Young people set to have say on geological disposal in West Cumbria

Young people in West Cumbria are to be offered the chance to have their say on whether the area should take part in the Government’s search for an underground repository for higher-activity radioactive waste.

A large public consultation is currently happening across Cumbria, and is set to run until March 23. The West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Partnership wants to hear from people living in the county about their thoughts on the Partnership’s initial opinions on the issues involved in deciding whether the area should take part in the search for a suitable site for a repository.

If the area does decide to participate, and it could withdraw at any point in the future until work begins to build a repository, then it would take around 15 years to find a suitable site following extensive testing of geology and other factors.

The Partnership therefore feels it is important that the younger generations take an interest, learn about the issues involved and voice their opinions.

In order to help raise awareness of the process in young people the Partnership is doing a number of things. More than 30 discussion groups will be run by the youth advisory organisation Connexions.

All secondary schools in Cumbria will get a copy of material produced to help encourage discussion of some of the main issues – geology, safety, impacts and benefits. The information will also be useful for other organisations working with young people who would like to organise a discussion about these issues. 

Connexions are also available to help facilitate these sessions. The schools and youth groups will be able to feed back views from these sessions to the consultation process.

Councillor Tim Knowles, member of the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership and Cumbria County Council cabinet member responsible for the environment, said: “The process to find a suitable site for a geological disposal facility for higher-activity radioactive waste, should this area decide to participate, will be a long one. If a repository is built it would also affect people in the area for many generations into the future and therefore it is crucial that the young people in our society are aware of the issues relating to this process and have their say.

“As a Partnership we are very much interested to hear the views of young people and in order to help them we have, along with Connexions, organised a number of discussion groups and we are sending material out to secondary schools”.

Anyone who would like to get a copy of the youth engagement materials should contact Jenny Willis at jenny@3kq.co.uk.

The Partnership has produced a consultation document which sets out its initial opinions on a range of key issues.

The consultation document and a DVD are available on the Partnership’s website at www.westcumbriamrws.org.uk it is also available by calling Freephone 0800 0488912, or by emailing contact@westcumbriamrws.org.uk

A shorter overview document will be sent to all homes in West Cumbria in January, as well as to public buildings such as libraries and leisure centres.

The Partnership will be hosting a series of consultation events across Cumbria in the New Year and it will also be possible for school groups to attend these events. Information is also being sent out via e-bulletins and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

People are being asked to get a copy of the consultation document and feed back their views on the Partnership’s initial opinions.

These views will then be taken into consideration when the Partnership finalises its report to send to the three local authorities that will make a formal decision about whether to take part in the search for a site – Allerdale Borough Council, Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council.