Unite calls for more Cumbria radioactive store talks

Image caption Much of the country's nuclear waste is currently stored at Sellafield where more than 9,000 people work

Union leaders have called for a "full and proper" investigation into the possibility of building an underground nuclear waste site in Cumbria.

Councils will decide next week whether to conduct feasibility studies for the radioactive repository.

Unite, which represents staff at the Sellafield plant, gave its backing ahead of a public meeting in Carlisle on Friday.

Opponents said continuing the process would be "illogical and wasteful".

Allerdale and Copeland borough councils and Cumbria County Council are due to vote on 30 January on whether to proceed to "Stage 4" of the process that could see the repository built.

The collective is the only group in the country still considering hosting the waste.

Detailed safety, environmental and geological assessments would take place if at least one of the borough councils and the county council voted in favour.

'Positive and negative'

The proposed facility could be up to four times the size of Sellafield and take 15 years to build.

Unite national officer Kevin Coyne said progressing to the next stage did not mean committing to the project.

"What the workers at Sellafield want is a full and proper investigation into the feasibility of such a facility in Cumbria," he said.

"Only then can we consider how best to proceed. Britain has been searching for a national waste repository for over 30 years.

"In the meantime, Sellafield workers have the responsibility of looking after most of this radioactive waste. It is not going to go away."

A petition opposing the plans has been signed by 16,000 people.

Campaign group Solway Plain Against Nuclear Dump (Spand) said it respected Unite's viewpoint but any decision to proceed was "not one to be taken lightly".

'Damage the brand'

Continuing the search for a site in Cumbria would be "illogical and wasteful", the group said.

It added that previous assessments had found the area unsuitable.

"Over the last year the Cumbrian public have gone from 80% knowing little or nothing about the plan, to a significant majority now opposing it," the Spand statement said.

"For a process which is supposed to be voluntary, it feels a long way from that."

Copeland MP Jamie Reed said advancing to Stage 4 would allow a full debate.

The West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership, which was set up to manage the discussion process, said there could be "positive and negative impacts" in its final report.

The Lake District National Park Authority has warned the government an underground facility would damage the popular tourist destination's brand.

MPs, scientists and industry leaders will discuss the issue later.

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