We have responded to the government’s call for evidence on the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process and how it was implemented; offering suggestions on how it could be improved in the future.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change is considering what lessons can be learned from the experiences of the MRWS programme in West Cumbria and elsewhere, and Copeland Council, as an organisation that was involved in the process from the start, was keen to ensure its experiences were reflected.
Copeland Council’s view is that the MRWS process, as outlined in the White Paper, is “broadly acceptable, and subject to some areas of improvement around issues about bringing stages together, providing clearer information and decision making, the process is sufficient to be progressed.”
The council has long argued that an approach based on volunteerism was essential, and it believes this must continue to be the cornerstone of any future process.
Councillor Elaine Woodburn, the Leader of Copeland Borough Council, and the former chair of the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership said, “We welcomed the government’s call for evidence on the MRWS process. We were involved in this programme for more than three years, and the Partnership carried out a detailed work programme, including the most wide-reaching community engagement ever known in Cumbria, so we believe we understand the issues well.
“We felt that it was important that the government reviewed the process to understand what went well, what didn’t work well, and crucially what lessons should be learned for any future process, and that this review included reflections on our experiences.
“As we have long argued, and will continue to do so, the vast majority of this waste is already in Copeland, so it’s important that we’re involved in any discussions about a long term solution. This long term solution was essential twenty years ago, it was essential five years ago when the White Paper was released, and it remains essential now.
“We believe that broadly speaking, the MRWS process as outlined in the White Paper was fit for purpose, and continues to be so. However, we recognise that there are parts of the process that should be clarified and there are reassurances that communities would need before they could progress further in the future. These include a call for clarity over planning arrangements, technical issues and community engagement and involvement.
The council was involved in the MRWS process from the outset – following on from the abortive and controversial NIREX work, the development of the government’s current policy, the council’s formal expression of interest in the MRWS process and its decision to move to the next stage of the process earlier this year.
The council will continue to engage with the government on any future process to deal with the waste that is located in the borough.
Copeland’s response to the call for evidence was developed following a four-stage internal review of its involvement in the process and workshops to gauge the views of council members. It took account of the large body of work undertaken by both the council and the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership, as outlined in its final report.