We were so glad to be joined by wonderful fracking activists from Lancashire who were astounded at the lack of press interest – we don’t think the lack of press interest is accidental.
On the 15th of July the County’s Development Control and Regulatory Committee took the “delegated decision” to approve a plan on behalf of Cumbria to stack shipping containers of nuclear wastes ever higher and then to cap them and walk away.
Councillors at the meeting ignored our petition and reasoned arguments to Lock the Gate on Ever More Wastes going to Drigg and have ignored the dissenting voices opposing this plan. . In the absence of any media reporting that does more than merely parrot the industry’s press release since the decision (with the honourable exception of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking ) I have typed up the handwritten notes I took at the meeting….(any corrections welcomed).
Richard Pearse Principal Planning Officer of Cumbria County Council gave a slide show presentation. The presentation glossed over the history of the site and failed to show the deteriorating state of the containers in vault 8 upon which new containers would be placed. There was no indepth view of the geology or that the site is above one of the UKs main aquifers. Impression of the slide show was reassurance with blanket statements such as : “even with coastal erosion the dose to the public would fall within accepted limits.” “No objections from technical consultees” “The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing and monitoring” “the development will have no adverse effects on the internationally designated sites” (Marine Conservation Zones RAMSAR etc). “There were 55 objections from residents and businesses and further afield and a petition of over 1000 signatures”
Objectors Spoke First – just 5 minutes each (just two of us who had to sit directly in front of the suited well heeled ranks of the industry )
Marianne Birkby on behalf of the Lock the Gate on Drigg petitioners. (now stands at 2000 and rising) I made as many points as I could with reference to the petition and that “the site was never was suitable for any kind of landfill, never mind a nuclear landfill…and that the name of this coastal Lakeland village will be increasingly associated with a nuclear dump unless the gate is locked on ever more nuclear wastes arriving. ” “In Germany nuclear wastes have been emplaced in a salt mine, with the intention of leaving them there, disposing of them. They are now leaking and need to be moved and repackaged” There is no “disposal’ Also spoke of the out of control dumping of waste into the environment via “moving waste up the hierarchy” to landfill, to incineration, to metals and that Drigg is refusing wastes, diverting them to landfill, to save itself for ever higher concentrations of radionuclides.
Martyn Lowe on behalf of The Close Capenhurst Campaign, Kick Nuclear and the Nuclear Trains Action Group: “it was a mistake to site the Drigg Low-‐ Level Waste Repository on the Cumbrian coast because of its vulnerability to flooding. This is not just a Cumbrian problem climate change also threatens other sites …” here the Chair cut in and didnt allow Martin to properly continue with his points that this is a national problem with nuclear wastes. “The current Environmental Agency Flood Warning map clearly illustrates our concerns, showing that Drigg site is surrounded by low-‐lying land, which is prone to flooding.”
Dr Richard Cummings, Head of Science and Engineering at LLWR: “This is the only national facility for vault disposal for the use of MOD and universities and hospitals, over 50% of the waste comes from Sellafield.” “This proposal is not just about providing space, it is about capping the repository and the resulting environmental protection.” “There have been no objections from statutary consultees.” “There is substantial local support for this development, for the construction work.” “This is a safe highly regulated industry, it is not out of control.” ” We have fully addressed the issue of coastal erosion, we are providing disposal of Low Level Waste.” “The cap over the repository will provide a level of environmental protection.”
Councillor Roger Bingham: “I am concerned about the weather. There is talk of 1000 year events but even in the last 10 years there has been three huge floods. Can we be certain that provision has been made? Waste has to travel through my area in South Lakeland 80 miles away from Drigg. (marianne’s note – its actually 28 miles away from Drigg to Roger’s house as the crow flies)
Answer From Dr Richard Cummings, Head of Science and Engineering at LLWR: ” Risk of flooding is low.” “There is no way that valley will flood. As regards transport the waste is extremely Low Level.”
Councillor Tony Markley: Can you give clarification that no waste is going into rivers and sea so that I can go back to my constituents and reassure them?
Answer from Dr Richard Cummings, Head of Science and Engineering at LLWR: “We collect leachate and this is discharged from a marine pipeline. Levels are very low. Tritium is below World Health Authority drinking standards although I wouldnt recommend drinking our leachate”
Councillor David Fletcher: A question for Marianne Birkby. I find the ideology of “Locking the Gate on Drigg” strange. Does Marianne Birkby think we should lock the gate on Drigg and walk away from a safe well managed site?
Marianne Birkby – Lock the Gate on Drigg petitioner: “We are saying that the gate should be locked on ever more wastes arriving at Drigg which is not a safe site. The waste cannot ever be walked away from and ever more wastes and capping those wastes will make a bad situation worse. It would be like putting a lid on a fizzy lemonade bottle with holes in the bottom. The site is not safe – there is historic evidence so the Environment Agency say of fires in the trenches.”
Councillor ??Wilson?? : “What about tidal surges and the combination of that with the river flooding and sea flooding, even tsunami’s what would that do to the site?”
Answer from Dr Richard Cummings, Head of Science and Engineering at LLWR: “No tidal surges are going to reach the site which is well above the sea”
Councillor ??Wilson??: “A question to Martyn Lowe, you spoke of tidal surges and flooding -what about the effects on transport.”
Martyn Lowe on behalf of The Close Capenhurst Campaign, Kick Nuclear and the Nuclear Trains Action Group: “Lines have already been washed away in Cumbria and elsewhere. This is not a local problem. Flooding stopped waste going up the coast from South Cumbria to Sellafield and Drigg – it is not just in one location – a number of locations would be flooded with rising tides plus tidal surges and river flooding, the higher the tide, the higher the surge.”
Councillor Tony Markley: “We must congratulate the officers. Drigg is a safe, well managed site and I would like to ask Marianne Birkby what she would do with the waste.”
Marianne Birkby – Lock the Gate on Drigg petitioner: “Decommissioning” we now realise means disposal to the environment. At Chapel Cross in Scotland and here at Sellafield people in “workshops” are being asked what they would like the sites to be following “decommissioning” – a golf course – green energy park or similar lovely things. What is not mentioned is that to get to that point the nuclear sites are smashed up with the radioactive rubble and soil and metals from those sites being dumped at Drigg or, in what is called “moving waste up the hierarchy” dumping it into landfill, ‘recycling’ it into metals in a hideous subversion of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Instead the waste should be contained on the sites and no more made.
Councillor : ” Erosion is a problem – is land going to be lost at Drigg”
Answer from Dr Richard Cummings, Head of Science and Engineering at LLWR: “Even if the site does erode, it will be OK and meet Environment Agency requirements.”
Councillor Alan McGuckin: “We are straying outside Planning issues – the decision could be challenged if we stray outside the issue’
Richard Clark, Environment Agency: “We are independent of government and industry. We have spent four years doing a review of the resubmitted safety case from LLW and we have issued a new permit in November of last year. We have considered a huge range of impacts. This is a low risk flood area. Coastal erosion and river alluvial scenarios were assessed to provide reassurance about what might happen to the site. The regulatory regime is strict. Transport is governed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. Regarding discharges, this is Low Level waste – the concentrations are low, so no limits are set. We approve an environmental regime which the operator undertakes and we monitor.”
Councillor Hitchen: “Officers are to be congratulated. This license is not just based on this application it is more far reaching.”
Richard Clark, Environment Agency: “Much more waste is demonstrated to go to the site.
Councillor Alan McGuckin: “The open trenches were a response to the cold war. Regarding Planning Issues this fits in with the waste and mineral policy. This is the premier LLW site in the UK BUT Capping and Expansion and the need to increase and expand to 2050+ means I’m torn. By allowing expansion it does not deal with the waste. I support the plan to cap but am torn on the subject of expansion of vaults 9 (a, 10, 11, and more.”
Councillor Ernie Wilson: The council officers are to be congratulated and I was interested in listening to the objectors. I live in Barrow in Furness where we have a history of living with the benefits that building submarines brings and know that this also involves nuclear materials. The work is welcome but we have to put up with the nuclear element. Its a historical legacy as with the Drigg site. In the absence of a crystal ball future generations will adapt – maybe one day they will have to dig it up and shift it but we are where we are.”
Councillor David Fletcher: “There are two main issues, the future of the site and the storing of waste and future expansion – is there a need for it? Part of the process is that the site is managed and made secure. I have worked in construction and am happy with the engineering – there will be a benthonite slurry and a non permeable dome. I asked about drainage off the dome and I am happy that it is adequate. From the environmental perspective there is a statutory duty for that and if there are changes we can look again at the proposal..”
Councillor Hillary Carrick: ” they have looked at wildlife and it is going to be capped and go back to greenfield. When I was given a tour of Sellafield, I understood it but next morning I didn’t. This shouldn’t be for anymore vaults than 9, 10 and 11. I wouldnt like to live at Drigg with all the lorries and loud trains. It is being well monitored.”
Councillor Keith Hitchens: “this is a move from storage to disposal – that gives a lot of feeling of security. I moved to Holmrook in 2006. There are active operating local liaison groups like the Low Level Waste Site Stakeholder Group Working Parties to hold the LLW to account. This site is now run by professional organisations who are not afraid to tell you the truth. There is complete openness and transparency. When large consignments are passing through LLW put a note through our door to let us know. I am proud to be part of an organisation that protects not just us but the whole of the UK. The first application over 4 years ago wasn’t considered viable , now we have this new application before us – it is not just for vault 11.”
Councillor David Fletcher: “I propose that we accept this application”.
Councillor Tony Markley: “I second, all the questions asked and discussed have been relevant”
The vote is taken – 18 in favour – one abstention Councillor Alan McGuckin