The two Cumbrian borough councils who voted to continue exploring their suitability for hosting a national waste repository but were over-ruled by the county council are seeking talks with the UK's energy minister to discuss further options.
The boroughs of Copeland and Allerdale were the two communities that responded to a government call for interest to host a national high-level waste repository, offering two competing sites, and Cumbria County Council also took part in the process. The three councils had already progressed through three initial stages lasting about four years.
However, in a vote last week on whether or not to continue to the fourth stage - which includes initial studies to determine the basic geologic suitability of the areas - the approval by both boroughs was essentially over-ruled by the county council. It had been previously agreed that the process to find a disposal site needed positive approval at both borough and county level.
In a joint letter dated 31 January, Elaine Woodburn and Alan Smith - leaders of Copeland and Allerdale borough councils, respectively - told energy minister Ed Davey that they wanted to arrange an urgent meeting "to discuss future processes to resolve the issue of long-term disposal of higher activity nuclear waste."
According to the local News & Star newspaper, the two leaders and the member of parliament for Copeland Jamie Reid will meet Davey on 13 February.
In their letter, the leaders told Davey, "We have had a very clear and evidenced mandate from the communities we represent that entering stage 4 was the right thing to do. The fact Cumbria County Council never heeded the majority of West Cumbrians' views and voted 'No' does not resolve the question over what do we do with the nuclear waste in the long term."
They noted, "For over 50 years we have hosted nuclear waste so the skills and knowledge lies within our communities and we suggest the country cannot afford for the opportunity to at least consider options to pass us by."
Cumbria County Council said in a statement that it voted against the proposal because the legislation to guarantee its right to withdraw from the process had not been put in place despite assurances from government.
Woodburn told the News & Star, "What we have been left with now is the legacy of nuclear waste and no solution. We know there's a problem and we actually had a potential solution, which the county council decision has let slip away." She added, "It's okay closing the door on this if you have another solution, but the county council doesn't."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News