Sunday, April 26, 2015
WHERE I STAND ON NUCLEAR WASTE
Whether or not there is a new generation of nuclear power plants - as I believe there should be - there will be a need to find the safest possible means of storing and dealing with large quantities of nuclear by-products. We already have hundreds of tons of such materials stored in Copeland, particularly at Sellafield and the Low Level waste facility at Drigg.
I believe that it would be grossly irresponsible not to keep the storage and treatment arrangements for this waste under review and to seek a safe and environmentally sustainable long-term solution. I am open to persuasion if any new evidence should come to light concerning what type of solution is safest and least harmful to the environment, but on what I have so far seen the evidence for a GDF is stronger than the evidence for a surface solution provided that the right geology can be found.
The previous MRWS (Managing Radioactive Waste Safely) process was aborted before investigations of geological suitability moved beyond the desktop stage to the kind of actual physical investigation which would have established whether particular areas are suitable or not. The completion of such an investigation is essential to ensure that the geology is acceptable and safe before any proposed development goes to the planning stage.
I support the principle of voluntarism - e.g. that you don't build a new nuclear waste facility into a community which has not voluntarily entered into discussions about it - including the ability of a host community to withdraw at any stage prior to the actual construction of a facility.
In my opinion no GDF proposal should move to the construction stage without being approved in a referendum of all residents of the area affected. Under the present system of local government the most appropriate area for such a referendum would be the district or districts affected. If the entire facility is within one district council area the referendum should be of the people of that district: if it is shared between two districts or on the border of a second district then the referendum should cover both.
This plebiscite should give a veto to the people of the district but should not be the only form of consultation employed, and more local levels such as parishes should also be consulted during the process.
Let me be crystal clear: If I become Mayor of Copeland I would make sure that a referendum in which all the people of Copeland could vote had to be held before any GDF was built.
The nuclear waste is going to be around for a long time. I believe that it is far better to proceed slowly with the maximum degree of consultation than to give the impression that any proposal is being steamrollered through.