Cumbrians back repository site search

24 May 2012

Over half the respondents in a public opinion poll in the UK county of Cumbria supported councils in the county participating in the search for a suitable site for the country's high-level waste repository.

HLW repository (NDA)
The concept of a radioactive waste repository (Image: NDA)

The poll was conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) partnership, an organization made up of representatives of all the local authorities in the county, local trade unions, and industry and tourism groups.

The MRWS partnership has said that it was particularly concerned to discover whether people in the Allerdale and Copeland areas are in favour or opposed to taking part in the search for a national repository site, as theseĀ could be potential locations for such a facility. It said the poll is important to gauge local support, "albeit without any commitment to ultimately have a facility."

Ipsos MORI questioned 3000 residents in Cumbria - in which the Sellafield nuclear plant is located - by telephone between 8 March and 16 May 2012. Of those surveyed, 1000 lived in Allerdale Borough Council, 1000 lived in Copeland Borough Council and the remaining 1000 resided elsewhere within Cumbria.

The poll results indicated that, overall, 53% of respondents said that they thought that Copeland Borough Council and/or Allerdale Borough Council should take part in the nation-wide search for a site to house a waste repository. One-third of those questioned said that the councils should not participate in the search. Some 68% of those living in the area covered by Copeland Borough Council supported that council's involvement in the site search, while 22% were against it. In Allerdale Borough Council, 51% of residents supported its participation, with 37% opposing it. In the rest of Cumbria, 50% of respondents said they supported the participation of Allerdale and/or Copeland in the site selection process, compared with 35% who were against it.

The primary reasons given for supporting the area's participation in the site search were given as the employment opportunities from hosting the repository as well as the fact that most of the UK's radioactive waste is already in storage at the Sellafield site.

MRWS partnership members are also considering the 1400 written responses to the consultation which ran from 21 November 2011 to 23 March 2012. The partnership expects to produce a final report of its findings later this year, on which the councils can base their decisions whether to take part in the site search.

The MRWS partnership said that if the area does decide to participate in the site selection process, there would be extensive testing of geology and other factors. It said that it could take some 15 years to determine whether there is a suitable repository site in the area. During this time, the councils would have the right to withdraw from the process. The partnership also noted that it is possible that a public referendum could be held at a later stage when more information is known about where the repository may be sited.

The UK government set up the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) in 2003 to consider the country's options for disposing of its waste. In 2006, CoRWM recommended burying radioactive waste deep underground in a facility that could be monitored to make sure that material was not escaping, underpinned by robust interim storage until the facility was ready. After accepting CoRWM's proposals, in 2008 the government published a White Paper on waste management, including six stages towards creating a repository for existing wastes. The first step was to seek expressions of interest from communities to participate in the process of finding a suitable site for the facility. So far just the three councils in Cumbria have expressed an interest.

Keith Parker, chief executive of the UK's Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), said: "The process of finding a home for the geological disposal facility must be led by the local community. It is the local community who will call the shots, and the local community who will benefit from the jobs and economic activity this nationally important infrastructure project will bring."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News