Just a quick comment (for now) on the front page of the Whitehaven News – Once again the government plan for a geological waste nuclear dump rears its ugly head and this time the press jubilantly report we ‘might get to vote’. This is scandalous – the public has voted time and again in Cumbria against the plan for a so called GDF, Geological Disposal Facility. This time the government have bypassed democracy to ensure the public ‘vote’ may be a skewed ‘referendum’ or a flimsy ‘show of public support’ – maybe the Mayor of Copeland or some such ‘yes man’ representative of the ‘host community’ will be taken as ‘the voice of the public’ ?
The government is presenting its policy of geological dumping (sorry, disposal) of heat generating nuclear wastes as a doable scientific ‘fact’ when GDF is still a concept, there is no geology or containers of steel, copper, cement etc that can be abandoned and securely hold nuclear wastes for 20 years never mind the 10,000 years that the GDF conservatively aims for (some of this waste will remain lethal for upwards of millions of years). The government needs this policy of an ‘away’ for heat generating nuclear wastes entirely because it wants to make new and even hotter wastes in new reactors.
For some perspective on this I have included an article written in 2015 for the Ecologist following the dumping of democracy on nuclear wastes…
To dump nuclear waste, first they must dump democracy!
| 2nd April 2015
In the last act of the dying Parliament, MPs quietly voted to dump democratic planning processes to expedite a ‘facility’ for the high level nuclear waste in geologically fractured Cumbria, writes Marianne Birkby – so over-ruling strong and highly effective local opposition. Shame on them!
On the last law-making day of Parliament, MPs voted to dump democracy along with radioactive wastes.
There was no debate or even public vote in the lobbies of the Commons – voting was done by filling in a form. Incredibly MPs ‘voted’ 277 votes to 33 to dump democracy.
And in that act the dying Parliament gave birth to a monster – the adding of the geological disposal of radioactive wastes to the list of ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects’ (NSIPs). Or as we see it in Cumbria, wiping out democracy to dump nuclear waste.
There were no notices of the impending birth. No outraged opinion pieces by environment journalists. No national countryside or environmental groups galvanising their members.
English Heritage describe how the normal checks and balances of democracy are wiped away by undemocratic NSIP: “Planning permission, listed building consent, scheduled monument consent and conservation area consent amongst other are not required for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.”
In other words hard won planning protections are null and void as is democracy, with the final decision on any future ‘geological disposal facility’ (GDF) taken by the Secretary of State alone
There is a predetermined government agenda with the UK government pledged to “implement geological disposal” and realistically only poor old nuclear compliant Cumbria is in the frame as nuclear patsy. Scotland is opposed to geological disposal while Wales has “reserved its position.”
So who devised the cunning plan?
Who’s idea was it to scrap democracy in order to dump nuclear wastes? Was the bright idea given to Government by the PR firm Copper Consulting?
Copper – a PR firm with offices in London, Bristol, Suffolk and most recently Cumbria, told the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2013 (following Cumbria’s decisive ‘No’ to a nuclear waste dump) that
“allowing local authorities to determine the outcome of a process which is designed to deliver a national Government policy may not be the most appropriate route. … local authorities are consultees rather than decision makers. A logical conclusion might therefore be to classify the GDF as an NSIP”
There is a revolving door between the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Copper. Ivan Stone – Copper’s former Executive Director is now the Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Director of Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) – the new arm of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
And guess what – Copper have also just been awarded the PR job of selling new nuclear build and new nuclear wastes at Moorside to the public.
Intense local opposition that refused to lie down
Back in 1996 the government merely wanted to bury intermediate level wastes. Now the plan is for more and bigger dumps of heat generating high level radioactive wastes.
And today under the new NSIP law there would be no scrutiny by a public inquiry such as the 1996 Nirex inquiry when Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth fielded dozens of experts. The 1996/7 planning inspector found Cumbria’s geology to be too complex for the burial of intermediate level wastes.
Today these big beasts of the green movement appear to have lost interest in these vital matters – leaving mainly grass roots voices of opposition, local community groups with very limited resources like Radiation Free Lakeland, and No Nuclear Dumping.
Also raising an eyebrow have been lawyers Bircham Dyson Bell, who poiint out: “Of course this isn’t a random extension to the regime, the government has in mind the creation of one such facility, likely to be in Cumbria. It tried before but in January 2013 Cumbria County Council vetoed the project.
“It’s trying again and for obvious reasons has removed the ability for a county council to veto the process … Even if there is only one site that gets to the stage of a borehole, there should be at least two NSIPs – one for the borehole (and possibly more) and then one for the facility itself.”
Cumbria County Council have voted no to the geological dumping of nuclear wastes at least three times. So what does government do? It cunningly removes them from the equation. Over 75% of Cumbrian Parish Councils have voted no including Parishes like Beckermet, which contains half the sprawling Sellafield site. Now they are also removed from the equation. Simple!
Now the drilling of 100 exploratory boreholes up to 150 metres has started on greenfields and the river Ehen’s flood plain at Beckermet (see photo, top right).
These deep boreholes are billed as “exploratory” for the proposed ‘Moorside’ nuclear plant described by nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen (see video, above) as “Chernobyl on steroids” due to its serious design flaws.
There are a strong local suspicions that these 100 boreholes may also be a Trojan Horse for getting shot of nuclear wastes.
Fig leaf ‘test of public support’
The only thing standing between Cumbria and the “implementation of geological disposal” is a “positive test of community support.” Who that ‘community’ is and how the ‘positive test’ will be measured has not been announced by government. Nor do we know if even the most determined and vociferous public opposition would be respected.
New PR improved ‘stakeholder engagement’ is under way for meaningless “national geological screening“ – only sites in Cumbria are in the frame – under the the freshly minted RWM, which is clearly following in the footsepts of the failed ‘Managing Radioactive Waste Safely‘ partnership (MRWS).
Until the government admits of the possibility that geological disposal will not protect this and future generations from radioactive wastes then ‘stakeholders’ are mere stooges.
Radiation Free Lakeland will hold the government responsible for libel if we are ever are described in government documents as “Stakeholders in the implementation of geological disposal”!
Radiation in our drinking water
Dr Ian Fairlie recently addressed a packed room in Keswick outlining how increased radioactivity in the environment from nuclear is “killing children.” We know this just as surely as we know smoking causes harm, but government will not admit it.
Too many Cumbrian children have already paid the price for continued emissions from Sellafield reprocessing. The industry and government of course will admit no liability, despite running a workers Compensation Scheme for Radiation Linked Diseases. This scheme is more about keeping legal actions out of the public gaze rather than genuine remorse for poisoning workers.
And the emissions don’t stop at the fence, as Dr Rachel Western pointed out to Leader of Cumbria County Council Eddie Martin in 2013:
“The nuclear industry concede that a nuclear burial site would definitely leak radioactive atoms that would get back up to the surface and into people’s drinking water and food – and so put them at risk of cancer. The numbers involved are mind blowing – for example: when the nuclear industry tested their leak rate calculations at a Uranium mine in Brazil, they underestimated the leak rate by 200 million.”
Ethicist Kate Rawles inadvertently hits the nail on the head in the NIREX paper of 2000: ‘Ethical Issues in the Disposal of Radioactive Wastes‘: “The judgment about geology rests on the values put on human life and health. If human health were not valued, the geological criteria would not be the same.”
Cue geological dumping in leaky Cumbria!
Does this cloud have a silver linings?
Dr Becky Martin has pointed to some silver linings among these strange times: “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!”
Imagine If Jamie Reed MP’s great great grandfather and grandmother had gone along with the dumping of heat generating radioactive wastes deep under Cumbria. Would famous Cumbrian breweries be drawing their water from Lakeland watercourses?
Many scientists and geologists have good reason to think not.
Keeping heat generating nuclear wastes isolated from the biosphere is the biggest challenge for mankind and geological ‘disposal’ is a false and poisonous road that we are now careering down with no stop signs in sight.
Marianne Birkby is spokesperson Radiation Free Lakeland (RFL).
RFL is a voluntary organisation of local activists giving their own time and expertise freely. Any donations go directly to campaigning for nuclear safety.