On Wednesday the House of Lords under the Chair of Baroness Verma will be discussing in Grand Committee in the Moses Room at 3.45pm the plan to push through legislation that will remove our right, and the right of Cumbria County Council, to object to burying radioactive waste underground. This would potentially be at levels where fresh water circulates.
They hope to do this by 2016 by adding geological disposal facilities (GDFs) to the list of NSIPs (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects). NSIP forces through the government’s plans for New Nuclear by denying communities the voice usually afforded to them via public inquiries.
The government hoped the Nuclear waste ‘problem’ was going to be solved by communities coming forward to volunteer to take the waste, now that plan has fallen by the wayside the government want to impose it on us by designating it as NSIP. The hard won protections of planning permission, listed building consent, scheduled monument consent and conservation area consent amongst others ARE NOT REQUIRED for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This already seems to be happing with regard Moorside where 100 boreholes up to 150 deep are being dug on what should be protected land on the say so of one official in Copeland Borough Council. This total lack of scrutiny will escalate should Geological Disposal Facilities (including “borehole disposal” of nuclear wastes) be added to the already undemocratic NSIP legislation.
Radiation Free Lakeland fully support the letter sent by No Nuclear Waste Dumping to the House of Lords. We urge everyone to send similar letters to Cumbrian Lords and whoever else you can think of to oppose this diabolic plan.
The Full Letter is reproduced below – please use all or part as a template for your own individual letters.
LETTER TO LORDS – GDF/NSIP
Re: Draft Infrastructure Planning (Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities) Order 2015
I am writing to ask you to consider speaking out against and voting against the proposed addition of radioactive waste geological disposal facilities (GDFs) to the list of nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) which will REMOVE THE VOICE of local and county councils and their respective communities from the decision-making process.
This debate is due to take place in The Moses Room, 3.45pm, Wednesday 25th February 2015 in The House of Lords.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has laid this draft Order with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) on Jan 12th 2015. The Order will bring certain development relating to geological disposal facilities (GDFs) for radioactive waste, and the deep borehole investigations necessary to determine the suitability of potential sites, within the nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) regime in the Planning Act 2008. Where development falls within the NSIP regime, developers are required to apply for development consent from the Secretary of State under the 2008 Act.
This Statutory Instrument is subject to affirmative resolution procedure. No date has yet been set for this issue to be dabated in the House of Commons. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments found no reason to report the SI to the House. BUT the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee did find a reason/reasons to report it to the House:
As you can read in the scrutiny committee’s report (above) DECC have not correctly interpreted the results of the public consultation 2013 consultation, entitled “Review of the Siting Process for a Geological Disposal Facility”, which ran for 12 weeks from September to December 2013. These proposals included the preliminary view that GDFs, and associated intrusive borehole investigations for the purposes of site characterisation, should be brought within the definition of NSIPs in the 2008 Act.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change FALSELY claimed that a minority of respondents were not in favour of these proposals.
You will also note the relatively small number of respondents to this GDF-Siting Consultation (719) when contrasted with the public response to the Consultation on Proposal for Underground Access for the Extraction of Gas, Oil or Geothermal Energy. The consultation ran from 23 May to 15 August 2014 and received in total 40,647 responses from individuals and variety of organisations – 99% of whom were AGAINST the proposals.
One explanation for this huge difference in public participation, is how much publicity there has been on Fracking – which the Government has actively promoted and has been a hot topic in the media for several years.
By contrast the public have been largely unaware of the plans for GDFs; including the distinct possibilty of a Deep Borehole Disposal method of burying canisters of Higher Activity Waste at depths of between 3 – 5Km.
The expressed public objection to Fracking was largely due to the scientific evidence, published in the United States that PROVED 5% of all initial deep boreholes FAIL. This finding, as reported in the Washington Post, “points to different culprits: faulty drilling and well completion techniques.” and has lead to widespread contamination of drinking water supplies.
A study published in 2014 conducted by Durham Energy Institute, Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, that looked at data from onshore wells all over the world found, “the percentage of wells that have had some form of well barrier or integrity failure is highly variable (1.9% – 75%)”
The Nirex Study investigating the suitability of siting a GDF in Eskdale (which cost £400Million and included 70 exploratory boreholes) found that the geology and hydrology of the area was too complex. Despite the local councils of Allerdale and Copeland being in favour the scheme, which came with the financial incentive of, “community benefits” for agreeing to the so-called ‘voluntarist approach’ the Cumbrian County Council wisely DECLINED the scheme based on the sound scientific evidence that proved it was unsafe.
The 2013 public consultation into the siting of a GDF document states:
“Any planning application will need to take account of community views where they are relevant – but there is no requirement for community support inherent in the planning process itself.”
This is inherently undemocratic and shows a high level of disdain for those who would oppose GDFs, both locally and those who could be affected should water contamination occur. The consultation goes on to say:
“Through application of this voluntarism and partnership siting we would go further and require a demonstration of community support before development could proceed.”
How can community support for such a scheme be demonstrated if the decision is taken OUT OF THE HANDS of the local layers of government and placed squarely into the hands of the Secretary of State?
Cumbria County Council opposed the siting of a GDF in their area based on their careful scrutiny of the thorough scientific evidence; yet the local councils were swayed by the “community benefits” which is arguably tantamount to bribery. There are inherent dangers in the so-called ‘voluntarist approach’ especially since UKOOG has defined ‘community’ as perhaps being the sole tenant on any given site. But to abandon the democratic process completely, by adopting the process for a NSIP and EXCLUDE locally-elected councillors, county officials and removing the need for public consultation will result in the British populace feeling like they have had this GDF rammed down their throats.
The GDF has to remain secure and safe for 100,000 years and it is simply OUTRAGEOUS to exclude local government, and thereby the people that they represent, from planning decisions on a facility with such widespread far-reaching consequences for current generations and all future generations.
Involvement of the county council, planning inspectors, members of the public and the experts they may call upon is ESSENTIAL to provide the level of scrutiny that is required when considering a project such as a GDF.
In this instance it seems clear that the motivation behind the move to add GDFs to the list of NSIPs is fueled by a wish to divert democracy, rather than streamlining the planning process, which is what the creation of NSIPs was supposed to achieve.
We would ask the Lords to agree that the remit of the parent act (2008 Planning Act) is NOT SUFFICIENT GROUNDS to hand the responsibility of making such a HUGE decision over to the Secretary of State.
A scheme as crucial to the health and safety of our entire nation requires the full attention of every layer of government, after a public awareness campaign of equal size to the one that has promoted Fracking.
The waste DOES have to be properly put to bed, and the sooner the better. What to do with this waste is THE question for our generation. Fukushima is an indescribably catastrophic living nightmare, illustrating how lethal these radioactive poisons are – to all living things. Parts of the UK are still contaminated from the 1956 Windscale fire and the Chernobyl accident.
The consequences of entombing nuclear waste underground are largely unknown. Where this has been tried at WIPP in New Mexico, they had a criticality incident and the radionuclides reached the surface and leaked into the surrounding area. The collapsed ceiling at WIPP remains an unsolved problem over a year after the accident.
There is no guarantee that a geological disposal facility can contain the radionuclides long-term, and not enough knowledge of how water flows underground, or how it travels though faults in rocks. Dangerous levels of radioactivity could end up in aquifers that supply drinking water, or into the atmosphere and geosphere.
As far as we are aware, all of the research used in evidence to show the process is safe has involved computer modelling. It would be impossible to list all the variables in a computer program and the real life scenario could be very different, and result in radionuclide escape and transport to groundwater sources far quicker than predicted.
The REASON for the change of gear and approach in dealing with nuclear waste is because the EU decreed that ‘the UK must have a robust plan in place for the stored waste and future waste legacy’ to get the green light for the New Generation of Nuclear Power Stations (Hinkley C and Moorside)
To summarize, the outrageous reality of this sudden urgency to deal with the waste and bypass the planning consent of the local authorities is this:
1) The Research & Development in this brand new field is simply NOT READY and an artificial speeding up of the planning and consent process is unwise. The technology to achieve this aim SAFELY does not exist yet. And the plans on the table rely on computer modelling that the programmers themselves admit the limitations of (this fact is published.)
2) A lot of the funding for the ongoing R&D is coming from the Nuclear Industry itself. There is a clear conflict of interests, given that plans to dispose of the waste will lead to the development of new Nuclear plants and the astronomical profits that industry creates.
3) The £400Million Nirex Study into a potential GDF at Eskdale concluded that THE GEOLOGY AND HYDROLOGY OF THE AREA WAS TOO COMPLEX to safely site a GDF there.
4) Rather than ACCEPT the Cumbrian County Council’s decision to say NO to this plan, the government is instead proposing to REMOVE the powers of this planning authority by classing this activity as NSIP, thus excluding due democratic consideration at all levels of representative government – whilst claiming that it is in fact pursuing a ‘voluntarist’ approach.
In conclusion, we would ask you to VOTE AGAINST the draft Statutory Instrument that would make the GDF fall under the process of NSIP and slap democracy in the face.
We beseech you to consider that the only SAFE way of tackling the waste is if the BEST scientists, geologists and engineers were working on such a project NOT constrained by time or budget in a NOT-FOR-PROFIT setting.
We believe that existing nuclear waste should be stored in a retrievable manner at the surface, or near to the surface, in line with Scotland’s Higher Activity Radioactive Waste Policy 2011. Waste could then be monitored and managed appropriately without risk of exposure to water supplies, and without additional cause for concern for future generations.
The recent experience of the NMP (Nuclear Management Partnership) private consortium (now sacked!) up at Sellafield PROVES that profit-making and safety DO NOT MIX and that system is wide-open to abuse. The private sector cannot be trusted to dispose of this waste, especially given how financially lucrative the contracts are and that cash grants are being made available to the tune of £10,000 to encourage companies to apply for Decommissioning work under the F4N, Fit for Nuclear, scheme.
The government’s solicitors, Pinsent Mason have ALREADY hosted a “masterclass” in how to get a commercial application to join in decommissioning and waste disposal contracts classed as NSIP.
Yes, BEFORE either House has affirmed this Statutory Instrument!
This demonstrates the flagrant disregard the government has for democratic due process in it’s haste to wish to claim that it has a plan to deal with this waste, which will allow Nuclear new build to commence.
We ask you to intervene to prevent the progress of these plans which we feel sit outside of the law and are NOT in the best interests of the United Kingdom, it’s people, land and environments and all future generations.
Furthermore, given the inherent and dramatically demonstrated disastrous consequences caused by the existence of Nuclear Power Plants and it’s legacy of waste, we believe that no more should be generated, especially in light of advancements in the renewable energy sector, and the opportunities available to make our homes far more energy efficient than they are at present.
Regardless of opinions on nuclear power, the inclusion of GDFs in the list of NSIPs would be undemocratic, and unlikely to meet with favourable community feeling.
Rebecca Martin of No Nuclear Waste Dumping
Eleanor Bull of No Nuclear Waste Dumping
This list of concerns is from the ‘Rock Solid?’ report by Gene watch UK produced for Greenpeace:
- Copper or steel canisters and overpack containing spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive wastes could corrode more quickly than expected.
- The effects of intense heat generated by radioactive decay, and of chemical and physical disturbance due to corrosion, gas generation and biomineralisation, could impair the ability of backfill material to trap some radionuclides.
- Build-up of gas pressure in the repository, as a result of the corrosion of metals and/or the degradation of organic material, could damage the barriers and force fast routes for radionuclide escape through crystalline rock fractures or clay rock pores.
- Poorly understood chemical effects, such as the formation of colloids, could speedup the transport of some of the more radiotoxic elements such as plutonium.
- Unidentified fractures and faults, or poor understanding of how water and gas will flow through fractures and faults, could lead to the release of radionuclides into groundwater much faster than expected.
- Excavation of the repository will damage adjacent zones of rock and could thereby create fast routes for radionuclide escape.
- Future generations, seeking underground resources or storage facilities, might accidentally dig a shaft into the rock around the repository or a well into contaminated groundwater above it.
- Future glaciations could cause faulting of the rock, rupture of containers and penetration of surface waters or permafrost to the repository depth, leading to failure of the barriers and faster dissolution of the waste.
Earthquakes could damage containers, backfill and the rock.