This article is from our dedicated Lakes Against Nuclear Dump campaign website.
Image from “The Pit and the Polar Bear.” Coal Boss, Mark Kirkbride Welcomed to HM Govnt’s Deep Nuclear Dump Planning Dept.
Lucrative Govnt contracts guaranteed for Critical National Infrastructure plan of a Geological Nuclear Dump – worth £Billions to business interests
Top Tier Cronies: Nuclear Waste and the UK’s First Deep Coal Mine in 30 years.
Close relationships between companies and government have recently been aired widely in the public arena and rightly condemned as intolerable. Australian financier Les Greensill ran a company offering supply chain finance for “future and prospective receivables” (such as Bluestone metallurgical coal company in the US) and had insinuated himself into the upper echelons of UK government.
That is a big deal – a big corrupt deal.
But there is a far bigger deal going on between business interests and UK government that remains hidden in plain sight. It’s a far bigger corrupt and uniquely dangerous deal involving a Cumbrian coal mine, high level nuclear waste plans and the highest and most powerful tier of government. It seems to the nuclear safety campaigners, Radiation Free Lakeland, who were the first to challenge the ridiculous PR of the “green steel” “carbon neutral” Cumbria coal mine that UK government are more than happy to be accused from all quarters of climate hypocrisy. The cronyism surrounding plans to deliver the UKs biggest Critical National Infrastructure project namely a deep nuclear dump has been buried deep and continues without a shred of scrutiny or even a raised eyebrow.
Ok so now you are saying the author of this article is bonkers. Maggie Thatcher’s push to close the coal mines, throwing whole communities out of work overnight and rebranding “climate friendly” new nuclear has ensured coal and nuclear are mortal enemies. What cronyism could there be?
The Big Problem of Nuclear Waste
Successive UK government’s have tried to “solve” the nuclear waste problem. Despite the “mortal enemy” status of coal and nuclear, in the early 1990s government had no hesitation in calling upon British Coal (now the Coal Authority) to play its part in delivery of a “Geological Disposal Facility” for hot nuclear wastes. The first step to this was to drill boreholes at Gosforth near Sellafield which, it was planned, would lead to a Rock Characterization Facility. “The borehole design was commissioned by BNFL (now Sellafield/NDA), who in turn commissioned British Coal to do the job” (Nirex and the Great Denouement, Geological Society Memoirs, Chapter 20). The government’s nuclear waste quango, NIREX was aiming to deliver first a Rock Characterization Facility (RCF) and then if the rocks were watertight (!) a full blown Geological Disposal Facility. Cumbria County Council could see how the RCF was a Trojan Horse for a full blown deep nuclear dump and pulled the plug on NIREX. A big planning inquiry followed in which the Inspector agreed with Cumbria County Council that far from being watertight and safe for nuclear waste to be dumped in, Cumbria’s geology is complex and faulted. The NIREX Public Inquiry, effectively halted delivery of Government’s nuclear dump plans and left the United Kingdom ‘with no practical plan for the disposal of most of its nuclear waste’.
“A Gentle Process” says former Energy Secretary Charles Hendry or “Don’t Scare the Horses”
Roll on to 2008 and the Government once again returns to Cumbria in the new guise of “Managing Radioactive Wastes Safely.” Our own campaign group Radiation Free Lakeland was formed in 2008 specifically to fight the new nuclear dump plans. The then Energy Minister, Charles Hendry MP for Wealden in Sussex was appointed in 2011 to the chair of the Geological Disposal Implementation Board. He said “We are very committed to the approach of the previous Government”, (he had been shadow Energy Minister from 2008) “who took a voluntarist approach to finding a community prepared to host this. That, inevitably, is a gentle process. There have been three expressions of interest from within Cumbria—two from district councils and one from the county council—and we are taking those forward. From their perspective, I think they see this as being part of a nuclear renaissance. It isn’t simply a facility for looking after the historical waste from the nuclear programme; they also want to see a nuclear renaissance in west Cumbria. We are keen to take that work forward more rapidly. We are keen to take that work forward more rapidly, because I understand why colleagues here and others outside want to know where the site will be and when it will be operational. So it is a gentle process for moving it forward, but we recognise the need to move it faster.” Charles Hendry had his nose put out of joint as under former leader Eddie Martin, Cumbria County Council vetoed the “steps towards Geological Disposal in 2013 . Since then Government have removed Cumbria County Council’s right of veto, so much for “voluntarism.”
The Coal Boss and Charles Hendry, (former) Energy Secretary
In 2011 the same year Charles Hendry MP was prematurely congratulating Cumbria Council on their ‘steps towards geological disposal of hot nuclear wastes’, he was also cutting the ribbon on one Mark Kirkbride’s venture as CEO at Itmsoil a Sussex based International company specialising in instrumentation measuring stress in large scale construction projects.
Mark Kirkbride’s Itmsoil company went into Administration in 2014 in order to give ”protection from creditors.”
Mark Kirkbride quickly moved to West Cumbria Mining and has now been appointed (Nov 2019 – 2023) to the Committee of Radioactive Waste Management who advise government on the Delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility.
Around the same time that Itmsoil went into administration (2013/14) the Coal Authority granted Mark Kirkbride’s new venture, West Cumbria Mining licence to drill under the Irish Sea ostensibly to search out coking coal seams. The licences were given without any public scrutiny or discussion by County Councillors. In effect West Cumbria Mining have done what NIREX and MRWS failed to do, namely carry out Rock Characterisation under the Irish Sea in the area actively being promoted as a deep nuclear dump. As a result of the rock characterisation there is over 4,000 meters of drill core held in 851 core boxes in long term storage at the old Haig Mining Museum. The socially and historically important Haig Mining Museum, buildings and land which had received £2.4 Million Heritage Lottery Funding was bought by West Cumbria Mining for £1. This incredible largesse was courtesy of the Coal Authority handing over their £1 “pre-emption” right to the coal mine developer.
So to round up this tale of spectacular governmental nuclear cronyism at high levels, there is so much more to tell – of the cosy relationship to government by West Cumbria Mining’s PR team which includes Tony Lodge of New Century Media and Conservative Home, of the fact that the Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy is responsible for both the Geological Nuclear Dump plan and the anachronistic Coal Authority who have bent over backwards to accommodate West Cumbria Mining, of the Crown Estate selling off the “exploration rights” of the minerals beneath the Irish Sea bed to the developers for filthy lucre, of the regulators and statutory bodies who have not only not properly scrutinised the coal mine plan but in the case of Natural England (who did so much to promote Marine Conservation Zones, fat lot of good they have been) are ‘in partnership’ with West Cumbria Mining for example to produce signage, presumably to let the public know what they have lost in exchange for the “green” coal mine and “sustainable” deep nuclear dump? And we haven’t even touched on the thorny question of where the tens of £millions of pounds to fund West Cumbria Mining have actually come from, hidden as they are behind EMR Capital’s Cayman Island accounts.
“Clearly the coal mine is a precursor to a GDF” Former Leader of Cumbria County Council
The coal mine which as former leader of Cumbria County Council, Eddie Martin has said is “clearly a precursor to a GDF” can still be stopped but honestly, at Radiation Free Lakeland we don’t think the government are too bothered about the highly publicised accusations of climate hypocrisy. It is way beyond time to talk about the Geological Nuclear Dump cronyism. Time to talk about the faux posturing of Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng saying “there are very compelling reasons” to block the coal mine. The Business Secretary of State must know full well his Dept is directly responsible for giving out coal licenses at the same time as appointing the coal boss, Mark Kirkbride to be a government advisor on Delivery of a GDF i.e. deep nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes. Kwasi Kwarteng MP could put his words into action tomorrow and stop the huge expense of a public inquiry. He has the authority to tell the Coal Authority not to issue licences (the existing ones have run out). But then again his department has appointed the coal boss to Delivery of the UK’s biggest Critical National Infrastructure plan- a deep nuclear dump for the most dangerous and long lived nuclear wastes. The area firmly in the frame for the nuclear dump plan is under the Irish Sea alongside the coal mine plan. That is a big deal – the biggest most corrupt deal. No wonder the government is only too happy for the NGO and media focus on the coal mine to be myopically on climate hypocrisy. It is clear to Radiation Free Lakeland that our pro-nuclear government are keen to keep the Nuclear Excremental Crisis and its Coal Mine Cronyism out of sight and out of mind.
Author Marianne Birkby
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a RaFL campaign ) blog https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/
Radiation free Lakeland https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/
“The borehole design was commissioned by BNFL (now Sellafield/NDA), who in turn commissioned British Coal to do the job” Nirex and the Great Denouement, Geological Society Memoirs, Chapter 20 page 4 https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/books/book/1533/chapter/107254509/Nirex-and-the-great-denouement .
The NIREX Public Inquiry, effectively halted delivery of Government’s nuclear dump plans and left the United Kingdom ‘with no practical plan for the disposal of most of its nuclear waste’. Options-for-radioactive-waste-management-that-have-been-considered-by-Nirex-2002.pdf
“WCM are working with Natural England and the Colourful Coast to develop a themed series of signposts along the coastal footpath to celebrate the industrial heritage of the area.”