Front Page of the Cumberland News – Friday 27th March 2015
DON’T FREEZE US OUT OF NUCLEAR DEBATE
By Phil Coleman Chief Reporter
Two peers have hit out at a controversial plan to freeze county councillors out of any decision to build an underground nuclear dump in Cumbria.
Cumbria County Council voted in 2013 to halt the process that could ultimately have led to the building of an underground nuclear disposal facility in the county.
But the Government has repeatedly said it is committed to pressing ahead with finding a site for the dump to deal with the country’s growing stockpile of high and intermediate level nuclear waste.
Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, aims to introduce a legal order classifying the nuclear dump proposal as a “nationally significant infrastructure project.”
That would give him the final say on whether such a project ever goes ahead, excluding local authorities.
The issue was debated in the House of Lords this week, with Energy Minister, Baroness Verma insisting the Government still favoured a process for finding a site that was based on the local community’s “willingness to participate.”
She said: “The final decision will not be taken until, and unless, there is a positive test of public support for hosting a GDF (geological disposal facility) at the site in question.”
But the discussion drew forthright criticism from two Cumbrian lords.
Lord Roger Liddle, a former special advisor to Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, is also a Labour county councillor representing Wigton.
He began by stating clearly that he is a supporter of nuclear power, and – had he been a county councillor in January 2013 that he would have supported continuing the investigation of west Cumbria as a possible site for the dump.
Nuclear dump concern
But he said : “Yet as a democrat and a Cumbria citizen, I cannot support the new current proposal that the final decision be taken out of Cumbria’s hands and left to the Secretary of State. The Government may argue that it has given a clear assurance that nothing will go ahead without a clear demonstration of local support. But it is clear from their 2014 consultation that they do not regard the support of the County Council as an essential element of that clear demonstration of local support.”
Lord Inglewood, who is chairman of CN Group, the parent company of The Cumberland News, said Cumbria County Council was right to regard the nuclear dump as an issue that affects the entire county, and not just Copeland and Allerdale.
He added: “the order is interpreted locally as sour grapes. It is perceived by a large number of Cumbrians that the Government and Westminster wished, one way or another, to get their way and have a long-term geological disposal facility in the county.”
Meanwhile county council leader Stewart Young said he felt it had been “incredibly insulting” for Baroness Verma to suggest that Cumbrians – who had spent months debating and researching the dump – had not understood the issues involved.