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UK’s Radioactive Waste and Deep Geological Disposal

 NuClear News  No.107 May 2018  The deadline for responding to the Government’s two consultations on a Geological Disposal facility (GDF) has now passed. According to the GDF Watch website there was a lot of discussion around three particular areas: the role of Local Authorities; earlier funding for community engagement; and readiness of RWM to engage with communities. (1

) BEIS produced two FAQ briefings in response to a number of common and recurring questions raised at their regional consultation workshops.

MPs from both major parties have attacked the government’s latest incentive to entice communities into volunteering to host Britain’s first deep underground store for nuclear waste as “completely inadequate”. Ministers have offered up to £1m per community for areas that constructively engage in offering to take part in the scheme, and a further sum of up to £2.5m where deep borehole investigations take place.

Critics say the inducements offered by the government are “simply not good enough”, and point to the example of France, which has a similar amount of nuclear waste. It offers around €30m (£26.5m) a year as local support for districts neighbouring the site at Bure, in north-east France, and has also offered €60m in community projects. “The government’s offer in its consultation is simply not good enough. These communities are being asked to perform an important public service and should be properly recompensed,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary.

 Geoff Betsworth, chairman of the Cumbria Trust points out that a 10% dent in tourism in Cumbria “would cost £270m a year. The offer of £1m in community benefits, rising to £2.5m when boreholes begin, is absurdly low.”

 The plan was also criticised by the Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who said the UK should stop making nuclear waste and stop building new reactors. “We are still pouring untold billions of taxpayer money into propping up an industry that the free market would have killed off years ago,” he said. “In return, we will be compounding the catastrophe of a nuclear waste build-up, which we are no closer to solving than we were when the industry was born.” (2)

Burial under National Parks? Ministers have also been attacked for refusing to rule out burying nuclear waste under national parks. The government’s response to a question in the House of Lords was branded “absolutely shocking” by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas. Labour peer Lord Judd asked ministers to promise national parks, protected areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty will be excluded from the search. But energy minister Lord Henley said he was “not excluding” those areas yet while a National Policy Statement is finalised. He insisted: “Development for a Geological Disposal Facility should only be consented in nationally designated areas in exceptional circumstances and where it would be in the public interest to do so. “Even if such development were consented, the developer would be required to take a number of measures to protect and where possible improve the environment.” (3)

Burial under the seabed In response to another written question, Lord Henley said a GDF could also be placed under the sea: “The design could allow the underground facilities to extend offshore if accessed from onshore surface sites.” (4)

The former chair of the Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Partnership, Tim Knowles, mentions that the idea of looking for a site under the sea off the coast of Cumbria has been discussed. Cumbria Trust says “while we have had expert advice that West Cumbria does not contain an adequate onshore site, we accept that it is possible that a good site may be found further offshore.” (5)

The Trust says: “It is quite possible that an onshore GDF is simply politically undeliverable anywhere in the UK, so the expansion of the offshore search area is to be welcomed. An offshore GDF would need significant surface facilities on land, occupying around one square kilometre. The obvious location for these would be on the Sellafield site, but only if the offshore geology proves suitable, and if the local population agrees. The tunnel to the offshore GDF should begin at Sellafield to avoid the need to package radioactive waste for transportation outside a nuclear site.

This would also minimise any blight on local businesses, properties and tourism – the waste would remain on the Sellafield site until it was ready to enter the GDF via the tunnel.” (6)

Folkestone & Hythe District Council (FHDC) has asked the Government for more information on its Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). It is apparently considering volunteering Romney Marsh as a site for nuclear waste. This isn’t the first time nuclear waste has been up for debate on the marsh, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) asked councils to come forward as potential sites four years ago, but after some deliberation Shepway council scrapped the plans. Then, councillors voted 21 to 13 against formally expressing interest in the project. The issue had split residents, with 63% of people rejecting it in a survey. (7)

Fears have also been raised Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. A sedimentary basin known as the Widmerpool Gulf – which extends across the three East Midland Counties could be a potential site A response to a Government package of incentives designed to get communities to agree to ‘host’ a storage complex has been discussed by Leicestershire County Council, according to the Leicester Mercury. Any facility would look to bury waste at least 200 metres below ground somewhere in a geological area which stretches from the eastern fringes of Derby across the countryside to the south of Nottingham and on to the west of Melton Mowbray in north Leicestershire. Leicestershire County Council has said there are no specific proposals for a GDF in Leicestershire at this stage but it has asked for further information on the issue from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. A Leicestershire County Council report said: “Building and operating a GDF is a multi-billion pound, intergenerational, national infrastructure project, which is likely to bring substantial benefits to its host community, with skilled jobs for hundreds of people over many decades.”(8)  http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NuClearNewsNo107.pdf

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May 19, 2018 - Posted by | UK, wastes

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