West Cumbria nuclear waste storage sites ruled out

West Cumbria map

West Cumbria is still in the running as a location for deep geologic storage of nuclear waste, according to a report.

The government is looking for a site to store the UK's high-level waste and Allerdale, Copeland and Cumbria councils expressed an interest.

A British Geological Survey study of Copeland and Allerdale aimed to rule out unsuitable areas.

The report highlighted some areas in the North West which should be excluded but the majority of it was clear.

The aim of the report, commissioned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc), was to find areas which were unsuitable based only on geological reasons such as the nature of underground metals or aquifers.

"This is a very early stage and any further, detailed assessment would only be made if a community decided that they want to participate further," a Decc spokesperson told BBC News.

Geological disposal would involve placing radioactive waste inside multi-barrier facilities deep inside a suitable rock formation.

Such geologic repositories are being used or are under construction in a number of countries in Europe and elsewhere.

However, for most nuclear nations of the world, a definitive solution to the storage of the longest-lasting waste is still a matter of debate.

'Tragic legacy'

Energy minister Charles Hendry said: "Today's report, commissioned from the British Geological Survey, is a step forward.

"The geological disposal facility site selection process is based on voluntarism and partnership and these results do not present any reason why West Cumbria cannot continue to consider whether or not to participate in that process."

The three councils set up the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Partnership so people in the area could take part in the process.

If the partnership decides it wants to continue being involved, a more detailed study will be carried out.

Greenpeace senior energy campaigner Ben Ayliffe said: "This report means that almost anywhere in the Lake District could become a dump for the UK's radioactive waste.

"It's hard to imagine a more tragic legacy to Britain's nuclear folly than vats of lethal nuclear waste being stored around Keswick or Scafell Pike.

"It's certainly not the sweeping vistas that would have inspired Wordsworth or Coleridge."

However, the Decc spokesperson stressed the early nature of the consultation process and that West Cumbria was not necessarily the eventual home of Britain's high-level waste.

"We are still in a position where if any other council or community in the country were to come forward, they could still be considered in the same way as these are."

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