Wast Water. Sellafield currently has a licence to extract its water for cooling at the coastal site

Wast Water. Sellafield currently has a licence to extract its water for cooling at the coastal site

The whole of the western Lake District would be suitable for burying radioactive waste, according to a study released today.

A scientific report examining the geology of the area only rules out an area west of the Lake District, running from St Bees Head on the coast, up to the Solway Firth.

The rest of the area, covered by Allerdale and Copeland Councils, should not be ruled out for waste burial.

Both authorities, along with Cumbria County Council, expressed an interest in a Government search for potential sites. The study, by the British Geological Survey, was undertaken to see if any areas should be ruled out of bounds for radioactive disposal and its authors stressed it did not necessarily mean facilities would be eventually sited there.

The north-western corner of Cumbria was ruled out because of the risk of future generations mining for ore in the area. Some nuclear waste, such as plutonium-239 produced during the nuclear fission at the heart of reactors, will be dangerous to humans and animals for more than 100,000 years.

West Cumbria is already heavily dependent on the nuclear industry with at least 10,000 jobs dependent on the Sellafield facility on the coast and its ancillary sites.

The Allerdale and Copeland areas cover Wast Water, Buttermere, Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwent Water and Thirlmere.

The coalition Government welcomed the report. Minister of State for Energy Charles Hendry said: “We must progress implementation of geological disposal, the long-term sustainable solution for dealing with radioactive waste.

“Today’s report, commissioned from the British Geological Survey, is a step forward. The geological disposal facility site selection process is based on voluntarism and partnership and these results do not present any reason why west Cumbria cannot continue to consider whether or not to participate in that process.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said if a community chooses to proceed further, increasingly detailed geological and other criteria assessment would have to be undertaken.

The work is part of the Government’s managing radioactive waste safely programme and the process for communities across the country to find out more about the siting procedure remains open.

But Ben Ayliffe, senior energy campaigner at Greenpeace, told said: “This report means that almost anywhere in the Lake District could become a dump for the UK’s radioactive waste.

“It’s hard to imagine a more tragic legacy to Britain’s nuclear folly than vats of lethal nuclear waste being stored around Keswick or Scafell Pike. It’s certainly not the sweeping vistas that would have inspired Wordsworth or Coleridge.

“And dumping this stuff underground is no solution anyway, wherever it is. So we certainly shouldn’t be creating any more nuclear waste. There are much better ways of producing electricity,” he added.

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