I don’t often blog about work. However, next week, my employer – Copeland Borough Council – will take a significant decision on a project I have been involved in since the outset.
This decision, is whether the council should continue to be involved in the government’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process, and move to stage four, by taking a decision to participate.
A few colleagues, friends and other people I respect have blogged or commented on the subject, and I wanted to give a few simple thoughts of my own, and point you in the direction of some of these comments, so you can better understand the issue yourself.
In 2008, the government published the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper. This white paper outlined the government process for finding a home for the country’s higher activity radioactive waste. The home would be a geological disposal facility – or an engineered underground repository for the waste.
As Copeland is home to over 70% of the country’s waste, in interim storage at the Sellafield site, the council expressed an interest in the process, and entered discussions with the government.
Cumbria County Council and Allerdale Borough Council subsequently joined the process and the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership was formed.
This partnership, which met regularly for over three years, was set up to explore the issues involved in hosting a facility, to help the councils take a decision about whether to formally take a decision to participate in the process. This is the decision point we are at now.
The Partnership developed a work programme and worked to consider a range of issues including geology, impacts, community benefits, safety, planning and the environment and much more.
The Partnership also undertook a wide reaching communications and engagement programme, and it was this element that I was particularly involved in, as a member of the public and stakeholder engagement (PSE) group.
The communications and engagement programme we delivered was one of the widest reaching, intensive and coordinated campaigns ever undertaken in Cumbria.
Activity included a series of newsletters and leaflets; advertorials in the local press; advertising on phone boxes, on buses, and on billboards; public drop-in sessions; displays at public events; question and answer sessions; a website; e-bulletins; workshops; discussion packs; two films; and ongoing work with the media.
This work was successful in raising awareness of the Partnership and its work, and we undertook a robust and statistically reliable opinion survey which provided statistical evidence to support the councils’ in taking a decision whether to move forward. The engagement programme was award winning.
The current situation
In recent weeks, as the point where the councils will take their decisions grows nearer, public interest in the process and the decisions has grown. In addition communications activity from those interested in the decision has increased. This has included the formation of pressure groups, public meetings, newsletters, proactive use of social media and much more.
Much of this communication has raised interest in the work of the Partnership, and the decision the councils will take – which has to be a positive.
However in some cases, this activity has served to obfuscate the issues or even scare people.
Find out more
The main reason I wanted to write this blog was to point people to some useful resources and information on the process, so people can make their own decisions on whether we should move forward or not.
So before you make your mind up, why don’t you read the the following information, starting with the Partnership’s work and report:
- The West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership (and over 300 documents)
- The Partnership’s final report
The views of two Copeland councillors, one Labour, one Conservative: