Cumbria's nuclear decision has 100,000 year legacy

Chris Jackson on top of high level nuclear waste at Sellafield Chris Jackson on top of high level nuclear waste at Sellafield

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There is something rather strange about standing right on top of one of the most toxic substances known to man.

Beneath each of those yellow circles is a container of vitrified high level nuclear waste.

It's the end product of Britain's nuclear programme and will remain radioactive for the next 100,000 years.

On the one hand it's deadly, on the other it can be contained and managed so that humans can be within close proximity.

Where it is right now is just a temporary fix.

It's housed above ground at Sellafield in Cumbria, but what the government would really like to do bury it deep underground - forever.

It has asked councils across the UK to volunteer to become the home of the subterranean repository.

Of the few that initially put themselves forward only Cumbria is still happy to be considered.

Crunch decision

On Wednesday three councils; Copeland, Allerdale and Cumbria County, will make their minds up whether to go to the next stage - geological investigations to see if the potential sites are indeed suitable.

Cumbria's nuclear dividend

Sellafield nuclear site
  • £365m in wages alone
  • £2bn into local economy
  • £1.5m from government for local projects
  • £4.5m from Sellafield companies for community projects

The councillors were due to come to a decision last year but asked for a delay - this week is crunch time for Cumbria's nuclear waste dump vote.

Some think a "yes" is a forgone conclusion given how vital the nuclear industry is to Cumbria's economy.

The government has reassured the councils that saying 'yes' now still leaves the door open for them to pull out in the future.

Nevertheless some fear that once this next stage is approved it would start a ball rolling whose momentum could not be stopped.

Either one or both of the district councils saying 'yes' is not enough, the county has to agree as well.

It's hard to imagine any local representative on any council having to take a more important decision.

The potential consequences will be felt for the following 100,000 years.

In tonight's Inside Out programme we've been looking at those who'll have to bear the responsibility of making that call and the pressures they're under.

Last year I travelled to Finland to see what an underground store might look like as they have already built their underground test facility. I wrote about it in an earlier blog.

Whatever sleepless nights the councillors may have had, it may yet be nature that decides the final outcome.

If the Cumbrian rock isn't up to scratch the government will have to look elsewhere.

With no other volunteers on the cards it's hard to see what plan B might be.

Inside Out can be seen at 19:30 GMT on BBC One on Monday, 28 January, 2013

Chris Jackson Article written by Chris Jackson Chris Jackson Presenter, Inside Out, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    No doubt a large number of complaints will be made.

    The BBC and whoever let this advertorial through at the time of a critical vote won't come out well from this

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I've never been so outraged by a piece of "investigative journalism" presented by the BBC. A great opportunity to present a balance of arguments on the single most important issue affecting Cumbria. But it failed completely. You have tomorrow evening to present the reasons why over 20,000 residents have already voted No. That would be the decent and correct act of a supposedly objective BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    An unbelievably biased view. Cumbria's economy is far more than just 'West Cumbria'. What about the wider views of the thousands employed by the Lake District tourist industry, or the residents of Cumbria as a whole. I used to believe the BBC was an impartial wrong can you be. We expect and deserve better from the BBC. Or is more evidence of a 'Done deal,'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I'm appalled by the poor journalism that has been shown by the BBC regarding this story, but perhaps, like the population of Cumbria, you've only recently learned very little about this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I can only hope that there will be coverage tomorrow to balance out today's one sided programme.
    People, who are not against the nuclear industry being in West Cumbria, have very good reason to be highly alarmed by the proposal to site a GDF there. The geology is wrong and the required surveying work will be costly and damaging. What protection will be available to the potential host communities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Pretty weird to ignore the industry that employs 57,000 people in that report. The vast majority of tourism businesses and associations oppose the dump and you forgot to mention that?

    How about forgetting to mention the extensive drilling in a national park or AONB - forgot that too huh?

    He about forgetting to mention the faulted geology and rapid groundwater flow?

    Very poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    A disgusting piece of one-sided reporting, ignoring the true significance of these an area that is geologically unsound for underground storage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    No suspicions that we might be told that the geology is suitable, or perhaps the nuclear industry's engineers are "wise" enough to work around the poor geology ensuring our safety? No mention that the primary factor to avoid in siting a nuclear repository is “No Relief” i.e. no hills, lakes, rivers? No mention that suitable geology has been found in the south of England?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Tonights Inside Out show was a typical piece of BBC propaganda, completely biased and one sided. What about the suspect Geology, the inevitable environmental damage,the 57000 jobs related to tourism and the £2.2billion it generates. What about the views of the rest of the county. This programme only focused on the few financial benefits of the nuclear industry and not the real issues. Appalling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    What a first class bit of propaganda that the nuclear industry itself could not have bettered.
    Even representatives of the NDA have admitted that they are not expecting to find an ideal site and will have to rely on engineering solutions to compensate for geological deficiencies. A site with the safest geology is required - we owe that to countless future generations. Low topography and clay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Hmm, watched Inside Out, earlier this evening. Not exactly reporting both sides of the debate to say the least. Hope Look North report tomorrow gives the other side of the story. Very poor BBC. However, at least now I know what my local MP looks like !

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    No interest in billions of tax payer's money being spent on geological seismological investigation of the valley involving hundreds of controlled explosions? And, should these billions confirm the geology is not suitable, are we really to believe that the Nuclear industry will look elsewhere?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Strange that there was no mention of the environmental risks, the likelihood of jobs and business lost in the tourism industry, or the fact that they are considering doing this within a national park. Hardly unbiased BBC reporting! Let's have the other side too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Does the BBC see no value in a story about the most pollution-free valley of the UK's first National Park being closed to the public and threatened with removal from the park? No interest in Big Business being able to build roads into said valley and up the fell side? No interest in the threatened SSSIs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I have just watched the Inside Out program and am shocked. What about
    - the 18,000 people who've signed petitions to say "No"?
    - the geology being unsuitable so a depository would be unsafe?
    - the effect on the tourist industry in the Lake District?
    - areas of the Lake District National Park being considered as sites?
    - that communities have been "volunteered" without consultation?
    Try again

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Oh and by the way, when are you going to remove the shamelessly biased advert for Cumbria's nuclear dividend on this page? You really are pushing their agenda aren't you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    This was the worst piece of journalism I have ever seen on the BBC and it comes just 2 days before a vote of critical importance. The BBC has failed entirely to present both sides of the debate, choosing instead to produce an advertorial for the nuclear industry.

    This imbalance must be corrected on tomorrow's Look North programme. If you fail to do, you will have failed the Cumbrian people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The issue at hand with the repository vote on Wed is potentially the single most important decision our councillors will ever make. It deserves a completely balanced presentation of the facts and views, especially from the BBC. Instead, it was the most biased BBC programme I have ever seen and neglected the many simple, opposing facts entirely. Terrible journalism and a disgrace to the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    This was a blatant PR Exercise and clearly designed to affect the vote on Wednesday. Emotive subjects children's activity center, the Haigh Pit, The Lifeboat, Rosehill Theatre all paid by Sellafield. But this isn't relevant the NDA & the Government are building the GDF not Sellafield. Thet way it was presented was biased and the Look North Clips just had the sound bites. Shame on You!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I am appalled at this biased, poorly researched programme, well below the standard the public expect. The issue presented as merely about a Sellafield new build. Opposition to the nuclear dump is NOT anti-nuclear power, but against geologically unsound dump being built in Lake District National Park or Silloth AONB at great risk to the environment, existing tourism industry & its 30,000 jobs.


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