Managing radioactive waste safely

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.

The background

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 official government position and process:

The views of two Copeland councillors, one Labour, one Conservative:

You can find a lot more views on Twitter by searching for MRWS or nuclear dump or other terms as you see fit!
Ian

Published by Ian Curwen

Communications professional and a bit of a foodie that wants to travel more. Sharing my observations on life.

One thought on “Managing radioactive waste safely

  1. Though i don't agree with the process going forward i appreciate your blog on the subject and will look at some of the issues you raise. Iknow the decision has been made and the process is now on its last legs but i would guess there will be a new and improved one coming our way soon and we can do it all again.Heard about your fall,hope it won't be too long before your back on your feet.All the best ..J

    Like

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