I attended as a member of the public for part of the West Cumbria MRWS partnership meeting in Cleator this afternoon.
This body has been set up to bring together organisations with an interest in whether the councils in West Cumbria apply to host a new Nuclear Waste repository. It has been set up to advise on whether to make a "Decision to Participate" and will wind up when that decision is made.
(It was an all day meeting, and I was not in a position to attend the whole day, so I went to the session on Public and Stakeholder Engagement which began at lunchtime.)
Positive reactions - pleased to see a wide range of relevant authorities, interest groups and experts there, providing skills from economics to geology. Both Copeland and Allerdale councils were represented, as were Parish councils, and the NDA. The people running the session bent over backwards to get every view represented. They were also serious about trying to get genuine engagement with local people and carry the community along with whatever decision is made.
Negative reactions: I was disappointed that Cumbria County Council is not taking part, despite an invitation. I also felt that a number of participants were too quick to dismiss the idea of a referendum on whether we should have a repository.
There may well be some people reading this, especially from outside Cumbria, who cannot understand how I could possibly consider the option of supporting a nuclear waste respository in my constituency. The answer is very simple, specific to West Cumbria, and should be met head on.
We already have a hundred tons of plutonium oxide stored in Copeland, and many more tons of low level waste. West Cumbria is already looking after the great majority of Britain's existing nuclear waste.
Enormous efforts have been invested in making sure that this waste is safely stored from both the security and environmental perspectives. Nevertheless, after detailed consideration of the issues of geology, transport, security and safety, it is very possible that even from a NIMBY point of view, a properly designed underground Long Term repository for this nuclear waste may be a significant improvement on the status quo.
But there must be clear and transparent public consultation so that the local community can be assured of exactly what is happening and that their safety is paramount. That is part of what today's meeting was intended to be about.
It will be many years before the necessary work has been done to permit any firm decisions to be taken.