Thursday, March 07, 2002

A ten billion pound 'carrot' should be put on the table by the government to attract areas willing to accommodate the nation's nuclear waste, says a Copeland councillor.

Coun Mike McVeigh (Lab) said it would provide a starting point for negotiation over the issue and be preferable to endless rhetoric.

The Egremont councillor said that when there was government money available for various help schemes, councils throughout the country had to bid for it, some were successful, some were not. He felt the nuclear waste issue could be offered along similar lines and local authorities, which wished, could come forward to express an interest.

"If this is such a lucrative issue, if there is money available then it should be on offer to all.''

Coun Mike Graham (Con) said it was brave of Coun McVeigh to make such a statement. "We in Copeland are often being accused of not saying what we want. Councils need to know what to bid for. I think a sum of 10billion is right.''

The council was debating the subject of radioactive waste as part of its response to DEFRA's public consultation on the subject.

The council says that just because most of the nation's radioactive waste was already at Sellafield it does not mean that it should remain in Copeland, in perpetuity.

The council does not recognise the term public acceptability in the context of West Cumbria. The waste is not here because the community exercised some choice in the matter. It did not.

And despite the jobs, hosting nuclear waste seriously inhibits the economic growth prospectes of the borough.

The council is calling for a new national independent advisory body, reporting to government, but based in Copeland and accountable to the public.

Coun Geoff Blacklock (Lab) said it was important that Copeland had a major voice. "We are the local community dealing with a national problem.''

It was important that any successor organisation to Nirex, the Liabilities Management Authority (LMA) be based in Copeland.

Coun David Moore (Con) said there should be a tax on nuclear waste and it should be payable to the local community and Coun Graham said BNFL had "got us on the cheap.''

"We have got nuclear waste here let's use that to our advantage.''

Coun Brian Cottier (Lab) said "We've got to fight NIMBYism. We don't want a repeat of the fiasco with Nirex.''

The government has been looking for a radioactive waste disposal site since 1979 and councillors wondered how many other councils were today having a similar debate to theirs; they suspected it was none.

The council has to respond to the government review by March 12