British council votes down nuke depository

Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:05 AM
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CARLISLE, England, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A county council in northwestern England this week voted against allowing further study of possible nuclear waste repository in tourism-dependent Cumbria.

The move was seen as a blow to the British government, whose quest to find a local government willing to consider hosting a nuclear "geological disposal facility" ran out of potential takers with Wednesday's vote by the Cumbria County Council.

West Cumbria is home to 10,000 nuclear industry jobs at the Sellafield nuclear complex on England's western coast along the Irish Sea, about 50 miles southwest of the county seat in Carlisle, and is considered the "home" of Britain's nuclear power industry.

Two districts in the county near the popular Lake District National Park were under consideration for a waste repository. The local council for one of them -- the Copeland District in Whitehaven, England -- had earlier opted to continue to remain in the siting process.

But that was overruled by the vote of the Cumbria County Cabinet, which also ruled out a possible site in the neighboring Allerdale District.

That effectively ended the chances of $19 billion repository being built anywhere along the Cumbrian coast amid fears it would hurt the tourism industry and pose a threat to safety.

Instead, the council urged the British government "to make the necessary investment to improve the existing surface storage facilities at Sellafield so that there is a more robust surface storage arrangement in the decades to come while the government finds a permanent solution for the country's higher activity radioactive waste."

The councilors said that 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."

The move essentially puts Britain's efforts to find a site an underground nuclear repository on hold at a time when the government has put an emphasis on adding nuclear power capacity.

British Energy Secretary Ed Davey said he was disappointed by Cumbria decision but vowed to move forward with the effort.

"We are clear that nuclear power should play a key role in our future energy mix, as it does today," he said. "I am confident that the program 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."

He added the government "will now embark on a renewed drive to ensure that the case for hosting a (geological disposal facility) is drawn to the attention of other communities."

"This represents yet another major blow for the government's attempts to force the construction of costly nuclear power plants," Greenpeace U.K. energy campaigner Leila Deen said.

"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."

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