Monday, 7 January 2013

No Nuclear Dump in the Lake District (updated with webchat with Baroness Verma answering carefully selected questions)


On 30 January 2013 the executives of Cumbria, Allerdale and Copeland County Councils will vote on whether to continue with Government plans to build an underground nuclear dump in the Lake District of up to 25km square. Scientists from the Government’s Nirex investigation in the 1990s onwards have made it categorically clear that an underground nuclear depository is not safe in mountainous areas of high waterfall where radioactive waste is likely to leak into the water table, where the geology is unstable as in the whole of the Lake District region, with multiple cracks through which radioactive material could escape. 


There is no scientific evidence that an underground nuclear repository would be safe anywhere, and yet the Government is determined to continue with its plans to bury waste anywhere people can be persuaded to take it. Voting No would force the Government to take a more responsible attitude in its plans for nuclear expansion – burying the waste out of sight is not the safe answer to this dilemma.

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-plans-for-a-nuclear-dump-in-the-lake-district

Please use whatever method you have, Facebook and twitter, email everyone in your contacts list, use whatever means you can to help us spread the word and be able to demonstrate to politicians the groundswell of opinion against this proposal.

For more information please go to www.noend.org.uk



Watch the newsreel from the local news below which clearly states that "the majority (of the local parish) said they were not consulted or properly informed" which is directly opposite to what those who are making the plans and decisions have said. Putting newsletters through doors and arranging special activities is all very well and good but it would appear that it is misdirection because it will be "decades before the work begins".... Ever get the feeling that informing the public is just a procedure and that the decisions have already been made?

http://vimeo.com/56814575

Read the trancript of

Baroness Verma webchat: Geological disposal in West Cumbria


Baroness Verma webchat: answering questions about geological disposal in west Cumbria

Thursday January 17, 2013
9:05

DECC Team:
Good morning everyone. Baroness Verma will be here at 1200, but in the meantime if you would like to send questions in advance, please do so via the text box below.

11:23
DECC Team:
[Private Message to Jade Ashcroft] Hi Jade
we'll publish questions as Baroness Verma answers them. if we publish every question then the stream becomes very difficult to read.  (Reply Privately)

11:56

DECC Team:
Hi everyone. We're nearly ready to start. Thanks for all your questions so far.

12:01

Baroness Verma:
Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us today. I hope to answer as many questions as possible within the hour. We've already had a very high number of questions - lots of interest!

12:02

Comment From Steve Nicholson
If the Councils decide to vote yes on 30 January when can we expect to see the drilling of boreholes, seismic testing and the inevitable disruptions on our roads?

12:02

Baroness Verma:
Hi Steve. If the councils vote yes, this is beginning a process to gather evidence and identify potential sites. The activities you mention will be many years away and no sites have been identified as yet.

12:04

Comment From Lois Lane
Will DECC and/or NDA ever contemplate an engineered GDF beneath the National Park, if the geology is less than safe?

12:04

Baroness Verma:
Hi Lois. Safety is paramount. A GDF cannot be built unless safety can be demonstrated to the independent regulators.

12:06

Comment From Peter Clements
Why can't we recycle the nuclear waste rather than dumping it underground?

12:06

Baroness Verma:
Afternoon Peter. Not all waste is suitable for recycling. We still need to deal with a substantial nuclear legacy, and geological disposal has been recognised worldwide as the most appropriate disposal method.



12:09

Comment From C. Lane
Why can't improved above-ground storage be invested in now, to give time to develop a better long term solution? This would guarantee local jobs during and after construction and allow the nuclear newbuild to go ahead as planned

12:09

Baroness Verma:
Good afternoon. The NDA is already investing in improved above ground storage at its sites. We need robust storage in the interim, and ultimately GDF is the safest and most secure long term solution.

12:13

Comment From Di McGhee
Why are you continuing with this process,spending scarce public money and blighting our best National Park, when 2 senior geologists state that West Cumbria is totally unsuitable and a third, employed by the MRWS, states that the chances of a ' suitable rock volume' being found is low?

12:13

Baroness Verma:
Hi Di. We are aware of the views of these two individuals. I am engaging in dialogue with them, however their views are not widely shared among the geoscience community.

12:15

Comment From David Calvert
It has been said that money will be made available to bolster the Lake District brand if we proceed - isn't this a clear admission that the effect on tourism will be catastrophic?

12:15

Baroness Verma:
Hi David. We recognise these concerns, and are sensitive to local industry. We want to ensure that we are doing everything possible to help support their brand. The nuclear industry and tourism have coexisted in Cumbria for many decades now.

12:18

Comment From Eliza Rice
The MRWS Partnership process is supposed to produce a report to advise and inform the DMBs. Several of its members, including the Chairman, were actively involved in the preparation of that report are also amongst the 24 councillors, who make up the DMBs - How can this be considered democratic?

12:18

Baroness Verma:
Afternoon Eliza. The MRWS Partnership produced an excellent report that was culmination of three years of hard evidence gathering. It is only right that locally elected representatives are at the forefront of this process. In fact, we have had excellent engagement from all councils in this area.

12:20

Comment From Eric and Sue Hope
At the public meeting last Friday, in answer to questions from the floor, many of Alun Ellis's responses were in the future assumed category. This suggested that the dump was already a 'done deal'. Can the Baroness confirm that this is not the case?

12:20

Baroness Verma:
Hi Eric and Sue. Absolutely! The councils have not yet decided to participate further in the process, and their vote is about whether to particpate and not about building a GDF in Cumbria.

12:22

Comment From Morag Dean
Why are the conclusions of the previous NIREX enquiry (which cost the tax payer over £400 Million) no longer relevant?

12:23

Baroness Verma:
Hi Morag. The NIREX inquiry was a planning application for an underground laboratory at a specific site. The data gathered is still available for any future process, but we still require much more information on the geology.

12:24

Comment From Dr David Lowry
Given that both ministers and the NDA have made clear that the radioactive waste placed proposed repository will have to be retrievable should anything go wrong underground requiring the removal of the nuclear waste already emplaced, could the minister explain whether an engineered above ground store with sufficient capacity to contain ALL nuclear waste retrieved in such circumstances will be built at the same time as the underground repository as a necessary contingency; and can she give an indication of the area above ground such an emergency store would require; and whether details will be made explicit in any planning application, so the people living in the local community will have a full picture of the footprint above ground of such a repository development?

12:24

Baroness Verma:
Afternoon Dr David Lowry. The question of retrievability is still open and will be considered throughout the process, with communities.

12:25

Comment From Chris Bagshaw
Does the government have a view on MRWS anywhere other than West Cumbria?

12:25

Baroness Verma:
Hi Chris. This process is open to communities across the country, and will remain so regardless of how the councillors vote at the end of January.

12:27

Comment From Paul Dean
Would a partly engineered solution, as suggested in the MRWS Executive Report August 2012, be guaranteed to last a million years?

12:27

Baroness Verma:
Afternoon Paul. Any GDF will be a state of the art facility, which will use multiple barriers (including packaging, enginering solutions and the natural geology).

12:29

Comment From Sam
I’ve heard that the only suitable geology is around Silloth and Ennerdale and that both communities have said they don’t want to host a waste repository.  So what’s the point of continuing to look for a site in Cumbria?

12:33

Baroness Verma:
Hi Sam. No sites have been identified. This is a clear case of scaremongering! Until the councils have taken a decision to move onto the next phase and allow further work to be done, we will not know enough about the geology to take a definitive view.

12:34

Comment From Sandra
Why have communities only been consulted on this since the decision to delay was made by the Councils on 11th October?

12:34

Baroness Verma:
Hi Sandra. The MRWS Partnership in West Cumbria has spent three years consulting the local community.

12:37

Comment From R Hoyle
As a geologist, I may suggest it a really BAD idea to bury nuclear waste in the same region FRACKING has been destroying underlaying geological beds.

12:37

Baroness Verma:
Good afternoon. No fracking has taken place in Cumbria. Any applications for shale gas development, anywhere in the country, will be subject to rigorous scrutiny, environmental impacts, and of course local community views.

12:39

Comment From james mc bride
can the Baroness say if the disposal of this type of waste in this area mean any real jobs for the people of Cumbria or will it be jobs only for those outside of the county, and can she say what if any the environmental impact this type of disposal will have at ground level and below ground

12:39

Baroness Verma:
Hi James. If the councils decide to move on to the next stage, and a suitable site can be identified (and demonstrated to be safe), there will be major economic benefits, job creation, and investment for Cumbria.

12:41

Comment From Ian
What is your view on community benefits? if the local authorities did move to stage four, when do you think benefits should be available to the community?

12:41

Baroness Verma:
Afternoon Ian. We are clear that there will be a substaintial community benefit package for any community hosting a GDF. The timing and scale of any Community Fund would be discussed at the next stage of the process.

12:45

Comment From CB
Assuming the councils give the go-ahead for a search to start, how long would it take before an underground store could be up and running?

12:45

Baroness Verma:
Good afternoon. If the councils agree, the next phase will begin the process of being able to investigate the geology. It would be many, many years before any facility could be opened.

12:47

Comment From Rod Mostyn
As at 12:25 your answers would suggest you are strongly in favour of a GDF in Cumbria. Is the Governments mind already made up?

12:47

Baroness Verma:
Hi Rod. This government has always said that GDF is the best long term solution for disposing of nuclear waste. But, we have also always said that this has to be community led, and that the geology has to be suitable.

12:48



12:50

Comment From KC
The nuclear and tourism industries have co-existed successfully in West Cumbria for 50 years, and in fact the industry has been a major draw for visitors. Do you see any reason why that could not continue?

12:50

Baroness Verma:
Hi KC. I agree - any faciity will be state of the art, and would ensure Cumbria remains at the heart of the nuclear industry for decades to come.

12:55

Comment From CB
How many is "many, many years" in regard to opening a facility? 5, 10, 15, 20 years?

12:55

Comment From s. sherwen
And presumably many many years before any permanent jobs become available

12:56

Baroness Verma:
Hi CB and S. Sherwen. The NDA has said that 2040 is a likely date for the first waste to be disposed. But we will see job creation at least 15 years in advance.

12:57

DECC Team:
Five minutes to go, only time enough for a couple more questions.

12:58

Comment From C. Lane
How can Cumbria County Council and the two Borough Councils vote to proceed to stage 4 of the MRWS process when no legally binding right of withdrawal has been secured from Government?

12:58

Baroness Verma:
Good afternoon. The government is committed to making the right of withdrawl legally binding. We are minded to do this through new primary legislation, subject to parliamentary time being available. However, we have always said that at every phase of the process the councils would have the right to withdraw.

1:00

Comment From KC
Do you think it's fair that former employees of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth can call public meetings and claim to be "independant" geologists, whipping up a public scare, without revealling their vested interests in a no vote?

1:00

Baroness Verma:
Hi KC. Everyone has the right to their view, but any decisions by councils need to be based on the best available evidence, and scaremongering tactics by any group shouldn't play a part in the process.

1:03

Comment From Alison
Sellerfield was state of the art but has been left to decline . Who will be around in 200 yrs time ??? will a government even exist ?

1:03

Baroness Verma:
Hi Alison. This is a very interesting question. We have a responsibility to safely and securely dispose of the nuclear waste we have, rather than leave it in temporary storage indefinitely for future generations to deal with.

1:05

Baroness Verma:
It's been a really interesting session, and the questions have been wide-ranging and challenging. I hope that I have been able to address some of your concerns and comments. Thank you for taking time out to engage directly with us today!

1:05





DECC Team: 
Ok that's it. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions and watched the event. We will take a look at all the unanswered questions, theme them and publish answers as soon as we can.