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Friday, 31 October 2014

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‘Major gaps in information about N-waste’

A SEARCH to find a safe site to bury highly radioactive nuclear waste in West Cumbria should be delayed until a lot more is known about the area’s geology, a group has said this week.

The Cumbria Association of Local Councils (CALC) is sticking to its stance after a meeting on Monday night. Most of its parish and town council members reaffirmed their view that any investigation to find a suitable repository location should be put on hold until vital information gaps have been filled.

CALC hopes its views will influence Cumbria County Council and Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils before they make the big decision at separate meetings in public on October 11. The county council was yesterday meeting to debate the issue and Copeland Council is due to discuss it on September 26.

After this week’s CALC meeting, chairman Keith Hitchen said: “We are not saying yes, we are not saying no – we just think a decision about participation should not be taken at the present time. We see three major gaps in the information available to the councils, most notably with respect to geology.

“This is a key decision coming up – it’s vitally important that it is not rushed and that the county and borough councils have fully satisfied themselves that the proposed MRWS programme has credible foundations. We believe there are serious gaps in the information available to the councils that must be addressed before any decision is taken.”

A document outlining CALC’s views has been sent to the leaders of the three local authorities as well as all district and county councillors who will be involved in debates before Executive and Cabinet members meet separately (but in public) on October 11 to make what is regarded as one of the biggest decisions affecting the area for many a year.

“There is no doubt it is a crucial decision,” stressed Coun Hitchen, a former mayor of Copeland.

“The majority of town and parish councils in West Cumbria are unconvinced about the current approach to the programme. The county and borough councils should not be taking this decision without an authoritative, independent appraisal of the area’s geology that spells out what the prospects really are of finding a suitable site.”

Executives of Copeland and Allerdale councils and the Cumbria county council’s Cabinet will make the decision based on three years’ of information collected by MRWS, West Cumbria’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership.

The issues will come under the spotlight tomorrow evening at a meeting which has been independently arranged to take place in Calderbridge Village Hall.

Speaking will be three professors – Stuart Haszeldine, David Smythe and Andy Blowers. But Alan Ellis, engineering director for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, says it will not be appropriate for him to attend as “all views have been heard and a balanced process produced” as a result of the MRWS process.

Describing the meeting as premature, Mr Ellis wrote to the organisers: “If West Cumbria (or parts of the area) decides to participate in further stages of the siting process then we can start to identify potentially suitable sites which will include consideration of the accessible geology.”

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