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Allerdale GDF Working Group formed to discuss geological disposal of radioactive waste

January 14, 2021

Today in Allerdale, a Working Group has been formed to start local engagement on whether somewhere in Allerdale could be a suitable location for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for higher activity radioactive waste.

This is the first stage of the search for a suitable site and to understand the views of people across Allerdale about possibly hosting a GDF. It follows the formation of a GDF Working Group in Copeland in November.

The Working Group will include, among others, Allerdale Borough Council, Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), and private company GenR8 North Ltd.

A GDF will only be built where there is both a willing community and a suitable site. Establishing a Working Group is just the starting point for engaging with people in a process that will take several years. No potential site has been chosen and this first step is about engaging with people across the community and beginning to understand their views. It’s about looking to identify both a Search Area for further consideration and the initial membership for a larger Community Partnership that could take the discussion further with RWM. If a potentially suitable site were to be identified by a Community Partnership in due course, then the community around that site will get to choose if they want to host a GDF.

Jocelyn Manners-Armstrong, Independent Chair of the Allerdale GDF Working Group, said: “This is the beginning of a long process, and I want people to get involved from the very start to help to steer our way. A GDF in Allerdale could be a major boost to the area’s future prosperity and the skill base of its workforce. However, as a borough of outstanding natural beauty, with valuable habitats and cultural heritage, it’s also essential that any potential development doesn’t impact upon the things that make Allerdale a special place. That’s why it’s so important that the people of Allerdale have access to information, can ask questions and raise their issues and concerns before any decisions are made”

“I believe the Working Group needs a Chair who is committed to making sure that people are heard and able to participate and engage. I’m passionate about protecting our natural environment, and also about the sustainability of our communities, so I look forward to starting this process and meeting local people. As Independent Chair it’s my job to challenge, ask questions and ensure the process is rigorous, transparent and evidence based”.

Mark Walker, Director of GenR8 North Ltd said: “We came forward with a proposal to consider Allerdale and we’re clear that the National Park must be excluded. We don’t have a specific site in mind, but as the UK is going to build a GDF, we believe West Cumbria should get the opportunity to host it. We’re just kicking off the process – any future decision needs to be based on accurate, factual analysis of the geological conditions, and crucially, should be taken by local people”

“I think we owe it to our future generations to deliver a long-term sustainable solution for this waste. It’s a legacy we simply have to deal with and surface storage as we have today, mostly nearby at Sellafield, is only temporary. We want to see how a GDF could help secure the long-term economic, skills-based regeneration of West Cumbria. We shouldn’t underestimate the potential a project like this could have, particularly around unlocking investment in infrastructure and the development of sustainable skilled jobs”.

Councillor Marion Fitzgerald, Executive Member, Allerdale Borough Council, said: “Allerdale’s participation in the Working Group is not a signal that the council has decided that a GDF should come here, that will be for the people to decide. What we do want is to make sure that our residents are aware of what a GDF coming to Allerdale could mean for them in terms of the potential benefits associated with this national infrastructure project. This is a long-term project that could deliver significant long-term benefits in terms of investment in infrastructure, jobs and skills, that is why it is so important that our community has an opportunity to be involved in the process”.

All engagement information can be found at: allerdale.workinginpartnership.org.uk

ENDS

Media Contacts

Duncan Flint – RWM

Mobile: 07803495577

Email: [email protected]

Notes to editors

  1. A GDF would be made up of highly engineered vaults located deep underground designed to protect people and the environment and keep the radioactive waste safe and secure while the radioactivity naturally decays to safe levels.
  2. Successive UK Governments, supported by scientific advice, agree that this is the right long-term solution for our higher activity radioactive waste, and there is overwhelming international consensus, with similar programmes now underway in Canada, Finland, France, Sweden and Switzerland
  3. The independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management recommends that geological disposal, coupled with safe and secure interim storage, is the best available approach for the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste.
  4. The search for a host community is a nationwide process, based on community consent, and includes detailed investigations to make sure there is a suitable site to construct a safe and secure GDF. If the independent regulators don’t agree that a GDF can be designed, constructed and operated safely and securely in a location, then it won’t be built.

About the Allerdale Working Group

The Working Group in Allerdale is made up of an interested party (GenR8 North Ltd) which first asked RWM to consider whether there was any potential for a GDF to be located in the area, an independent Chair, independent facilitator, RWM and Allerdale Borough Council. The group will begin local discussions and fact-finding with the community.

Jocelyn Manners-Armstrong is the independent Chair of the Allerdale GDF Working Group. A former member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority for the past eight years, where she served as deputy Chair, Jocelyn is committed to the protection of the natural environment. Prior to this Jocelyn practiced as a corporate and commercial lawyer. Jocelyn has also run a national legal charity, supporting refugee organisations and served on boards of several charities, including a range of roles for Citizens Advice. She has also previously served as a lay member of the local health group of Morecambe Bay Primary Care Trust and as an independent member of Cumbria Police Authority. Jocelyn is also Chief Executive of a business and IT consultancy supporting customers in the IT and media sectors.

About the GDF siting Process

Establishing a Working Group is just the starting point for engaging with the community, in a process that will take several years. The Working Group will identify and propose a Search Area for further consideration in the search for potentially suitable sites, engage citizens across the community to begin to understand their views, and recruit initial members for a Community Partnership with RWM that could take the process further forward.

Setting up the longer-term Community Partnership will trigger access to an immediate £1 million per year of community investment funding, available for projects and initiatives that drive economic development of the area, improve the local environment, or community well-being.

This figure will increase to £2.5 million per year per community if deep borehole drilling investigations are undertaken, but the major benefit is how a GDF might help the community’s very long-term vision for itself. A key task for the Community Partnership therefore will be developing that vision, which can underpin future significant additional investment in the community that succeeds in hosting a GDF.

The relevant Principal Local Authorities on the Community Partnership can agree to withdraw the community at any point.  When ready, the relevant Principal Local Authorities on the Community Partnership will decide on a timeframe for seeking community agreement through a Test of Public Support (e.g. a local referendum, a formal consultation, or statistically representative polling).

About RWM

Radioactive Waste Management, formed in 2014, is responsible for geological disposal to manage higher activity waste in England and Wales by finding a willing community and suitable site to construct and operate a UK GDF for the long-term management of higher-activity radioactive waste. RWM is a public body and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.