Cumbrian residents back nuclear repository site

An underground repository site for nuclear waste may be built in Cumbria after figures released today showed that 53 per cent of Cumbrian residents were happy to enter into formal talks with government about building the site. Polling company Ipsos MORI surveyed more than 3,000 West Cumbrian residents on behalf of the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership (MRWS) to see what public opinion was for potentially searching for a site in the area.

The poll focused on West Cumbria as this was the only British region to volunteer to host the controversial site in 2006, after the government first gauged interest in building a UK repository site. Currently, all nuclear waste in the UK is held in surface-level stores around the UK. The survey largely focused on residents from Copeland Borough and Allerdale Borough, as 45 per cent of all employed residents in these two areas currently work at the Sellafield site which holds a number of nuclear facilities including reprocessing plants and nuclear waste storage.

Residents of Copeland Borough (which encompasses the Sellafield reprocessing plant) vastly supported looking for a site for the underground nuclear waste disposal facility in their area, with 68 per cent of those surveyed in support against 23 per cent opposed (four per cent were neutral and five per cent did not know).

Nearby Allerdale Borough Council were also keen to see the site built in their own area, with 51 per cent in favour against 37 per cent opposed (four per cent were neutral and eight per cent did not know). The residents surveyed across the rest of Cumbria were keen to see the site being built either in Copeland or Allerdale, with 50 per cent of people supporting against 35 per cent opposed (five per cent were neutral and 10 per cent did not know).

The largest factor cited for supporting the search in West Cumbria was the creation of new jobs (27 per cent), followed by ‘We already have [it at] Sellafield/used to it/lived with it for ages’ (23 per cent). The biggest two factors cited for opposing the search were fear of safety/leaks (28 per cent) and the feeling that ‘Cumbria is a dumping ground’ (25 per cent).

The results were published at an MRWS meeting at Whitehaven Civic Hall along with more than 1,400 consultation responses written by individuals, organisations and schools.

Councillor Tim Knowles, the current Chair of the MRWS and Cabinet Member for the Environment on Cumbria County Council, thanked those who took part in the survey, adding: “We have always made it clear that the views of local people are extremely important in this process. Partnership members will now need to consider the results of this survey alongside the responses to the separate consultation which we have carried out.  A final report will then be sent to the councils who will make the decision about whether to take part in the search for a site.” 

After the final report is sent to the councils this summer, the areas could be subject to extensive geological testing for suitability, a process that could take around 15 years to complete.

You can read the presentation by Ipsos MORI on the MRWS website