Excellent letter in last Friday’s Keswick Reminder
THE KESWICK REMINDER Friday. 21St September, 2012
‘you really couldn’t make it up’
I am intrigued by recent developments regarding the proposal for the high level
nuclear waste repository. After years of precisely no information as to where it
might be sited we now learn that it could be, on the one hand, under Ennerdale or
Eskdale in the heart of the English Lake District or, on the other, on the coastal
strip near Silloth.
Apparently they are positively delighted (not) in Silloth. Here in the Lake District
our response appears to he muted in comparison, but more on that later.
Either way, the fact that the geology in Cumbria has already been shown to be
fundamentally wrong and was rejected by a former planning inspector and a previous
government, after millions were spent on highly detailed geological research leading
up to the Nirex Inquiry in the 1990s, does not appear to have deterred one bit those
in favor of the project who are now arguing, or so it seems, that while the geology
is flawed it may have to do.
All that happened before has been conveniently forgotten in this latest,
increasingly desperate bid to find an underground location for nuclear waste.
This proposal, if it goes ahead, is sheer madness and environmental vandalism of the
The stakes regarding this brand of vandalism are massively high and irreversible.
You can repair a broken window or a shattered street light or a bus shelter, but the
effects of high level nuclear waste polluting the water cycle of the Lake District
and Cumbria does not bear thinking about. But that, I fear, is precisely what it
could do once the highly toxic waste emerges, probably sooner than later, from its
gigantic cavern in the flawed geology beneath one of the most outwardly beautiful
places on the planet.
This the stuff bf nightmares – and is usually consigned to script ,writers for plots
relating to futuristic sci-fi horror movies. You really couldn’t make it up — ‘they
planned to put plutonium under the Lake District, ignoring the warnings of eminent
geologists. They said it would be fine, but then it broke loose
Back in the real world the decision day for local councils has been extended from
October 11 to early January 2013. Why? The official line is that the decision was
deferred so that our elected leaders (the respective executive cabinets of
Allerdale, Copeland and Cumbria councils) could receive more information, including
the issue of whether or not they could have a Government assurance to opt out
further down the line and to obtain further information on the exact nature of the
‘benefits’ package this beautiful county will receive in exchange for being the
nuclear dumping ground for the nation.
I wondered if the reason for the delay was that there was a very real possibility
that Cumbria County Council might just have said ‘no’ to the proposal at their
cabinet meeting had it gone ahead on October 11. Our Keswick constituency MP Jamie
Reed — who is very much in favour of the proposal was certainly very alarmed about
the possibility that the county council would give the repository plan the thumbs
down and started ringing the alarm bells through a report published on the front
page of ‘The Whitehaven News’.
Our council leaders — one of whom seems more concerned about wind farms than he is
about nuclear repositories — went to Whitehall to hold discussions with the
Government Minister, one Baroness Verma, the Junior Minister at the Department of
Energy and Climate Change.
What went on here I wonder? Were heads being banged together in the nicest possible
way with the application of a couple of cushions (Government praise and
reassurances) followed by a comfy sofa in the form of a plumped-up benefits package?
On that latter point, what price exactly would you put on the future of the English
Lake District and its environment?
Shortly afterwards the Baroness was on her way to West Cumbria for what was
described as a fact finding mission to Sellafield and there was a happy picture in
the local press (a picture provided by the Dept of Energy) of the Baroness in
Copeland with council leaders and councillors. It all looks Very cosy. But, I am
afraid to say, not particularly reassuring from this standpoint.
Amid all this I am concerned that too many people appear to be unaware about what is
really happening here or are, at best, very trusting. Perhaps they feel it is so far
into the future that it is not worth worrying about? Or has the nuclear industry
such a hold on Cumbria and the Lake District that people (with the notable exception
of many of our town and parish councils) dare not raise their heads. collectively or
individually, above the parapets and say their piece?
What, for example, is the exact position of Cumbria Tourism? We know it is a party
to the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Partnership and will state that is
their way of continuing to be involved in the process and have access to essential
But what do they really think? Does Cumbria Tourism believe that a nuclear waste
repository is going to be good news for Cumbria and the Lake District? Is it going
to enhance our chances of being acclaimed a World Heritage Site? Do they think there
is a danger of the Lake District, in a worst-case long-term scenario, being declared
an uninhabitable Wasteland?
One of the many attractions of the Lake District is that it is compact. The trouble
is that people in Windermere and Bowness (Cumbria Tourism’s HQ is in Staveley by the
way) may believe they are out of reach of this proposed development. But Eskdale,
Ennerdale and Sella field — as they are for all of us — are only just over the hill
and Silloth is only a hop, step and a jump away up the coast.
This is, without doubt, the biggest issue that Cumbria and the Lake District has
ever faced and we need to wake up to the fact.
The English Lake District is a place of outstanding natural beauty and the decision
as to whether or not to permanently tarnish it with a gigantic nuclear bunker and
all its potential consequences is one that is not just of interest to the people who
live and work here It is also of great relevance to the millions of people who love
the area and visit it on a regular basis.
They too have a say in this and a right to be heard.
Closer to home, the people I know in Keswick and area who are genuinely worried — in
some cases to distraction — by this proposal are not anti nuclear or anti
Sellafield. They are not, by nature, people who protest and it takes something
really important to make them feel as they do now. They would clearly welcome a
solution to our future energy and nuclear waste needs.
But they know in their heart of hearts, and all the evidence and research backs it
up, that the geology of Cumbria and the Lake District is the wrong place for a
nuclear waste repository. They fear it is all going to go horribly wrong and that
while they will not be here to witness the potentially dire con sequences their
descendants surely will. The decision being taken now is immense. It involves high
level waste that will be around for hundreds of thousands of years and the impact of
this decision will span generations.
Cumbria and the Lake District is not the right place for this and Government knows it.
Back in the mists of time the Viking chiefs who were our ancestors were buried on
the summit ridges of Lakeland hills (it has been recorded that as many as 70 are
thought to be buried on Latrigg alone). Now we are looking to bury nuclear waste
beneath the Lakeland fells. It has come to this…
As I wrote earlier, you really couldn’t make it up.