Survey shows majority support for MRWS process

The results of the consultation about whether Copeland, Allerdale and Cumbria should take part on the process for find a long term solution for the safe management of radioactive waste were presented in public at a meeting in Whitehaven last week.

A survey commissioned as part of the consultation showed that a majority of responses from Cumbria as a whole, and a large majority of responses from Copeland, supported taking part in that process. (See note at bottom of this post.)

Full details of the consultation responses can be found online at the MRWS (Managing Radioactive Waster Safely) website at

Despite the silly publicity stunts from the Anti-Nuclear lobby, and the much more reasonable concerns of people who are afraid that their immediate localities might be proposed as sites for a repository and do not think the areas concerned suitable, I am quite sure that the consultation responses do reflect majority opinion on the specific questions asked.

Which were about taking part in the next stage of the process, and not about committing to any specific proposal for a repository in West Cumbria at this stage.

As is pointed out on the MRWS website, "If the area does decide to participate in this process, there would be extensive testing of geology and other factors. It could take around 15 years to find out if there is a suitable site. Local people would also continue to be involved and the Councils would have the right to withdraw while this work is taking place."

It is my opinion that if and when a firm proposal does come forward it should be the subject of a plebiscite in the relevant district area.

But despite the "stop the world, I want to get off" hysterics from those who oppose any or all nuclear proposal of whatever kind, it is in the best interests of Cumbria that the advantages and disadvantages of a respository should be further explored.

Whether we like it or not - and I fully accept that many people don't - the nuclear waste already exists. Whether or not we build new nuclear power stations, we already have the radioactive by products from the nuclear operations of the past sixty years to deal with. And that material is already here in West Cumbria. Starting with more than a hundred tons of plutonium oxide in the containment facility at Sellafield.

I have been shown round the Plutonium containment facility. It is probably the most secure location in the British Isles and makes Fort Knox look like a cardboard box in comparison.  In the unlikely event that Al Queda managed to hijack a couple of Jumbo Jets and crash them into that facility, even such an attack would not result in the rupture of any of the storage vessels.

Nevertheless, when we have tons of radioactive material stored in West Cumbria, it makes sense to examine options for long term storage, and whether any of those options are preferable to the present arrangements. In fact, I would argue that it would be downright irresponsible not to carry out such an investigation.

Let's not kid ourselves that there are any easy answers. And let's make sure that if West Cumbria does agree to host a repository, we get a much better deal out of if than has sometimes been the case in the past.

But refusing to consider any other options simply means that the nuclear waste in Cumbria will stay right where it is now.


Polling company Ipsos MORI surveyed more than 3,000 resident adults in Cumbria on behalf of the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Partnership.

The results show that 51% of people in the area covered by Allerdale Borough Council supported taking part in the search for a suitable site for a deep underground disposal facility for higher activity radioactive waste compared with 37% who were opposed. 4% said they were neutral and 8% said they did not know.

In the area covered by Copeland Borough Council 68% of people supported taking part in the search for a suitable site for a deep underground disposal facility for higher activity radioactive waste compared with 23% who were opposed. 4% said they were neutral and 5% said they did not know.

In the rest of Cumbria 50% of people said they supported Allerdale and/or Copeland taking part in the search for a site for a repository compared with 35% who were opposed. 5% said they were neutral and 10% said they did not know.


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