Is Cumbria digging itself into a hole over nuclear waste?
Chris Jackson standing on top of nuclear waste storage facility at Sellafield
At the moment 70% of the UK's high level waste is stored above ground at Sellafield. It's under cover in a special part of the site, but this is not the long term solution as some of today's waste will remain radioactive for up to 100,000 years.
When you look at the timeline of our planet you get a feel of just how long that is; a mere 30,000 years ago Neanderthal man became extinct.
In a special documentary on BBC1 at 19:30 GMT, Monday 08 October 2012 I will be looking at how Cumbria is considering putting itself forward as the place to build the UK's underground nuclear waste repository.
The government has been asking for communities to volunteer to have the store under their feet. So far Cumbria has been the only area to come up with a credible bid, but even so it has concerns.
Allerdale, Copeland and the County Council were all due to make a decision this week on whether to press ahead, but at the last minute they and the government agreed to postpone the decision while they thrash out the detail.
Questions that need answering include:
- Can the councils get a legally binding clause so they could pull out at any stage in the future?
- Just what benefits can the county expect in return for saying yes?
For the programme I visited Finland
70% of the UK's high level waste is at Sellafield
Several towns said yes, and at Eurajoki close to an exisiting nuclear power station, they have already dug down to 420 metres and are about to apply for a licence to store the waste.
Hundreds of mini tunnels will be built and along each several copper cylinders of radioactive waste will be lowered into individual holes bored into the rock and will be surrounded by bentonite clay.
It's a triple layer of protection that is designed to keep it safe until it is no longer radioactive. Engineers are having to plan for all eventualities, including another ice age.
Interestingly the Finnish store is close to Rauma - a world heritage site, so it appears the Nordic approach is that you can have the nuclear and tourist industries cheek by jowel.
That is something those in Cumbria's tourist industry are having to contemplate - could the Lake District be compromised if the county gets a reputation as Britain's nuclear dumping ground?
The three councils in Cumbria will now wait until January to make up their mind whether to give the project the green light.
Romar Innovate supplies nuclear safety equipment
Safety will be at the forefront of the concerns and the councils also want extra cash to promote Cumbria to offset any adverse publicity a nuclear waste store might bring to one of our most beautiful counties.
Faced with making a choice that will have an impact lasting thousands of generations there's no doubt that this is one the county will want to get right.
Here's a preview of tonight's film:
Read more about the background the decision on the BBC News website.