Thursday, October 25, 2001

A chance to shape decisions on the government's future plans for the long-term storage of radioactive waste is to be offered to local people.

It is four years since the Nirex plan for a deep rock facility at Gosforth was thrown out but the problem of what to do with the UK's 10,000 tonnes of nuclear waste, most of it stored at Sellafield and Drigg, has not gone away.

The search for a suitable long-term storage location for intermediate-level waste is now firmly back on the agenda but the process is likely to take years.

Copeland Council is to consult with the public before drawing up a response to the new consultation paper on the issue which has come from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

It is an opportunity for people to have a central role in shaping decisions which have major implications for Copeland.

Consultation closes on March 12 next year and the council and the government want to engage local people in the process.

RWMAC, the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee, has advised the government that the previous practice of announcing a policy pathway and then trying to defend it is doomed to failure. It recommends that the public must be involved from the outset, not towards the end of policy implementation.

Between now and early February the council will be collecting views on how communities in Copeland feel about the future management of radioactive waste.

Background information will be given in Copeland Matters, a website will be set up, and its six Citizen Panels (in Millom, Sea-scale/Gosforth, Egremont, Cleator Moor, Whitehaven and Distington) will be consulted. The Local Agenda 21 Forum, parish councils and the Youth Council will also be asked to consider the issue.

The cost of all this will be around 5,000.

Coun Geoff Blackwell said Copeland's communities had the best knowledge of living and working with the nuclear industry and "we can't afford to let local people be marginalised in this.

"We have 50 years' experience of this industry and that is significant.''