Sellafield. A National Audit Office report last November was highly critical of the standards of the storage facilities, which were set up as an interim solution in the 1950s.
A DECC spokesman said the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the waste regulator, was spending £3bn a year on disposal of nuclear waste and was committed to improving the facilities at Sellafield.
Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
World news in pictures
'Swivel-gate': David Cameron goes to war with the press over 'swivel-eyed loons' slur
Revealed: Eerie new images show forgotten French apartment that was abandoned at the outbreak of World War II and left untouched for 70 years
- 1 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 2 Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
- 3 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 4 'Swivel-gate': David Cameron goes to war with the press over 'swivel-eyed loons' slur
- 5 It’s official: thanks to Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott, anti-Semitism is no more
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£28000 - £31500 per annum + benefits: Randstad Education Newcastle: Permanent ...
£50000 - £58000 per annum + Benefits and Bonus: Progressive Recruitment: SAP F...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + BENS: Progressive Recruitment: Drupal Developer A ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + bens: Progressive Recruitment: C# WEB DEVELOPER Le...