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At a public meeting held in Ennerdale heard how nuclear waste could be stored under the Lake District National Park.
Around 160 local residents heard new details about the plans for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) to store nuclear waste in West Cumbria and potentially in the valley. The meeting received presentations from independent experts on geology, the environment and law as well as from Mr A Ellis Chief Engineer for the GDF from the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) and also the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) engaged geologist Dr Dearlove.
At the end of the meeting those present were asked (on a show of hands) whether they wanted the repository project to proceed or not? There was unanimity that the project should not proceed and various actions were agreed in this regard. During the meeting it was confirmed that the NDA/Government are currently only looking at West Cumbria, as this is the only area to have expressed an interest. Dr Dearlove for MWRS acknowledged that he has identified two "rock volumes" in West Cumbria which he believes are potentially suitable for a repository. These are beneath Eskdale/Ennerdale, and close to Silloth.
He denied that this amounted to site selection though. However Dr Dearlove, when pressed admitted that there was a low probability of such rocks being geologically suitable. He acknowledged this identification had been in response to independent geologists Professors Smythe and Haszeldine indicating that in their view all of West Cumbria was unsuitable.
No alternative "Plan B" to deal with the nuclear waste is being looked at. However, the meeting heard that the Nirex process in the 1980s and 90s had identified more suitable sites elsewhere in the country. The meeting also heard how Professor Smythe believes the Ennerdale granite is unsuitable and also about the legal protection afforded to the valley and the National Park. It was also mentioned more than once that the key landholding was owned by the National Trust.
An indication was also given about what the testing stage (Stage 5) would entail namely, 20-30 boreholes drilled to a kilometre depth over 10 years. New roads constructed on Ennerdale Fell to allow heavy plant to bring drilling rigs on to the fell - each drilling rig takes 10-20 lorry loads to move would be needed and 60,000 holes drilled for the seismic survey, with 200 grams of dynamite being used in each one as a seismic source. This could result in the mountain being sealed off for up to two years whilst the drilling and dynamiting took place, the drilling headquarters being constructed at Gillerthwaite.
The meeting also hard what the excavation may entail (Stage 6) namely:
• The excavation of 18 million tonnes of granite spoil which will be removed from the site and sold. This is likely to be extracted via Gillerthwaite.
• It would mean one loaded 8 wheel tipper truck leaving and one empty truck arriving every 4 minutes during working hours for the next 30 years.
• The road from Bowness Knott to the A5086 would have to be widened to around 8 metres.
When questioned about the legislation protecting the environment and the Lake District National Park, Mr Ellis assured the meeting that no existing legislation would be changed to facilitate a GDF proceeding, nor would National Park boundaries be redrawn. Those who spoke from the floor generally made impassioned pleas to protect the valley and the National Park. Feelings were running high but the meeting was conducted in a civilised and respectful,