Councils offer talks about repository

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cumbria County Council has agreed to engage with district councils and other stakeholders who want to explore the possibility of hosting a deep geological repository for nuclear waste.

At their full council meeting on Thursday last week, there was an overwhelming support for the county council to work with its partners in the county on a 'bottom-up' approach which will allow communities to decide whether they want to express an interest in hosting such a facility.

The vote follows the publication of the Government's White Paper Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Geological Disposal,l on June 12, which underlined the Government's commitment to a siting process based on volunteerism.

The White Paper outlines a process under which decisions such as participation at key stages; the right to withdraw from a siting process; what community support packages are acceptable; and local views on site locations, will all be informed by the work of a siting partnership made up of local area stakeholders and community representatives.

Coun Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council's cabinet member responsible for nuclear issues, said: "This whole process must be transparent and open and we must not rush into anything.

“But there was an informed and lively debate at full council today and the clear consensus was that Cumbria County Council must engaged in this process from the outset so that the correct decision is made if and when the time comes to volunteer to host a repository for higher activity radioactive waste in the county.

"It is our duty to the communities we represent to be involved in this process as 70 per cent of the waste earmarked for disposal is already held at the Sellafield site, so no matter what the outcome of a search for a repository site is, Cumbria will be affected.

"This is going to be a very long process taking many years and the site will only be built if the terms are right for the community, we're confident about the long-term environmental safety, the geology is suitable and planning permission is received.

"The first stage in the process is the submission of a without commitment expression of interest to Government to allow further discussion to take place about the possibility of hosting a repository. Crucially, for those expressing an interest, the Government will release funds to allow local communities to be fully engaged with the process and for a sound understanding of the issues to be built up locally. There needs to be a genuine and equal partnership with stakeholders so that Cumbrians are fully represented."

Copeland Council has already indicated its willingness to talk to government about the issue. Allerdale is yet to decide.

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