The cabinet of Copeland Borough Council voted by six votes to one yesterday to proceed to stage four of the MRWS process to try to find a more permanent solution to the disposal of the 200 tonnes of plutonium oxide and other radioactive by-products which are already here in West Cumbria.
However, the county council's cabinet voted seven to three against continuing the process.
The national media lost interest in Allerdale council's decision as soon as Cumbria CC voted against but I understand that Allerdale's executive voted by five to two in favour.
Hugh Branney was the one Copeland cabinet member who voted against stage four, which will undoubtedly make him a hero in the eyes of some and a villain in the eyes of others.
The decision did not split on party political lines.
I've made no secret that I think it would have been in the county's interest and Britain's interests to proceed to stage four so that we could have established whether the geology for a deep repository in Copeland or Allerdale is right. Nobody I know was arguing that such a repository should go ahead if proper investigation did not confirm first that the geology was suitable on the proposed site and all the key players agreed that there should be a local referendum first.
I'm not going to criticise any of the councillors over this as they have all done a thankless task in investigating the options and been subject to a great deal of pressure, some of which has gone well over the line.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Leila Deen gave the game away about the real agenda of some of the groups campaigning against stage four shortly after the vote when she told Sky news
"This decision represents yet
another major blow for the Government's attempts to force the construction of
costly nuclear power plants.
"Even the Prime Minister admits we need a plan to store waste before we can
build a single new plant.
"This decision shows that dumping waste in uncertain geology near one of the
country's most pristine national parks is not a solution.
"Ministers must now reconsider their nuclear ambitions and turn their
attention instead to clean, sustainable and renewable energy."
So she is now using this vote on waste as an argument to block nuclear new build.
The problem with linking the two issues is that even if there are no nuclear power stations - which leaves us with the unenviable choice of power cuts or depending on that nice Mr Putin to sell of lots of gas when the wind isn't blowing at the right speed for the wind turbines - we still have to put the two hundred tons of plutonium oxide and hundreds of tons of nuclear by-products which are already stored in West Cumbria somewhere.
A depressing number of people campaigning against the result or indulging in ill-informed celebration at the results have written things like "This nuclear toxic and highly dangerous radioactive waste is neither wanted or needed in our county." to quote one of the comments left on the Whitehaven News site.
Get real. The waste is here now and even some of the protesters - the ones with any pretensions to honesty or responsibility - admitted that if we don't build an underground repository we will have to build a more permanent surface one.
There is talk in some parts of Cumbria other than Copeland about sending the waste elsewhere, and the government has now said they will talk to other communities about the advantages of hosting a geological disposal facility - but here we run into the problem created by the so called "Green" party and Greenpeace campaign.
Suppose the government does start a similar process in another part of the country, which I can see that to avoid looking like they're not serious about local choice they almost have to try to do.
Did you hear Greenpeace or the Green party promise not to run a campaign like the one they've just run in Cumbria in any other place where a nuclear facility of any kind is proposed? Me neither.
Does anyone seriously believe that a proposal to put nuclear waste in any other part of the country would not be almost certain to be derailed by such a campaign?
And it such a proposal is blocked by the sort of campaign we have just seen in Cumbria, or never gets off the ground in the first place, that brings us right back to square one and the original question, what do we do with the hundreds of tons of nuclear by-products which we already have here in Cumbria?
So I'm not ignoring the results of a democratic vote, but simply reflecting reality, when I say that this issue is not going to go away.
The secretary of state, Ed Davey, issued the following press statement after the Copeland and CCC votes (and presumably before the Allerdale one):
Cumbria County Council has voted to withdraw from the process to find a host community for an underground radioactive waste disposal facility.
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.”