Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Government nuclear waste plan will bring 'Mobile Chernobyl' risk to Britain


Five years ago today Cumbria County Council, representing several Lake District and coastal communities, blocked Government attempts to develop a subterranean geologic repository for long-lived radioactive waste (GDF) (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-21253673

Last week  specialist energy and environmental correspondents  reported on the latest attempts by ministers to resurrect this process, with a new 897 page public consultation, Working with communities: implementing geological disposal.(https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/working-with-communities-implementing-geological-disposal)

They all reported, ministers have now decided backing “communities” with  significant multi-million pound financial incentives/compensation is the new approach.

In the consultation document, energy minister Richard Harrington writes: “We believe the best way to select a site for a geological disposal facility is in partnership with communities.”

He adds “Building and operating a geological disposal facility is a multi-billion pound, intergenerational, national infrastructure project, which is likely to bring substantial benefits to its host community, with skilled jobs for hundreds of people over many decade.”

The document asserts its purpose “is to gather views on how communities should be engaged and represented…”

The Government commits itself to the following policy: “The final decision to site a geological disposal facility in a community will not be taken until there has been a test of public support that demonstrates clear community support for development at a specific site.”

The Government concept is to first identify a relevant‘ Search Area’ with some local support, and then back a ‘Host Community.’

The consultation insists that there will be all the usual opportunities for the public to have a say in the process through planning, safety, security and environmental permitting processes.

It is clear from the way the consultation that the government hasa very narrow concept of community, essentially the very close  area surrounding the planned GDF entrance

The one minor concession that there are wider ‘affected’ communities from such a 100 plus year development comes at Paragraph 4.7, which makes clear that transport links/routes, from the geological disposal facility site to the nearest port, railhead or primary road network (i.e. as far as where minor roads meet the nearest ‘A’ roads used for transport on a regional or county level’ will be considered relevant.

At footnote number 26 to the document adds: In selecting a site, the ‘delivery body’ would give consideration to existing transport infrastructure, suitable transport modes and routes, and appropriate mitigation measures to minimise any adverse impacts on a community.  

But the hundreds of miles of ‘affected communities along road and rail routes from radioactive waste stores, to any centralized repository, are being ignored.

Why does the Government believe  people living in these communities with  multiple loads of radioactive materials coming past where they live for many decades do not deserve significant financial compensation too?

In the US critics call this process, with some justification, “mobile Chernobyls’.

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