THE Lake District may not be out of the 'nuclear woods' yet - despite a major ruling by county councillors, campaigners fear.

Objectors wanting the national park excluded from any underground geological disposal facility (GDF), are monitoring moves in West Cumbria to keep the idea alive.

Under the current Government process, Cumbria County Council's ruling Cabinet agreed to stop any future GDF being built in the county by formally withdrawing from the search for a possible site.

Approval was required from both the top tier authority and a district council for the scheme to continue.

But 'yes' votes on the same day by both Copeland and Allerdale councils, have now been taken up by Copeland MP Jamie Reed.

He says West Cumbria has a 'clear mandate' to see the facility happen.

A detail now unsettling anti-facility campaigners is that the footprint of Copeland and Allerdale includes Lake District National Park territory.

GDF facilities can also have their ground-level buildings several kilometres from where nuclear waste is stored - again raising the prospect of it being 'buried under the Lake District.'

However, the government has said it remains committed to finding a volunteer community, while in a statement on the issue, Energy Secretary Ed Davies indicated this is likely to involve 'other communities' away from Cumbria.

But Copeland MP Jamie Reed is intent to fully explore the options.

He said: "This may not be within the MRWS process, but Copeland now has a series of options open to it and I have already begun the prcoess of exploring these with industry and with government for the benefit of my constituents."

He added: "There's a great deal of work to be done to take this issue forward and this has already begun."

Milnthorpe-based Marianne Birkby, of Radiation Free Lakeland, has now written to Mr Reed.

She wrote: "We are disapointed in your intention to request that Government overrules the (county) council's democratic decision to withdraw.

"It would set a dangerous precedent whereby central government can overturn the results of any costly process they have set in motion if they are unhappy with the result."

"We urge you to put your frustrations aside, and accept the terms of the MRWS process. The workers at Sellafield, the local community and Cumbria as a whole are now relying on strong leaders to focus all attention on lobbying for government investment in improved interim storage facilities for the waste already in-situ at the plant, in line with the findings of the National Audit Office."

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has also called for the national park to be taken out of any future plan.

Mr Farron said: “Copeland’s yes vote and the accompanying noises that they ‘can go it alone’ are worrying, because the district contains large swathes of the beautiful Lake District within it.

"At the very minimum Copeland and the Government must rule out the Lake District National Park as an area for this facility.”

Leaders of both Copeland and Allerdale have written to the Department of Energy and Climate Change requesting a meeting - expected in the next two weeks - to seek clarity about where last week's decision leaves them, and the problem of nuclear waste being store above ground at Sellafield.

Commenting on last week's decision, Dr Barrie Lambert, member of the Society of Radiological Protection, said: “The safest option is underground disposal in a repository (rather than a depository).

“Whatever the arguments are for and against nuclear power, we have the waste and something must be done with it.  The containment facilities at Sellafield are secure but not suitable for very, very long term storage and from the point of view of, say, terrorist attack, the waste is more secure underground.

“I can understand Cumbria County Council's worry that the Lake District will be linked for ever with the disposal site; but Sellafield, where about 70% of the waste is located, has hosted the UK’s reprocessing plant for the last 60 years and it has provided thousands of jobs and, amazingly, more recently, a significant tourist attraction. 

"The geology may not be absolutely perfect but the risks involved in transporting the material to some other UK site would surely outweigh this, even if such a site could be found."

Meanwhile, the head of Cumbria Tourism added that the county's tourism and nuclear industries must continue to perform for the good of the county's future economic performance.

Cumbria Tourism had maintained a neutral position on the issue. However, it said it would object if the development entered the Lake District National Park.

Mr Stephens said: ‘’Cumbria Tourism has consistently raised concerns throughout the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) consultation process about a number of potential negative impacts and perceptions affecting the Lake District and Cumbria brands.

"It is reassuring that the democratic process has acknowledged the concerns of many from the tourism industry when arriving at the decision.

"However, as two of the main employers in Cumbria, we must make sure that the tourism and nuclear industries continue to maintain an effective working relationship for the economic benefit of the county, whilst always striving for the highest environmental and social standards."