GUEST BLOG BY DR BECKY MARTIN
Well that’s it folks, nuclear waste dumps are now nationally significant infrastructure projects. The decision has been taken away from the local authorities and placed in the hands of the secretary of state and is now wide open for corruption. The chance for intense scrutiny and public accountability has gone. It will be boreholes a-go-go (no doubt keeping the fracking industry quite happy as well), while they look for a good place to dump their responsibility to the next generation and beyond.
Of course, they may have already found the spot they want in Cumbria and this legislation will allow them to claim it. The party at NuGen et al., and all the weapons manufacturers must be in full swing this evening, they now have carte blanche to generate as much waste as they please. Apparently there will be a ‘positive test of community support’ before a GDF is built. We are still waiting to hear what this will be. I’ve tweeted Amber Rudd (@AmberRuddMP) and Baroness Verma (@DECCgovuk) about it but haven’t heard back. Perhaps you will have better luck than me? Nearly 40,000 people expressed their distaste at government’s plans to frack under their homes without their permission, and were soundly ignored. What chance do you think your community has of being genuinely represented in this ‘positive test’?
Other government departments have in the past defined ‘community’ as potentially a single landowner (UKOOG). Let’s face it there’s always one morally defunct ne’er do well who would sell their own granny for a buck! Trying to keep up with the sublimely ridiculously parliamentary procedures has been exhausting. Delegated legislation, affirmative instruments, motions to consider, withdraw, statutory instrument committees, deferred divisions..bla bla bla. NOWHERE in this process were our elected MPs given the chance to debate this crucial issue. It’s only the safety of your drinking water being decided in small committee rooms, as under the radar as humanly possible, by committee members appointed by party whips. Democracy isn’t on its knees, its face down in the mud. There are a few good guys in this sorry tale. We were lucky to have Duncan Hames on the initial committee to speak up against the order. Then a few MPs were there to say ‘nay’ when they tried to secure approval whilst everyone was distracted by budget day. This meant that a vote was forced for the following week, which we lost 277-33. Silver linings though, 33 MPs said no potentially incurring the wrath of the party whip and the industry. So good on them! Considering only 53 voted for the fracking moratorium and the weight behind that campaign, that’s not a terrible show. We salute these brave people who are sticking to their principles and focusing on protecting their constituents rather than climbing the greasy pole. Tim Farron has been a vocal opponent of the order, but he was not present for the vote. Strangely, Jamie Reed MP for Copeland and former Sellafield PR man voted against the order. We didn’t see that one coming!
277 turned up to vote aye. Imagine how much wining and dining went on there. We could just about stretch to a pasty from Greggs!
In the final moments of the conservative/lib dem coalition they have ensured their nuclear dump legacy will continue into the next government, whoever that will be. There are some lib dem good guys out there, but during my research into mps to lobby I was disheartened to see how many had done a U turn on their opinions on nuclear power after coming to government. Perhaps they have bought into the ‘green nuclear’ fallacy, or perhaps they are towing the party line. There is cross party support on this issue that is widely reviled by normal folk when they hear about it, and now those people don’t even have their local councillors to fall back on.
Awareness of this legislation was extremely low. Only 719 responded to the consultation, 530 of them individuals or societies. Again, compare this to the fracking consultation mentioned previously that garnered 40,000 responses. Surely there should have been a similar awareness raising campaign for radioactive waste facilities? Why wasn’t David Cameron telling us he was ‘all out for nuke dumping’? Perhaps because he didn’t want you to notice? We’ve lost this battle, but we will win the war.
We may not have a legislative system on our side or a corporate bank roll, but we do have common sense and people power. We will not take this lying down.
Dr Becky Martin