Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Mobile Chernobyl threat from nuclear waste transports

Letter sent to the Daily Mail newspaper:

In his article on burial of nuclear waste (“Towns and villages are offered up to £2.5million to become Britain's 'nuclear dustbin' and bury masses of radioactive waste near their homes,” Daily Mail, 1 January 2019; https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6543459/Towns-villages-offered-2-5million-Britains-nuclear-dustbin.html) in what he describes as an atomic ‘dungeon’, your environment correspondent writes that  To provide an incentive to hosting the dumping ground, the selected area will be given between £1million and £2.5million a year for community projects, the Government said.”

Although this financial offer has been dismissed as a bribe by several campaigners in communities they fear may be chosen, it would provide a measure of community   compensation for the disruption caused by such a massive infrastructural development.

But what ministers have refused to do is to offer similar risk compensation “danger money” to  communities along transport routes from the current location of the radioactive waste, to the facility needed for conditioning and packaging, and then to the community or communities hosting a deep underground geological disposal facility (GDF).

Just before Christmas, the Government released a 40-page ‘Summary of Responses to the Consultation ‘Working with Communities’: implementing Geological Disposal’ |(https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/766661/Summary_of_responses_to_the_consultation_working_with_communities_-_Implementing_geological_disposal-rev.pdf)

I was one of 118 respondees to this consultation last year, when in my opening paragraph I wrote say:


The Working With Communities consultation document asserts at para 2.4: ‘The work to take into account the views of stakeholders and the public has supported an open policy making approach throughout the development of the Working with Communities policy proposals..’”


While public engagement is a good practice, listening to the views expressed, and altering draft policy as a result is better practice. Experience suggests this rarely happens in radioactive waste consultations, and when it does, the changes are minimal.”


I added: “It is hoped this consultation will mark a significant change from this hitherto counter-productive policy of early alienation of interested parties.”(my emphasis)


But, sadly, the same old strategy of ignoring responses containing inconvenient ideas and proposals by the business and energy department (BEIS) has continued.


Paragraph 22 of BEIS’s response asserts “The Government does not agree that the Potential Host Community should extend beyond those directly affected by the impacts. We believe it is fair that only those that are directly impacted should have a say (my emphasis)


The only transport links/routes to be taken into account will be the predictably relatively short distance “from the GDF site to the nearest port, railhead or primary road network (i.e. out to where minor roads meet the nearest A roads).”

In the United States community campaigners concerned with risk of radioactive waste being transported by road or rail close to homes, hospitals and schools have dubbed these dangerous transports ‘mobile Chernobyl’, after the major accident at the Ukrainian nuclear reactor in 1986.

Ministers surely need to reconsider their definition of endangered communities.


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