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Solway Plain campaigners fight nuclear dump threat

Chris Graham and Kath Ostell

A group has been set up to fight what it fears is a plan to build a nuclear waste dump on the Solway Plain.

Solway Plain Against Nuclear Dump (Spand) was formed after more than 50 people attended an Allerdale council meeting seeking answers about the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely project.

It is holding public meetings and drop-in sessions to raise public awareness and has launched a petition against the dump.

Cumbria County Council, Allerdale council, Copeland council and other bodies have spent four years investigating the possibility of West Cumbria hosting an underground repository for high-level radioactive waste.

Twenty-five per cent of West Cumbria has already been ruled out as geologically unsuitable.

Although councillors have emphasised that no specific sites are being considered at this stage, campaigners believe they are looking at the Solway Plain.

Research by geologist Professor David Smythe has suggested that the most likely location would be in an area of rock strata known as Mercia Mudstone, in north Allerdale.

But he has raised concerns that the rock type, along with the rest of West Cumbria’s geology, is not suitable.

A map based on his findings suggests that could mean an underground repository covering an area slightly inland from Silloth and Skinburness, taking in Calvo, Blackdyke, Sea Dyke End, Causewayhead, Hayrigg, Kingside Hill and Abbey Cowper.

The anticipated footprint ranges from 2.32 square miles to 8.88 square miles.

The entrance tunnel could be up to 10km to allow a suitable slope for access.

A core opposition group of 16 people was formed, which has now attracted nearly 100 volunteers, following concern about Allerdale council’s approach on the matter.

Chris Graham, of Eastcote Farm, Silloth, said: “We decided that we had to do something because Allerdale council was definitely not going to do anything.

“We are not an anti-nuclear group. We understand the need for nuclear now and in the future and that we need to do something with the waste.

“Nowhere in any of the consultations had it been said that one of the proposed locations was going to be the Solway Plain.

“Other areas in the country have more suitable geology but they’re being allowed not to have it.

“We have a responsibility to future generations.”

Kath Ostell, of Skinburness Road, Silloth, said: “It’s down to the safety of the geology.

“If this repository goes ahead it won’t just affect Cumbria; it will be nationwide and ultimately worldwide.”

Spand members do not believe the councils’ assurances and attended a meeting in Cockermouth to hear more from Prof Smythe.

Spand’s inaugural public meeting on October 3 attracted more than 200 people.

Since then it has produced information leaflets, posters, a website and held drop-in events.

Kath added: “It was obvious that most of Silloth knew nothing about it.”

A petition against the dump has been set up on the Government’s website and in local shops.

Further public meetings will be held on November 21 at The Wave Centre in Maryport and on November 22 at Solway Community School, both at 7pm, with Prof Smythe and Prof Stuart Haszeldine, who has also provided information to objectors.

County council leader Eddie Martin applauded Spand’s efforts, calling it “democracy in action”.

He added: “It is most important to stress that we are certainly not planning to build a waste repository or even to give permission to build one.

“The question is whether we are prepared to allow a desktop study of the area to take place.”

The three councils have deferred their decision on whether to proceed to the next stage while they seek clarification about a host of issues. They are due to decide on January 30.

Have your say

The government is desperate for a "solution" ...Cumbria's only chance of preventing a nuclear dump is for movers and shakers to stop faffing trying to please government and start OPPOSING. Wherever the dump would be is close to EVERYWHERE In Cumbria, try drawing a 25km square on a map of Cumbria and see for yourself. More people power to SILLOTH, KESWICK WORKINGTON , COCKERMOUTH, KENDAL...

Posted by Marianne on 7 November 2012 at 16:43

I suspose these people would love to see Sellafield close down as well, which in my opinion would kill west cumbria off. The fact is, if it was not for the nuclear industry west cumbrian would be a dump and on the whole a ghost town.
We need the N-Dump, it will create jobs for the next 100 years and will help our local economy

Posted by Rockerlad on 5 November 2012 at 20:23

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