Engaging with Nuleaf – a personal journey! Sean Morris, Secretary, NFLA

Sean Morris and Lord Mayor of Manchester

Sean with the Lord Mayor of Manchester

 

I have been asked to write a few personal words on my engagement with Nuleaf, and my hopes for its future. I am probably one of the few original officers remaining in Nuleaf, having engaged with it since its inception in 2003.

I will be honest and say at times it has been a challenging relationship. As the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Secretary, I spend much of my time working on a more critical relationship with nuclear power and nuclear weapons. We believe the externalities of nuclear power are such that we should be moving away from the technology.

I remember the huge effort in 2013 amongst Cumbrian councils to consider hosting a deep underground radioactive waste repository. Cumbria County Council’s decision to say ‘no’ sent shockwaves through the county. And now, moving on 8 years, I sense a state of déjà vu when I read of deep political opposition in Hartlepool and Lincolnshire, and political divisions remaining in Cumbria on a renewed ‘volunteerist’ process. I wonder if we’ll ever move forward with it, whilst I hope we can look at a wider debate that tries to engage more openly with the ‘plan B’s’ that are out there.

Whilst there is always interesting and at times robust discussion within Nuleaf, NFLA members generally share the view of the urgent need to tackle safely the UK’s large nuclear legacy. We always offer evidence-based solutions to the storage of higher activity radioactive waste. Pro-nuclear councillors may be surprised sometimes how much we are content with quite a lot of Nuleaf’s activities!

On these policy matters, we always start from a core set of environmental principles which we believe creates a good framework for safe radioactive waste management. We are often disappointed that the nuclear industry continues to transport too much waste rather than leaving it where it arises in safe and sustainable storage facilities.

Of course, through the 18 years of Nuleaf’s establishment the spectre of new nuclear reactors has always been present and inevitably divides councils. NFLA members hold a consistent view that they are not needed, and it spends much of its time, outside of Nuleaf meetings, explaining why. We believe Nuleaf has plenty of work to get on with in terms of decommissioning and radioactive waste management. I hope Nuleaf continues to concentrate on these matters, where it will get broad NFLA support more often than not, as long as Nuleaf policy is consistent with our own environmental principles.

Over 13 fascinating years (and 23 years of involvement with nuclear policy) I have visited the likes of Sellafield, Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell and looked from close by the sites at Hunterston and Faslane. I have also been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and work very closely with them, as well as with Vienna and many councils around Europe who share our views. I engage as well with those directly affected by Chernobyl and Fukushima. I am passionate to see the nuclear legacy dealt with safely and I hope to see in my lifetime a move away from nuclear power and fossil fuels towards a renewable rich energy policy, as well as a concerted move towards nuclear weapons disarmament.

I am moving on to that other big existential threat to humanity, as Policy Lead at the Manchester Climate Change Agency. I wish Nuleaf and NFLA well as it moves forward with nuclear policy. Despite our differences it is essential we tackle safety the nuclear legacy. There is much work remaining to be done!

 

Sean Morris, Principal Policy Officer, Manchester City Council 2008 – 2021 (previously Emergency Planning Officer, Leeds City Council 1999 – 2008)

August 2021