Response to Cumbria nuclear waste vote

Cumbria County Council has voted to withdraw from the process to find a host community for an underground radioactive waste disposal facility. This is the response of the Energy Secretary.

Copeland Borough Council voted in favour of remaining in the process to identify a host community for a geological disposal facility. However, it has previously been agreed that parties at both Borough and County level needed to vote positively in order for the process to continue in west Cumbria. As such, the current process will be brought to a close in west Cumbria.

The Government will now embark on a renewed drive to ensure that the case for hosting a GDF is drawn to the attention of communities, and to encourage further local authorities to come forward over the coming years to join the process.

The Government will also reflect on the experience of the process in west Cumbria, and will talk to the local authorities themselves and others who have been involved to see what lessons can be learned.  No changes to the current approach will be introduced without further public consultation.

Responding to the Councillors’ decisions, Edward Davey, Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, said:

“We respect the decision made today by Cumbria councillors. They have invested a great deal of time in this project and have provided valuable lessons on how to take forward this process in future. While their decision to withdraw is disappointing, Cumbria will continue to play a central role in the energy and nuclear power sectors.

“We are clear that nuclear power should play a key role in our future energy mix, as it does today. I am confident that the programme to manage radioactive waste safely will ultimately be successful, and that the decisions made in Cumbria today will not undermine prospects for new nuclear power stations.

“It is however absolutely vital that we get to grips with our national nuclear legacy. The issue has been kicked into the long-grass for far too long.

“We remain firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of radioactive waste. We also remain committed to the principles of voluntarism and a community-led approach.

“The fact that Copeland voted in favour of entering the search for a potential site for a GDF demonstrates that communities recognise the benefits associated with hosting such a facility.

“For any host community there will be a substantial community benefits package, worth hundreds of millions of pounds. That is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and major investment that such a huge infrastructure project could bring.

“We will now embark on a renewed drive to ensure that the case for hosting a GDF is drawn to the attention of other communities.”

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