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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Ministers cannot pressure us to have nuclear dump in Cumbria

Government ministers will not force Cumbria into accepting a nuclear waste repository, a leading county councillor has pledged.

Tim Knowles photo
Tim Knowles

County cabinet member Tim Knowles has spoken out in response to comments made by Energy Secretary Ed Davey in the House of Commons last week.

The Secretary of State appeared confident that Cumbria would agree to have an underground repository, the Government’s preferred way of dealing with higher-activity nuclear waste.

Ministers invited local authorities across the country to ‘express an interest’ in hosting a repository.

Copeland, Allerdale and Cumbria county councils were the only ones to step forward, and the county council’s expression of interest is limited to Allerdale and Copeland.

The councils are due to make a decision in January on whether to proceed to the next stage of the selection process, which involves a geological study of Allerdale and Copeland to assess suitability.

Mr Knowles, the Labour county cabinet member for transport and environment, said they would not be swayed by outside pressure from Westminster or anywhere else.

He said: “The decision on whether to be or not to be involved is not one that local authorities will take lightly, and last month cabinet decided to defer that decision until January.

“This is a decision that only we, the three councils involved, will make and the comment from the Secretary of State is purely a presumption and will have absolutely no bearing on our decision.”

Mr Davey had been responding to a question from fellow Liberal Democrat Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and a vociferous opponent of a nuclear repository in Cumbria.

The Energy Secretary said: “I am reassured that the local authorities are going about the decision on whether to host such a facility in a sensible and authoritative way. I am sure that they will support the proposal, which is an important step forward for new nuclear.”

The Government is keen for the councils to continue because withdrawal could jeopardise its nuclear new-build programme, including a power station at Sellafield. Senior county councillors believe that new build can happen only if there is process in train to deal with the waste created by a new generation of nuclear power plants.

The repository would potentially cover an area as big as Carlisle underground.

Construction and operation costs are estimated at between £12 billion and £20bn and work would start in 2025.

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