Well, that’s it decided at last – Cumbria County Council is no longer putting itself forward as a possible site for a nuclear waste repository. When this was debated at full Council in September, I urged the Council to withdraw from the process. The Council’s Cabinet (who alone can make the decision) had one go at reaching a decision, and failed. It really could not be put off any longer.
Members were offered a two minute slot for speeches. I was surprised at how few turned up for the event – possibly one of the most significant decisions the County will ever make. I again spoke in favour of withdrawal:
Chair, you opened this session with comments about the quantity and quality of lobbying that Cabinet members had experienced over the past few months. My own inbox has been groaning under the weight of emails – my personal low when I got an long and detailed email about radioactive underpants.
There are two key issues here. Firstly, we are talking about looking for somewhere to dig a hole in the ground. This is geology. Fortunately, there is no dispute over the geology here. The Lake District is an area of complex geology. No argument. The International Atomic Energy Agency tell us, you shouldn’t start your search for a repository site in areas of complex geology. No argument. Why? It makes the search longer, more expensive, more likely to end in failure, or to result in a marginally suitable site.
This is fundamental – this complexity cannot be bought out by community benefit; neither can it be “voluntarised” away.
Voluntarism – this Orwellian word for what we used to call simply “democracy”. I think the Chair expressed everyone’s frustration in Council that the MRWS decision could not be taken by full Council. That would be simple democracy.
You will all remember our voteless debate in September in full Council. We suspended standing orders to ensure any member who wanted a say, could have it. As the debate progressed, I made a note. Every time a member spoke in favour of MRWS proceeding, I recorded a tick. When a member spoke against, I made a cross. At the end of the long day, I had over three times as many crosses – don’t proceed – as ticks – proceed. We may have been prevented from taking a vote of all members of the Council, but we all know what the result would have been. That is simple democracy.
Well, the hurly burly’s nearly done, and soon you will have to choose one of the four options in the paper. Forget all the noise issues – put radioactive underpants out of your heads – and focus on the two key considerations – complex geology, and simple democracy. On both counts, select option 4, and decide not to participate.
Let’s hope we can now move on, have a proper national debate about UK energy strategy, and most important of all, get some investment to prevent the current nuclear waste storage facilities deteriorating even further.