A new law passed on the last day of parliament means dumps for radioactive waste can be built without going through the planning system and in the face of local opposition, according to a report.
The new regulations class waste sites as “nationally significant infrastructure projects”, The Guardian reported.
This means they can be chosen by the Secretary of State for Energy. He or she would be advised by planners and local people could object but they would not be able to prevent the dump being built.
Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative MP who voted against the law, said there should have been more debate about such a significant change.
“Effectively it strips local authorities of the ability to stop waste being dumped in their communities,” he told the paper. “If there had been a debate, there could have been a different outcome: most of the MPs who voted probably didn’t know what they were voting for.”
And Naomi Luhde-Thompson, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Communities will be rightly concerned about any attempts to foist a radioactive waste dump on them.
“We urgently need a long-term management plan for the radioactive waste we’ve already created, but decisions mustn’t be taken away from local people who have to live with the impacts.”
After a site is identified, it could take nearly 30 years to build a dump at a cost of up to £5.6bn.
About 4.5 million cubic metres of radioactive waste has built up over the last 50 years. It is currently kept in containers in a number of sites in the UK as a number of attempts to build a permanent storage facility have failed.
It costs about £3bn to manage the waste with the taxpayer picking up roughly two-thirds of the bill.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change said last year that it wanted to build a dump with the support of the public but said that could change if “at some point in the future such an approach does not look likely to work”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies