…..or in this case heat generating nuclear wastes.
The plan we were told was for one mega dump “as big as the City of Carlisle.” Cumbria said No to that plan on 30th January 2013. It is worth bearing in mind that the area of the City of Carlisle includes much of rural West Cumbria and is ENORMOUS. Now the government’s increasing and insane nuclear ambitions mean that there would be not one dump the size of the City of Carlisle but 4 or more geological dumps. The Committee of Radioactive Waste Management is coming to Cumbria on 30th April to tell us about their work in advising government. Originally scheduled to take place in Workington centre, demand was so great that the venue has changed to accommodate more people . Rather surprisingly the venue has changed to the Hunday Manor Hotel, out on a limb and inaccessible by public transport- we wonder whether this has more to do with ensuring an air of reverence and respect rather than to accommodate more people.
People can book here – or just turn up! Your paying! https://www.gov.uk/government/news/corwm-public-meeting-workington-cumbria-save-the-date
Its worth a history lesson on the birth of the Committee of Radioactive Waste Management. To go back nearly 20 years to the original plan,
Immediately after the Nirex inquiry decision by John Gummer (the day the election was called in 1997) there was a big problem for the nuclear industry, because their chosen site, Longlands in West Cumbria had been ruled out as geologically unsuitable, but they knew nowhere else in the country would be politically acceptable. And the inquiry had only looked at intermediate-level wastes, not the high-level wastes and spent nuclear fuel they were hoping to put down there later . The House of Lords Technology Committee (which is very pro-nuclear) was given the problem to solve. They recommended the following:
(1) Changing planning law so major infrastructure projects were decided by central government with no cross-examination of scientific evidence so they would not lose again next time (this took them several attempts to get through but became what is now the major infrastructure planning law);
(2) Setting up a process to endorse deep disposal without actually looking at site selection and whether any suitable geology exists (this became the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management who will be coming to the Hunday Manor Hotel on 30th April);
(3) “compensation” for local communities (i.e. money for Copeland, plus what later became the “Energy Coast” PR exercise, i.e. promising jobs that will never materialise). At the same time, Nirex applied to extend the planning permission for their boreholes to continue to investigate the site (they tried to convince a lot of councillors that this would be
some kind of university of geology). Greenpeace and CORE objected to the extension of planning permission. They argued that permission had only been given to the boreholes to investigate the suitability of the site and allowing continuing work would overturn the inquiry decision that the site was unsuitable. Cumbria County Councillors were persuaded by
this and voted to oppose planning permission and to fill in the boreholes.
New Geological Criteria were later cunningly developed (Criteria Proposals Group and Review Panel) under the auspices of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee to overturn the findings of the Nirex inquiry/appeal and rule Cumbria back in.
It is clear that Committee after Committee is being set up to drive the nuclear agenda. Any authentic voices that manage to make it onto these government committees are it seems soon forced out, as this letter from former CoRWM members in the British Medical Journal illustrates:
Editor—We have professional interests in the public health impact of ionising radiation, the assessment and management of risk, and the development of policy. After more than a year as members of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) one of us (KB) was sacked and the other driven to resign because of the committee’s wayward modus operandi. CoRWM now lacks serious expertise in these subjects and developing policy to protect the public interest, including its health.1
CoRWM has a membership stronger on public relations than science, is strongly averse to consulting expertise, has adopted a “do it yourself” mode of operation contrary to its overseer role, and commonly relies on help from close associates when needed. Its remit is to advise government on a strategy that can be implemented quickly and will inspire public confidence.
After taking more than a year to eliminate long rejected options such as rocketing high level waste into the sun, the committee now has less than a year to formulate its advice on options that meet the engineering requirement of isolating the waste from the biosphere for up to 100 000 years.
The latest independent review is sceptical that there will be a successful outcome2 given the avoidable damage to the credibility of the committee from its failure to develop a science strategy before January 2005. As then members, we thought that this was not so much a failure as a deliberate antiscience strategy.
If the material stored at many places around the United Kingdom were inadvertently or deliberately dispersed, or some unsafe but seemingly publicly acceptable solution were implemented, the potential for major public health damage would be huge now and in the future. No strategy has been in place for managing radioactive waste in the UK in the past 25 years, and the medical profession should be concerned that this latest initiative is so controversial and lacking in professionalism.
In November 2003 the BMA wrote to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) expressing its concern that the newly formed CoRWM had no medically qualified members. As we have not been replaced (even by co-option) CoRWM now lacks health and risk expertise as well as any hands-on expertise on the science and engineering of radioactive waste management.
Is this a responsible way to make such a momentous decision?
1. Baverstock KF, Ball DJ. The UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. J Radio Prot 2005;25: 313-20. [PubMed]
2. Collier D. CoRWM phase 2 evaluation. Oxford: Faulkland Associates, 2005. (Report R06.) http://www.corwm.org.uk/PDF/1355%20-%20CoRWM%20Phase%202%20Evaluation%20Statement%20V3.pdf.
3. House of Lords. Radioactive waste management: 5th report, science and technology committee. London: House of Lords, 2004.