Kings Cliffe: Radioactive waste disposal approved

Plans for low-level radioactive waste disposal to be allowed at a landfill site in Northamptonshire have been given the go-ahead by the government.

The decision for Kings Cliffe near Peterborough follows a two-year stand-off between the hazardous waste company Augean and campaigners.

Some 98% of people who voted in local referendums opposed the plans.

This was seen as a test case for waste companies and for the government's proclaimed localism commitment.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he had accepted expert advice that planning permission for this additional waste "would not be harmful to the local community".

Test case

Kings Cliffe Waste Watchers, who have been campaigning against the plan, reacted to the decision by saying it was disappointed that the wishes of local residents had been ignored by a minister who had "declared his commitment to local decision making".

BBC local government correspondent Mike Sergeant says the Kings Cliffe saga has been seen as a test of the government's commitment to localism - ie allowing local communities to make decisions rather than ministers and officials in Whitehall.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said Mr Pickles had taken account of the detailed findings of the planning inspector who had held a public local inquiry which was open and transparent to the public.

Northamptonshire county councillors had unanimously rejected the plan in March 2010.

Augean says the waste, which is mainly soil and rubble from old nuclear power stations, is very low-level radioactive. It says the amount of radiation emitted will be a small percentage of what we are exposed to naturally every day.

The Kings Cliffe Waste Watchers protest group said the decision was not just of local importance as it was a test case for the government, meaning it could be repeated across the country.

It believes the site will be taking construction rubble from decommissioned nuclear plants because the existing national low-level radioactive waste repository near the Sellafield nuclear plant at Drigg in Cumbria is filling up.

They say the Kings Cliffe landfill would be the first of its kind to take radioactive material from the nuclear industry, nowhere near any nuclear plant.

The residents of Kings Cliffe say an underground water source runs from below the landfill site and that a number of springs, pools and streams in the village could be contaminated.

They say their area, which is more than 90 miles from the nearest nuclear power station, has been unfairly singled out for the waste.

Our correspondent says the prospect of a new generation of nuclear power stations raises some difficult problems for the UK.

Old reactors

As old reactors are taken out of service, the demolition of surrounding buildings will produce a large amount of low-level radioactive waste.

It is not always possible to dispose of this on the site of the old power station or at existing hazardous waste facilities.

Kings Cliffe Waste Watchers said: "In overturning the decision of the county council, and the wishes of all local government organs, he [Mr Pickles] has hardly demonstrated the level of commitment expected from one who is trying to steer a localism bill through Parliament.

"We are also surprised that the government should consider the forcible disposal of nuclear waste in an area so evidently unprepared for it a positive approach to dealing with the decommissioning of nuclear facilities."

A DCLG spokesman said: "This is an existing landfill site which handles hazardous waste. Having considered all the evidence and representations, the minister has accepted the expert planning advice that granting a temporary planning permission for additional waste would not be harmful to the local community."

Corby MP Louise Bagshawe said: "This government has professed commitment to localism, we had a local referendum at the ballot box, not a petition, actual votes cast and 96% of people were against this dump.

"I will be asking the Secretary of State why his department has taken this appalling decision.

"This seems like a predetermined decision and I am deeply unhappy."

Dr Gene Wilson, from Augean, said: "We hope members of the local community, who have had reservations about these proposals, can be reassured that both the Secretary of State and the Environment Agency would not authorise permission for disposal of these wastes unless they were completely satisfied they present negligible risk to human health or the environment."

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