Nuclear waste: Firm refusal needed, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM says

The Welsh Government should give a firm refusal to any plans to create a site to bury nuclear waste in Wales, an assembly member has said.

Anglesey AM Rhun ap Iorwerth’s comments came as a meeting was being held on Friday to discuss a Welsh Government response to a UK government consultation on the issue.

It is seeking a long-term solution on where to store highly radioactive nuclear waste created in recent years.

No site has yet been earmarked.

The preferred option would be to build a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) to store the waste deep underground.

But the Plaid Cymru AM said it would be concerning “if there is an attempt to make it easier to bring the burial of waste to Wales”.

According to the Welsh Government, there is no intention to create a GDF in Wales, and no GDF would be built in Wales if a community does not choose to create one.

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Currently, low level radioactive waste is kept at nuclear power stations including Wylfa on Anglesey and Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd.

Long-term waste is stored in Sellafield, Cumbria, but with its radioactivity taking many years to reach safe levels, the long-term option many countries favour is to develop GDFs.

The UK government’s aim is to build one site for all the waste from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Because nuclear waste is a devolved matter, the Welsh Government had to decide where it stood and in 2015 decided to adopt the UK government’s policy.

Cumbria County Council voted against an attempt to establish a site there in 2013, even though Copeland Borough Council had given it a seal of approval.

Since then planning laws have changed in England, which now deem GDFs as nationally important infrastructure projects, and the government has started the process of consulting with other communities of interest.

This could mean the government tries again this year to find a suitable area.

In a letter seen by BBC Wales inviting individuals and organisations to its workshop on Friday, the Welsh Government said they were “not intending to create a GDF in Wales, and no GDF will be built in Wales unless a community chooses to create such an opportunity”.

But it added developments of this type “bring investment and jobs which benefit the local economy”, and they did not want to disadvantage any community.

Mr ap Iorwerth said a more firm refusal was needed from Cardiff Bay.

“The letter… says the Welsh Government is not going to push to establish a GDF while at the same time trying to open the door to anyone who supports such a development,” he said.

“It paints a very positive picture, for example the potential of creating jobs and so on. It also gives the impression sites of this type are ‘common’. They are not.”

Brian Jones from the anti-nuclear group CND Cymru, which was invited to the meeting, said there was concern a community could be paid to host a site at the expense of surrounding areas which may oppose such a development.

He also raised questions on how a “community” would be defined.

“They also suggest the community would get money for 150 years, but when this money finishes the nuclear waste would still be there for thousands more years. Why that amount of time?

“If any community showed an interest, they would need to have all the information to make a decision.

“I agree with Scotland’s policy, and that is that nuclear waste should be stored over ground where it’s easy to monitor, on the nuclear station site. If anything goes wrong after nuclear waste is buried, it’s much harder to know what’s happening and to do anything about it.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said it had adopted a policy of “geological disposal for the long-term, safe and secure management of higher activity radioactive waste”.

He added that a GDF would only be “deliverable on the basis of a voluntary partnership with interested local communities willing to enter into discussions”.

Speaking before Friday’s meeting, he said the workshop would “specifically explore proposals for the approach to engagement with any community willing to discuss hosting a GDF”.

He said a discussion paper had been circulated in advance of the workshop, in which the government made clear “we are keen to gain the views of all interested parties on all aspects of the approach including on how a ‘community’ should be defined”.

Courtesy of BBC News

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