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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Sellafield workers hold emergency meeting after council ‘no’ vote

Sellafield workers were today holding an emergency meeting to find a way forward in the wake of yesterday’s No vote.

Kevin Coyne photo
Kevin Coyne

Members of Cumbria County Council’s cabinet took the decision to withdraw from stage four of the process to identify a suitable site for a proposed underground storage facility for nuclear waste in the west of the county.

Sellafield workers had the opportunity to ask questions of the cabinet at the beginning of the debate and they had hoped for a positive vote to help secure jobs.

As well as the county council two district authorities, Allerdale and Copeland, had also previously expressed an interest – with Copeland and Allerdale voting in favour of the move to the next stage yesterday – but the county vote effectively scuppered the project’s progress.

Joe Murdoch, a convenor with the GMB union, said the emergency meeting was due to start at 8am today and members would discuss their options and where they go from here.

He added: “We are very disappointed obviously. We will have an emergency meeting to discuss what our positions are.

“We will talk to the powers that be to find out if there is a possibility to carry on with Copeland – Copeland wanted it.”

Steve Nicholson, of the Sellafield Workers’ Campaign, said the decision had dashed hopes of a new nuclear power plant in west Cumbria, which had the potential to bring thousands of jobs.

He said: “That’s gone now. There will be no new build. Page 99 of the Energy Act says that if there’s no new solution for dealing with the waste, then there is no new build.”

Mr Nicholson was one of four members of the Sellafield Workers’ campaign to address county councillors ahead of the crucial vote.

He added: “I’m obviously disappointed by their decision. The whole Sellafield workforce are really disappointed with the continued drift and delay.

“We have had 30 years of delay in dealing with nuclear waste. We will be pushing for a stable solution. We will have a campaign. This issue won’t go away.”

Kevin Coyne, Unite national officer and chair of Trade Unions for Safe Nuclear Energy, said: “This is an extremely short-sighted decision by the Cumbria County Council.

The workforce at Sellafield will be immensely disappointed with the decision. Seventy per cent of Britain’s radioactive waste is based in Cumbria at the Sellafield site.

“The people of Cumbria were not going to be making any commitments to a waste repository by agreeing to continue with this study. This waste is not going to disappear but because of today’s decision there are no answers for how we can effectively deal with it.”

Barbara Shepherd, from the Prospect union, was stood at the entrance to county council’s Carlisle headquarters at The Courts with a number of Sellafield workers during the debate.

She said it would have been preferable to move forward to stage four so that they could establish the facts about the suitability of the area for such a site.

The underground facility could have been as big as Carlisle and the progression from stage three to stage four of the process would have involved tests to fully assess the suitability of selected sites in the west of the county.

Engineers had said it would have been a bigger construction challenge than the Channel Tunnel – it would have involved around 1,000 construction workers tunnelling between 200 and 1,000 metres into the ground.

It was estimated that it would have taken 15 years to complete at a projected cost of between £12bn and £20bn.

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