Sellafield faces waste inquiry

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The Independent Online
A public inquiry into the nuclear industry's waste disposal plans seems inevitable after a decision yesterday by Cumbria County Council to reject a crucial step in the industry's strategy.

UK Nirex, the industry's waste disposal company, is to appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment, John Gummer, following the council's rejection of proposals to establish an underground laboratory at Sellafield. Although Mr Gummer could, in theory, decide the issue himself, he will have little option but to refer it to a public inquiry next spring.

Mr Gummer has already made a surprise intervention into the planning process. Less than two hours before the county council was due to meet to consider Nirex's planning application, he ordered the council not to approve the application without his permission. Officials could give no clear reason for his sudden action, other than to say that it was to give Mr Gummer more time to consider the issues involved.

Although it is a "hung" council in party political terms, the meeting voted by 40 to 33 to reject Nirex's proposals.

UK Nirex said it would appeal against the decision. Michael Folger, the company's managing director, said: "The decision, which we believe has been made without valid planning reasons, leaves us with no choice but to appeal to the Secretary of State. Oneobserver commented: "Everyone expects this will trigger a public inquiry."