No one wants it but we need to stick it somewhere and yesterday the good people of Cumbria or more accurately their councillors said NO. Funny that. You could say it’s a no brainer, after all who wants nuclear waste buried at the bottom of the garden? But actually the decision in Cumbria is surprising and as Ed Davey put it “disappointing”.
More than a decade ago I was filming in Cumbria at the height of the Foot and Mouth epidemic. Huge swathes of the countryside were closed off and the air was full of the stench of burning cattle. Economically it hit the region hard but there was one saving grace Sellafield.
The nuclear industry has had its home from home in Cumbria for decades and the people I met then and on subsequent visits have always said how much they love, yes love having nuclear on their doorstep. Apart from farming and tourism there is not much else in the area apart from the nuclear industry. With the plants, ancillary staffing and supply chain it is the biggest employer in the region. During Foot and Mouth it was the only thing keeping the economy going.
So, if an area where generations now have worked and lived side by side with nuclear and are on the whole in favour of it have rejected nuclear waste, what now?
Geology is a tricky thing, you need to ensure it is solid enough to keep the waste secure for eons but also accessible enough to dig into and create the huge infrastructure needed for nuclear disposal. Yes there are thousands of jobs that can be created building a nuclear disposal centre and in other nations they are a source of employment and even create small communities. In parts of Scandinavia and Japan they are well under way building more of these depositories without complaint.
If we need nuclear, which we do. We will need nuclear waste dumps. Where we build them is a headache for Ed Davey et al but to be fair in general the risks from such a site are less than the radiation we get from our mobiles, they will provide lots of employment – it’s just a pretty big PR job to convince anyone to build it in their back yard.