Wednesday, 25 September 2013

DECC online survey - high-level nuclear waste dump under Lake District?

Nuclear waste flasks bound for Sellafield
Last week's news of a derailment on the Manchester - Barrow line of a train carrying flasks contaminated by radioactive waste (but not full, we are told), has come at a bad time for the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) who had just launched their online survey for your views on their proposed nuclear waste dump under the Lake District.

The DECC offers a further public consultation on "the site selection process for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for higher activity radioactive waste, as part of the 'Managing Radioactive Waste Safely' programme".

A 'Geological Disposal Facility' is another way of saying 'a hole in the ground'. In this case the hole would be under Ennerdale in the Lake District National Park. It would be deeper than Scafell is high, under an area bigger than Carlisle. The containers that go into the hole should be designed to last 300,000 years, although this is not specified in the proposals. Sections of the store would need to be thermostatically monitored and any coolant used would itself become radioactive and require safe storage. The whole installation must be radiation proofed and sealed from leakage into nearby aquifers and the water table, and maintained expertly and safely for 300,000 years.

Plans rejected 
The proposals have already been turned down forcefully by Cumbria County Council, almost every Parish Council in the region,  a Public Inquiry, a Judicial Review and every previous consultation.

This consultation has the aim of gathering views on 'how aspects of the siting process could be revised and improved.' The framing of the consultation asks for your preferences around some of the details of a dump for high level radioactive waste under the Lake District National Park at Ennerdale. It fails to take on board that the regional population have made it abundantly clear, through DECC's many and varied approaches, that they do not want one there at all.

Skewed consultation?
A consultation is said to be 'skewed' when it offers a choice between two or three options which are all basically versions of the same thing, rather than offering choices of rejection, or alternate ideas.   The ensuing results can only show which of the given options is preferred, rather than showing if people would have preferred not to do any of them, but to do something else instead.

A public consultation should not be addressed as if it were a multiple choice quiz. Participants should feel free to outline their own opinions in the fields provided,  and do not have to accept or be limited by the options presented, if these do not accurately represent their views.

Short term economics....
The immediate economics behind the proposal of a High-level Radioactive waste dump require it to attract 'dowried' waste from overseas. Countries that do not want the pollution of their own toxic high-level waste on their own soil would pay to have it taken off their hands,  possibly already in poor quality containment (hence their enthusiasm to pay for its removal).  In the short term this would attract funding, and involve some enormously juicy construction contracts and executive pay-outs, but no government can sign a 300,000 year storage lease.

Ennerdale Water, Lake District National Park
.... endless legacy
As humanity passes through times of austerity, war, accident, climate change or epidemic, eventually, as all things do, the structure of the GDF and the containers within it would age and deteriorate beyond repair or safe maintenance.  Assuming a way could be found to prevent the stored waste overheating,  the time would inevitably come when the GDF doors would be sealed and the area cleared and abandoned to high level contamination.  This would already be penetrating the regional water table and coastal waters, and those who could leave would have done so already.  Our generations inherited a stunningly beautiful and inspirational natural heritage protected as a National Park.  Our legacy would be a toxic wasteland and generations plagued by disease and defects.

The more sustainable solution
Vast quantities of highly toxic and potentially unstable waste should not be concentrated in one area, with overwhelming disaster potential. Given that the sites where the waste is produced are already contaminated for the unforeseeable future, and that transporting hazardous waste is clearly risky and cannot be accepted as a routine exercise, it is safer to build smaller storage facilities for it where it is produced. In this way, as power stations are decommissioned, the workforce would already be there on the ground with the required expertise, local committment and ethos to manage it safely. It would mean that if one had a problem, it could turn to the others for help. New containment technologies could be developed and tried on a smaller and less potentially disasterous scale.

The long-term management of its radioactive waste should be accepted as a component of the decommissioning cost of every nuclear facility. It is not acceptable to dump the problem of the world's nuclear waste on the people of Cumbria, in the National Park of the 'unloved' North West, and ultimately leave them to deal with it.

The DECC consultation follows a Call for Evidence earlier in the year, which ran from May to June. DECC tell us that "The evidence obtained from this, as well as information gathered from direct engagement with stakeholders and international bodies, has informed the proposals in the consultation document." The new proposals do not include any changes or additional safety measures - they offer targeted political sweeteners aimed at buying a wedge of local support with which to prise the proposals through. Those targeted are expected to duly register their appreciation in their consultation responses.

The consultation document can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/geological-disposal-facility-siting-process-review

This page links on to the online survey at: https://econsultation.decc.gov.uk/decc-policy/managing-radioactive-waste-safely-siting-process/consultation/intro/view

The consultation will run for three months, closing on 5 December 2013, and will include a series of deliberative events nationally with members of the public and interested parties until DECC get the answers they want.

See also: Radiation Free Lakeland website.

1 comment:

marianne birkby said...

great article that perfectly sums up the CONsultation....RESIST!