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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Sellafield: the ‘good fairy’ whose magic dust ran out years ago...

SIR – The controversy of Cumbria County Council’s democratic decision against moving on to the next stage of the MRWS process has thrown up an illuminating insight into exactly how beneficial Sellafield has been to West Cumbria over the last half century.

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Nuclear waste? What did the nuclear industry ever do for us?

Following the county’s decision, the most common rants from the pro-nuclear, pro-dumping lobby is typified in the blogs that have graced your pages recently suggesting that, with the ditching of the prospect of an underground dump, West Cumbria is doomed and ‘the last person to leave Cumbria should switch the lights off’. This, together with the cries from the same lobby who point to the lack of investment in the area, the deterioration of its local town centres and the dilapidated state of everything west of the National Park, begs the obvious question as to how, if the industry they support has been such a good neighbour, such a shabby state has been reached?

The answer of course is that, having once been sacrificed on the altar of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme of the 1940s and 50s, the increasingly commercial nuclear industry in West Cumbria has simply ridden roughshod over the area in its efforts to entrench itself so deeply in the local fabric that local communities would have no option but to live with it irrespective of the socio-economic and environmental damage it was actually doing.

In its attempt to hang on to its perch at the top of the West Cumbria tree, the latest gimmick employed by this increasingly discredited industry is to mislead the public at large into believing that Sellafield has somehow become a centre of excellence. This is clearly a wholly inappropriate description to bestow on an allegedly good fairy whose magic dust ran out years ago – if it ever existed at all. As evidence of this, you don’t have to look any further than the damning report of the recent Public Accounts Committee or last year’s highly critical report by the National Audit Office, both of which highlighted the sordid state of affairs that has been allowed to fester at Sellafield for years, and one that has turned a supposedly good neighbour into the neighbour from hell.

A legacy problem? Yes, but also one that is compounded by the inept management that continues today as highlighted by the findings of our own investigation into the site’s bread and butter commercial operations which your paper – pressed for space – hardly credited last week.

Whilst it was not within the remit of the Government committees to look at the commercial operations of reprocessing, waste vitrification, MOX etc, CORE’s investigations focused specifically on them. It revealed a chronic failure by the NDA and its predecessors to get a grip on these operations, and a disgracefully high failure rate in meeting annual targets set for these facilities by owner and operator. In a nutshell, in the 13-year period from 2000, 83 per cent of annual targets were missed – rising to 94 per cent since the NDA took over in 2005. The figures get even worse when the performance of all these facilities is compared to their original design production rate. As just one example, the much vaunted Thorp reprocessing plant, described on its launch as the site’s flagship facility and jewel in Sellafield’s crown, has not once managed to do ‘what it says on the tin’ in 19 years of operation.

The rather obvious correlation between this tawdry track record, both legacy and current, and the present state of West Cumbria – the blighted backwater described by those who apparently saw an underground dump as the area’s last chance saloon – strongly suggests that any prospect of new reactors, new MOX plants or other pipedreams actually rescuing West Cumbria from its current impoverished state are as remote as the promises of the industry’s ‘Trust Us’ brigade have proved to be hollow and worthless. Those politicians and local authorities who persist in dragging West Cumbria to the level of a nuclear pariah state from which there is no return might well reflect on the old saying ‘and who would run, that’s moderately wise, a certain danger for a doubtful prize’ ?

Martin FORWOOD.

Campaign Coordinator, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment

SIR – As a life-long supporter of the nuclear industry, and indeed as a former trade union officer whose duties included Sellafield both in-house and the construction sites, I well understand the need for underground storage.

I, like many others, was disappointed by the result of the recent ballot and in particular the fact that Phase 4 did not commit Cumbria County Council in any way.

However the MP and leader of Copeland Council’s proposal to go it alone would be understandable if it were not for events back in the mid-1990s by Nirex to find a suitable area for storage. At the time, my former boss Sir Ken Jackson was also chairman of Nirex and he showed me the final report which said none of the areas explored was suitable because of the rock strata and the problems with the water tables. The old coal and iron ore mines are testament to that. So where are these proposed sites?

It has been suggested that the go-it-alone proposal is just a way of keeping the political bandwagon rolling because of the pending elections in a couple of months’ time but I think that’s a bit cynical.

F. Grant CATTANACH

Loop Road South, Whitehaven

SIR – Now we know we are not going to host the repository are we going to wait until every other county in the land kicks it into touch (as they will) or are we going to get some ‘on site action’?

We have the biggest stockpile of nuclear waste anywhere in the land sitting at Sellafield. It gets bigger by the day and the buildings it’s stored in are getting older.

Some of the waste is stored in newer buildings but some is stored in older buildings and therein lies the problem.

These older buildings are not up to modern standards but are still being used.

The site has ‘beefed’ up its security it now needs to ‘beef’ up its buildings. Time to get fingers out and start pouring concrete.

Name and address supplied

SIR – It is hard to see how the UK’s projected future electricity demand and energy security can be met without an element of new nuclear power, to replace some of the existing nuclear stations as they come to the end of their lives.

In considering the recently published figures for the Sellafield clean-up it is worth remembering that a large proportion of the costs has arisen as a result of the early military programmes which were conceived and undertaken under considerable time pressure and under the dark shadow of the nuclear arms race – and at a time when facilities were designed without decommissioning in mind and when future waste management was not accorded the priority it now is.

If new civil nuclear electricity generating capacity is commissioned in the UK waste management and end of life decommissioning will be taken properly into account from the start, and so will be proportionately less expensive to deal with than the historic legacy of the early days of the UK’s military programmes.

Dr Simon HARRISON

Institution of Engineering and Technology, London

SIR – An article in The Whitehaven News of February 14 said that The Original Factory Shop in Egremont had chosen the North West Air Ambulance as its charity partner for this year.

The North West Air Ambulance, which has two helicopters, flies from bases at the Royal Preston Hospital and University Hospital of South Manchester. What a shame it was not The Great North Air Ambulance Service, which has three helicopters, one being The Pride of Cumbria which is usually based at Langwathby, near Penrith, which works predominantly in Cumbria.

Name and address supplied

SIR – If Jamie Reed is in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill then that’s his own personal opinion and not the fact he is a Christian, which was his first reasoning (The Whitehaven News, February 7).

The Bible is quite clear in its objection: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”.

We have no choice in the way we are born. I have gay friends and I hope each and every one of them find a good, loving relationship within the same sex. We understand things better now and we have come a long way since they were imprisoned for their sexuality and rightly so. We are all equal and in the year 2013, the law does reflect this.

But, as a Christian, legalising gay marriage violates the sanctity of marriage, the very core of Christian belief. Do people realise the far reaching implications of this Bill regarding birth certificates etc?

Yes we do have to move forward with the times, but in my opinion this is wrong. Whatever your motives are Jamie Reed, they are not because you are a Christian.

Romans 16:17-19: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

Elaine CLYNES

The Highlands, Whitehaven

SIR – I was encouraged to read Mary Butler’s letter in last week’s Whitehaven News and thank you for printing it.

I believe our local MP and many in our government and in parliament are really out of touch with the ‘ordinary person in the street’. When I signed the petition against ‘gay marriage’ there were over 636,000 signatures on it! Was this the only petition or only voice? Were Muslims, Orthodox Jews or any other people of faith or none, consulted or asked? In fact not all gays are, by any means, in favour of this act of parliament, just a radical minority.

I know we will never get a government that satisfies all of our hopes, dreams, prayers and wishes but to redefine marriage as it has stood for centuries and comes from God’s Law (not man’s!) is a step too far. It begs the question, why was it rushed through as it was by people who are supposed to be public ‘servants’ and listen to the voices of their constituents! Did they really believe that the majority of British citizens are in favour of ‘gay marriage’ or don’t they (or the public) care? If so... England my England what has become of you?

Mrs Jean MILLIE

Egremont

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