A Copeland parliamentary candidate has refused to rule out the idea of underground nuclear bunkers “close to Sellafield” to store high-level radioactive waste.

Labour’s Tony Lywood, Conservative Trudy Harrison, Liberal Democrat John Studholme and the Green Party’s Jack Lenox – were quizzed about whether they thought there should be such a repository in the borough.

The question at a recent hustings event in Whitehaven came a year after the Government launched its search for a host community for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), seeking expressions of interest nationwide.

Labour’s Tony Lywood pointed out that Sellafield is already home to the “largest repository of Plutonium in the world”, adding: “We continued to produce it long after it was needed, and we have to deal with it. There is also a huge amount of high-level waste.

“The reality is: what are you going to do with this stuff? It’s not good to have it just sitting there in silos.  And so, if there is a Geological Disposal Facility, it would need to be close to Sellafield.

“I also don’t think it would be a good idea to get rid of the Plutonium because this stuff might be used by future generations for power production.

“I’m not going to rule out the idea that we do need a Geological Disposal Facility near to Sellafield for high level nuclear waste, but ultimately this comes down to the geology.”

Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison said it “wasn’t for a politician” to decide such a question, which would be determined by “geology and engineering”.

She said: “Certainly, it is the responsibility of this generation to deal with the legacy waste that is left over from the Cold War, and it is absolutely essential that we do so safely and sustainably.

“That decision needs to come down to the experts who understand the geology and the radioactive implications for the future. We shouldn’t be leaving it to future generations”.

Liberal Democrat candidate John Studholme described the issue as a “technical” one, requiring the advice of experts before the “right decision” was taken.

He said: “You have to make sure that you get the community behind you and explain the technicalities to the public and spend a lot of time doing that.

“But I don’t think it’s enough to say: ‘We don’t want it here’.

“A lot of it is here already, and the shorter distance it has to travel, the safer. But you have to convince the community by a big majority”.

The Green Party’s Jack Lenox gave a firm “no” to the idea of a nuclear waste repository in Copeland.

He said: “There was a study carried out of the whole of the UK, trying to identify the best spots for doing this sort of waste storage facility and they identified some of the best places as central London. And I wonder why wouldn’t want to put it there?

The GDF plans caused huge controversy in West Cumbria when first mooted, before being rejected by the county council in 2013.

Public opinion was split at the time, with geologists and environmental campaigners making impassioned pleas to reject the plans.