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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Bowness protesters voice repository fears

CAMPAIGNERS turned out in force to protest against Cumbria becoming “the world’s biggest nuclear dump site”.

The protesters descended upon Bowness with placards and petitions on Saturday to raise awareness ahead of a decision due to be made by three Cumbrian councils over whether or not to remain in the running to be the site for a repository for high-level nuclear waste.

Cumbria County Council, along with Allerdale and Copeland borough councils, are considering whether the area still wants to be considered as a potential below-ground repository.

A vote is due to take place on January 30.

The campaigners are concerned that geological activity over recent years, including a number of small earthquakes, means there would be potential for a leak at the repository.

Iain McNicol, a historian from Ulverston, said that in the 1890s there was an earthquake that was “strong enough to knock down a wall”.

Marianne Birkby, from Radiation Free Lakeland, organised the protest at Bowness.

She said: “We are here to ask Cumbria County Council to say ‘no’.”

At the protest, campaigners asked the public to sign a huge postcard which will be presented to the county council’s cabinet.

Placards created by protesters read “NOT a willing community”, and “Would they let this happen down south?”

In a letter to council leader Eddie Martin, Radiation Free Lakeland wrote: “Your decision will speak for the whole of Cumbria, which has been misrepresented as a ‘willing community’. To say yes would mean unquantifiable damage to the brand of Cumbria.”

Ms Birkby said the Nirex inquiry, which was published 16 years ago about a previous proposal for a waste depository in Cumbria, showed the land was unsuitable.

The activist, from Milnthorpe, said: “It was a smaller proposal then. Now Cumbria County Council have opened the door.”

Ms Goldie added: “It is ridiculous. We have been through this before.”

Chris Loynes, of Ulverston Green Party, said: “ This is important for us in the Green Party and us in Ulverston.”

Mr Loynes said he also feared the South Lakes would be directly affected if there were a leak at a repository.

Protestor Fiona Goldie said: “I didn’t actually realise it was an imminent threat. I hadn’t been aware a decision was being made.”

The campaigner, from Carlisle, said that it forced her to spring into action to “save the Lakes” and set up the Facebook group “3 Weeks to Save the Lakes” to raise awareness.

Within a week of the page being set up, the site had received 500 likes and around 10,000 views.

Ms Goldie has urged the public to sign an online petition before it closes in a week’s time.

The 43-year-old said: “I wanted to take things further and galvanise the opposition.

“I felt pretty helpless — reposting on Facebook is not enough — and a lot of people will have seen this and ignored the petitions because they didn’t realise it was quite such an imminent threat.”

She added that she believed a nuclear repository would “destroy the Lakes”.

Ms Goldie will be attending the councils’ vote in Carlisle on January 30 to show her opposition to the plans.

The protest was also attended by campaigners from outside Cumbria, who fear any leak would affect their water supply.

Margaret Morton travelled from Lancaster.

She said: “It is bigger than just Cumbria.”

The former education manager is concerned that the water supply in Lancashire would be affected if there was a leak at the repository.

The 59-year-old added: “Land and water are what we need on the most basic level.”

Saturday’s protest followed a public meeting in Keswick on January 11, attended by more than 500 people.

That meeting heard from geologists and representatives of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Geologist Professor David Smythe drew on details in NDA documents and concluded that two main rock types in West Cumbria could be considered for hosting a repository – the Mercia mudstone under the Solway Plain and the Ennerdale and Eskdale granite in Copeland.

But he warned that in Copeland, a huge industrial project would be needed to assess the rock within the national park.

Geologist Dr Jeremy Dearlove, who previously worked for the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership, told the meeting that he thought both areas had a low chance of being suitable.

But Alun Ellis, repository director for the NDA, said no specific sites had yet been identified.

He added: “The community in West Cumbria has decided to embark on this process. It’s not something we need to have a fight about; it’s something we need to have a dialogue about.”

Have your say

Good article this. But I have to say I think there'll be more than a 'small industrial estate' on the surface. There'll be barracks, spoil heaps, loading bays and hangers for equipment, offices, a visitor center, widened roads, parking, security fences, pump houses and generators... and a protest site outside... All in the Lake District National Park. I believe it's shameful to even suggest of it.

Posted by Mary D on 23 January 2013 at 23:04

It really is incredible how this has all been kept so quiet for so long. My father's farm looks to be in the centre of one of the proposed sites at Silloth and the first he knew about it was from an article on the front of the local free newspaper. It is shocking how few people in the area have been informed or consulted about this, yet councillors are going to vote on their behalf in just a few days.

Posted by Janice on 22 January 2013 at 16:45

View all 7 comments on this article

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