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Blog: Cumbria County Council says no to nuclear repository plan
Updated 4:25pm Wednesday 30th January 2013 in News
This live event has finished
- Cumbria County Council has voted 'NO' on progressing to the next stage of the decision process over plans for an underground nuclear waste facility in Cumbria.
- Allerdale Council also voted 'NO' to involvement in the plan.
- Copeland Council had voted 'YES' but needed county council backing to continue.
- If built, the facility would have contained the most toxic nuclear waste in the UK, some of which is already currently stored above ground at the Sellafield site. A likely multi-billion pound 'community benefits' package would have been available if the project got the go ahead.
- Stay on this page for reaction to today's 'NO' vote.
MINISTER: 'WE RESPECT CUMBRIA'S DECISION'
The Government has issued a statement on the decision made by Cumbria County Council today.
Responding to the Councillors’ decisions, Edward Davey, Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, said: “We respect the decision made today by Cumbria councillors. They have invested a great deal of time in this project and have provided valuable lessons on how to take forward this process in future. While their decision to withdraw is disappointing, Cumbria will continue to play a central role in the energy and nuclear power sectors.
“We are clear that nuclear power should play a key role in our future energy mix, as it does today. I am confident that the programme to manage radioactive waste safely will ultimately be successful, and that the decisions made in Cumbria today will not undermine prospects for new nuclear power stations.
“It is however absolutely vital that we get to grips with our national nuclear legacy. The issue has been kicked into the long-grass for far too long.
“We remain firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of radioactive waste. We also remain committed to the principles of voluntarism and a community-led approach.
“The fact that Copeland voted in favour of entering the search for a potential site for a GDF demonstrates that communities recognise the benefits associated with hosting such a facility.
“For any host community there will be a substantial community benefits package, worth hundreds of millions of pounds. That is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and major investment that such a huge infrastructure project could bring.
“We will now embark on a renewed drive to ensure that the case for hosting a GDF is drawn to the attention of other communities.”
Cumbria County Council's NO to a search for a nuclear waste burial site will cause problems for govt. Ministers admit no plan B. RT...— @FriendsofLakes 30 January 2013
2:10pm Wed 30 Jan 13
Thanks to those who put common sense ahead of financial gain! Nice one, you get my vote.
CUMBRIA SAYS NO TO NUCLEAR REPOSITORY PLAN
Cumbria County Council has dealt a blow to the prospect of building a £12 billion underground nuclear waste site in its area by voting against the idea.
Council leaders rejected moving to the next stage of studying a possible suitable site, by seven votes to three.
There were huge cheers from environmental campaigners outside the council chamber in Carlisle when the decision was announced.
Earlier, leaders of Copeland borough councillors voted 6-1 in favour of moving to the next stage in the search for a site to bury radioactive waste.
The county council vote over-rides decisions on the waste site taken by borough authorities in the area.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Leila Deen said: "This decision represents yet another major blow for the Government's attempts to force the construction of costly nuclear power plants.
"Even the Prime Minister admits we need a plan to store waste before we can build a single new plant. This decision shows that dumping waste in uncertain geology near one of the country's most pristine national parks is not a solution.
"Ministers must now re-consider their nuclear ambitions and turn their attention instead to clean, sustainable and renewable energy."
Cumbria County Council said in a statement that its cabinet has decided that West Cumbria should no longer be considered as a potential location for a deep geological repository to dispose of higher activity radioactive waste, and that the two districts of Copeland and Allerdale should be excluded from further consideration in the Government's Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process.
The 10 members of the Cabinet also agreed that the council will encourage the Government to invest in improvements to the existing surface storage facilities at Sellafield so that there is a more "robust" surface storage arrangement in the decades to come while a permanent solution for the country's higher activity radioactive waste is found.
The decision effectively ends the county council's four-year formal involvement in the MRWS process and puts an end to the "doubts and concerns" of many local people, said the statement.
"As a decision to continue with the process needed the agreement of both the district and county councils, Cumbria County Council's decision has removed both districts from consideration."
Cabinet members made it clear at the meeting that it had been a highly contentious issue which had polarised opinions.
Council leader Eddie Martin (Conservative) said: "Cabinet believes there is sufficient doubt around the suitability of West Cumbria's geology to put an end now to the uncertainty and worry this is causing for our communities. Cumbria is not the best place geologically in the UK - the Government's efforts need to be focused on disposing of the waste underground in the safest place, not the easiest.
"Members have remained concerned throughout on the issue of the legal right of withdrawal if we proceed to the next stage. Despite assurances from Government that they intend to introduce this as primary legislation, we do believe that this could have been done far sooner to ease our concerns. The fact remains the right of withdrawal is not yet enshrined in statute and we could not take the risk of saying yes today without this being absolutely nailed down.
"Cumbria has a unique and world-renowned landscape which needs to be cherished and protected. While Sellafield and the Lake District have co-existed side by side successfully for decades, we fear that if the area becomes known in the national conscience as the place where nuclear waste is stored underground, the Lake District's reputation may not be so resilient."
Deputy Leader Stewart Young added: "The case for investment in Sellafield is now more pressing than ever. We had always raised concerns over the lack of any plan B from Government and the fact that West Cumbria was the only area to express an interest in the process left the Government with few options if we decided not to proceed.
"It is now time for the Government to secure the long-term future of the nuclear industry and put in place robust storage arrangements at Sellafield while it decides how to continue the search for a repository elsewhere in the UK."
Disappointed Cumbria Council voted against moving to the next stage on Nuclear waste site.— @AaronLSpence 30 January 2013
The worst decision for Cumbria that 10 people. Lets just hope it's all safely stored ABOVE GROUND AT SELLAFIELD, its not going anywhere!— @markjenk 30 January 2013
@gazettenewsdesk They were wrong for not allowing stage 4 outside of National Park.— @seanduffy_me 30 January 2013
#gdf If people looked at the positives this would bring instead of the negative use of a 'dump' they would see how it would benefit our area— @ejGooch 30 January 2013
Was Cumbria County Council right to say no to plans for a nuclear repository? Have your say here, or tweet us: http://t.co/7UNdc0pv— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
CORRECTION: 7-3 vote not to proceed to stage four. Its carried.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
BREAKING: Cumbria CC has dramatically dropped out of the search for a #GDF in a six-3 vote with one abstention.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Vote imminent on the #Cumbria #GDF nuclear debate. Hurry up chaps & chapesses, some of us have a newspaper cartoon deadline.— @colinshelbourn 30 January 2013
'It would be perverse to stop the process now when we do not have all the answers to all the questions." Coun Tim Knowles— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Tim Knowles expresses surprise at Cllr Eddie Martin's quit stage four now plea.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Oliver Pearson fears a withdrawal would see the Government close the door on Cumbria— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Duncan Fairbairn is unhappy with Government 'guarantees' and doesn't believe the right people from Govt came to Cumbria.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Here's what Westmorland Gazette reader Dom Bush has to say via our Facebook page: "I hope very much that it doesn't happen, that the implications of burying nuclear waste in an unsuitable site are clear and that they vote to protect one of the last wild spaces in England. Though I fear that dangling a financial carrot in the faces of struggling working class families in west Cumbria may conveniently swing the vote in favour. They don't have a plan B site so they are doing what they can the sway the local community."
There is growing mention of investment in Sellafield but little by way of support for remaining in stage four - at this stage— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Liz Mallinson does not support going to stage four and says it impacts on the whole of Cumbria, not just Copeland— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Mallinson says there has been a lack of investment in Sellafield, 'a decade lost.'— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
"We need a proper, informed public debate," says Cllr Airey, while Coun Mallinson references the 'threatening' emails she has received.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Airey says he is pro-nuclear and anti-green but a conservationist. "I wonder what they will say when the lights go out," he asks.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Airey says decision difficult due to competing needs of tourism and nuclear and the county's future— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun James Airey: "I've a genuine open mind and been involved in local Government for 20 years but have had sleepless nights over this issue— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Tony Markley's voice is breaking as he tells of the pressure he has been under dealing with accusations made against him— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
The lines are starting to separate now between councillors for staying in the process with Copeland and those wanting to withdraw— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Here are some photos from the Gazette photographer taken outside the council offices in Carlisle this morning, showing demonstrators both for and against plans for an underground nuclear facility.
Cllr Tony Markley says Sellafield is centre of nuclear expertise and brilliantly innovated companies sitting side-by-side with tourism.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'We cannot keep passing the buck and leaving it to future generations' Anne Burns, likely to support Copeland only— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Anne Burns (Barrow) says she's 'never, ever come under so much pressure,' but is likely to support Tim Knowles' 'Copeland only' vote— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'We need investment in Sellafield now,' says Coun Stewart Young, saying he supports Cumbria pulling out of Stage Four— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
It's early days in the debate, but there's a chance that Cumbria may pull out altogether or confine the search to Copeland (excl LDNP)— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
A massive round of applause for Coun Eddie Martin as he concludes. Over to members now for debate.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Cllr Eddie Martin does not believe the county has the legal assurances from the DECC that it can withdraw. 'I will not be a puppet..."— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'I'm not suggesting we cut nuclear investment, we need much, much more at Sellafield,' Coun Eddie Martin— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'Radioactive material in a hundred thousand years may or may not be safe is not a fact but a theory." Coun Eddie Martin proposing refusal— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Following #GDF nuclear storage debate on a news day, so I will certainly be having a go in this week's @gazettenewsdesk cartoon.— @colinshelbourn 30 January 2013
Copeland votes yes to move to stage 4 #gdf— @paulah47 30 January 2013
In the other corner is Coun Tim Knowles who has tabled removing the LDNP from any search and microscoping on the Sellafield site in Copeland— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'I just do not believe we have the community support to continue,' Coun Eddie Martin is making the case for Cumbria to drop out now— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'We have a consent deficit, a democratic deficit,' says Cllr Eddie Martin— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'If we can have a referendum on a police commissioner, I venture to suggest this is to big and too onerous a decision', (not to have a ref)— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Coun Eddie Martin believes there isn't sufficient citizen participation which was fundamental to the success of the process— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Two options remain: Cumbria pulls out completely of Stage Four, or the search is narrowed to Copeland excluding LDNPA.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Following the #gdf debate with @gazettenewsdesk. Can a decision really be made today? It seems there are still many questions unanswered.— @ashlie_nels 30 January 2013
Cllr Eddie Martin proposes pulling out and investing in safer storage at Sellafield.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
In an amendment, The Lake District National Park may be excluded and the search confined to Sellafield and Copeland only.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Leader Cllr Eddie Martin is proposing an alternative recommendation...— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
Allerdale is out in terms of participating in stage four as members decided to exclude it from next stage of process.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Allerdale looks to be out of stage four judging by members' responses which focuses attention to Copeland. vote to come— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
If Allerdale is excluded here, it means its meeting scheduled 3pm becomes irrelevant as county support is needed - Coun James Airey backs it— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Cllr Markley's proposal (not yet agreed) is that Allerdale is excluded from Stage Four. Supported by Coun Stewart Young and Liz Mallinson— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Cllr Tony Markley: 'Insufficient public support to continue to stage four in Allerdale. Proposes not to partipate in Allerdale and Silloth."— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Tim Knowles: 'Whatever anybody says there are questions and uncertainty and they need to be answered.'— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
@gazettenewsdesk if its so safe why not bury it under London! Oh no they wouldn't do that would they!!!!— @Selsidepostman 30 January 2013
Staveley-based Stan Collins says GDF is the 'physical embodiment of out of sight, out of mind,' and would need to last longer than Pyramids— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
A number of councillors (not part of the Cabinet) are having their turn infront of the mic to say what they think— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Cllr Wendy Skillicorn reminds everyone that the waste is still there and we need to stay in the process to ensure its safe future.— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
Cllr Graham Roberts underlines how important this is for West Cumbria's economy and urges Cabinet to continue in the process— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
@gazettenewsdesk Solway Plain an industrial Armageddon? More like an economic wasteland without a future.— @PIMPMYDIBBER 30 January 2013
'Most sensible and safe thing for generations to come is to find a safe and secure solution,' eg #gdf says one speaker— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
The only clap of the day follows an impassioned plea by a mother not to create such 'an unsafe and uncertain future for Cumbria's children.'— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
County Councillor Fiona Robson is the first member to make a point to Cabinet. She says don't leave Cumbria's children with an unsafe future— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
If Copeland says 'yes' and Cumbria County says 'no' today, then Copeland will be in an extremely strong position.— @jreedmp 30 January 2013
'Has the Government put you in an impossible position?,' asks one parish councillor as questions close for a break. Tim Knowles is up next— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
@gazettenewsdesk while the large majority watch and wait....— @thecommonpeople 30 January 2013
'The right decision must be to carry on with the managing of radioactive waste safely process' - GMB man— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
We have now heard from three Sellafield Workers Campaign. 'More work is needed to understand West Cumbria's geology potential for GDF'— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Cllr Tim Knowles, the economy and transport man for CCC, has the unenviable task of trying to address some of the questions raised— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
One believes house prices and businesses would be threatened— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
One questioner asks what safeguards would be put in place to protect the water supply if waste is buried underground— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
The occasional supportive cheer from outside can be heard in committee room two of The Courts, Carlisle— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Security at CCC was high and both pro-stage 4 supporters and opponents demonstrated peacefully side-by-side— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'Solway plain' becomes an 'industrial armageddon' warns a Vivian Russell— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
One opponents says '3,500 in Solway' and '14,000 others' object to proceeding to stage 4— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'Don't be locked in this dangerous nuclear dump proposal by moving to stage 4,' says a parish councillor— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
"There will be economic and social repercussions (of going to stage 4), warns Dr Ruth Balogh— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Lake District National Park chairman, Bill Jefferson, is among the watching audience.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
We're now halfway through the questions and half way through the one hour allocated - thanks everyone for keeping it succinct.— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
The Sellafield Workers Campaign have asked whether there's any reason to doubt the Government's pledge that CCC can withdraw from the proces— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
@gazettenewsdesk investigations and evidence vs scaremongering and misinformation - you pick.— @swilko1 30 January 2013
Dr Ruth Balogh, West Cumbria Friends of Earth: "Do you have any confidence that you know what you are voting for?"— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Fiona Goldie, of 3 Weeks To Save The Lakes, says Cumbria does not have geology or topography to support a #gdf— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Harry Marsden warns against 'burying nuclear waste' under the 'world famous Lake District' and tourism impact— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
'You are trying to do your best for Cumbria' but face a 'pig in a poke' a decision made without adequate information, says one questioner— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
An hour has been set aside for public questions, 40 have been tabled. At around 11.15 Cabinet members will begin to debate the issue.— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
How should Cumbria County Council and Allerdale and Copeland Councils vote today?
Should they put a stop to plans for a nuclear waste repository in Cumbria today, or should the idea be explored further?
Leave your comments at the bottom of this page, or tweet your views to @gazettenewsdesk.
Cabinet members are currently listening to questions put forward by members of the public about the process.— @CumbriaCC 30 January 2013
Whatever the outcome of the vote in Cumbria today, legacy waste won't evaporate & the process to find a permanent storage site will continue— @kirstygogan 30 January 2013
One person asks why geology said to be unsuitable is being considered while another says Eastern England is the most suitable place #gdf— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
We have stewards at @copelandbc too for #gdfdebate. But main team at CCC. http://t.co/8kTL06SQ— @SellafieldWork 30 January 2013
Union members from Sellafield are at Cumbria County Council's meeting to show their support for a 'yes' vote.
They want Cumbria to remain a possible location for the underground waste facility.
Outside the CCC meeting re #GDF. #go4stage4 http://t.co/asbzJA20— @SellafieldWork 30 January 2013
This is happening. #GDF http://t.co/pLdGRPcE— @SellafieldWork 30 January 2013
Sixty protestors evenly split pro and anti the nuclear repository chanting outside Cumbria County Council as debate starts.— @BROOMBY 30 January 2013
Friends of the Lake District want the councils to call a halt to the plans today:
We want the 3 Councils to vote ‘No’ to the next stage for a nuclear waste store in Cumbria on 30 Jan: http://t.co/34vFg3jT— @FriendsofLakes 23 January 2013
Tabled questions from Steve Nicholson of Sellafield Workers Campaign, Marianne Birkby of Radiation Free Lakeland, Alan Ellis NDA. #gdfdebate— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
The documents relating to the debate number 469 pages. Over 40 people have requested to ask questions. #gdfdebate— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Protesters are said to be meeting outside The Courts in Carlisle for 9am ahead of the meeting's start. #gdfdebate— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Copeland Borough Council also meets at 10am and is tipped to announce its decision first, perhaps before midday.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
The meeting of CCC's Cabinet is due to start at 10am. The decision relates to Cumbria's participation in Stage Four.— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
We'll be tweeting from Cumbria County Council today as it decides the county's next step in the underground nuclear waste storage facility— @gazettenewsdesk 30 January 2013
Councils in Cumbria make a landmark decision on proposals for a nuclear waste repository in the county today.
Cumbria County Council and Allerdale and Copeland councils will rule on whether the county and their respective areas remain in a search to find a new underground 'geological disposal facility.'
It could contain the most toxic nuclear waste in the UK, some of which is already currently stored above ground at the Sellafield site, but lead to a likely multi-billion pound 'community benefits' package for the host community.
County council officials have emphasised that the vote this week is not about whether Cumbria agrees a repository, but whether the area progresses to the next stage of geological research - known as Stage Four - from which it could still withdraw at a later date.
However, opponents say that sufficient evidence already exists that the geology of the area is unsuitable and believe the county should walk away from the process now, while remaining in it any further would be a waste of taxpayer's money.
Around 40 questions have been submitted in advance of the county council meeting with a number of public speakers also lined-up.
Organisers expect a decision around 12.30 to 1pm but it could run on due to the scale of the debate.
Radiation Free Lakeland say any intended facility - which in any event would be years away from being built - would be as large as the city as Carlisle and as deep as Scafell is high.
Just last week, UK campaign group, 38 Degrees, said over 16,000 people had signed a petition on its website and cited Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, David Smythe, who was involved in a £400m Nirex study in the 1990s that investigated the suitability of storing nuclear waste in West Cumbria.
He said: “The geology of West Cumbria is very well known and understood. I have assessed every square kilometre of the region – and I can say with confidence that nowhere conforms to the agreed international criteria for a suitable underground waste site."
While in the opposing corner, the Unite union saying it represented Sellafield Workers, said Britain had been 'searching for a national waste repository for over 30 years' and that 12,000 jobs at Sellafield depended on the industry, with thousands more in the local supply chain.
Kevin Coyne, Unite national officer and chair of Trade Unions for Safe Nuclear Energy, said: “The people of Cumbria will not be making any commitments to a geological disposal facility by agreeing to continue with this study. What the workers at Sellafield want is a full and proper investigation into the feasibility of such a facility in Cumbria. Only then can we consider how best to proceed."
Cumbria Tourism's board has said it remains neutral on the proposal until more evidence comes to light, but have stressed it would oppose a facility should it enter Lake District National Park territory.
Some tourism operators have alread been actively opposing the plan for fear of the damage it will caused the 'brand' of the Lake District in the eyes of visitors and the landscape.
Conservation charity the Friends of The Lake District (FoLD), say land in or under the National Park and Solway Coast should be taken out of the equation, and that many have lost trust in the process.
Also handing over a petition at the weekend in a separate event, were campaign group Solway Plain Against Nuclear Dump (SPAND).
Its chairman, John Haywood, said they presented a petition with more than 3,700 signatures to Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member Tony Markley.
The petition which was handed to Cllr Markley at the Golf Hotel in Silloth, and SPAND said it 'showed the strength of local opposition'.
The group of residents from Silloth and the surrounding areas say they remain extremely concerned about local authorities 'volunteering' their area.