Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, shares his views on geological disposal

“I’d like to thank Nuleaf for inviting me to share my views on this vitally important process currently taking place in Copeland.

The work that is under way to assess whether there is a willing host community and suitable place in our locality to accommodate a Geological Disposal Facility is of significant national importance and, quite rightly, is attracting substantial interest and opinion. But what is not up for debate is that the Copeland borough has a significant role to play in this process, regardless of the final location of a GDF in England or Wales.

As the host borough of the Sellafield site, Copeland is home to the vast majority of the inventory identified for disposal in a GDF. Once a GDF becomes available – wherever it is – activity at Sellafield will change as the site becomes the front-end of GDF operations, thereby having major implications for our local area.

It is our obligation to our people, communities and environment to engage in the process and, on this basis and after a process of strategic analysis, Copeland Council reached the decision last year to join the Copeland GDF Working Group as an Interested Party.

We have been pleased to engage in the ‘working with communities’ process, led by Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), that has taken place thus far, and I’d like to publicly recognise the hard work being carried out by Chair Mark Cullinan and his Working Group colleagues, including Copeland Council’s Deputy Mayor David Moore and our council officers. However, it is important to note that our involvement does not imply that a GDF will be built in Copeland.

The role of the Working Group is to identify a search area to be explored in more detail in terms of suitability, and to start to understand the views of the local community. This is absolutely key, and I am encouraging all Copeland residents to get involved in the process now by engaging with the Working Group via the various channels available.

At the potential next stage of forming a Community Partnership, this stakeholder engagement will intensify, and it is vital that the voice of the community is represented in decisions about if – and how – a GDF fits into the vision for Copeland’s future, and stakeholders from the wider community would have the opportunity to get involved as members of the partnership.

This process is to find BOTH a suitable site and a willing host community, and no decisions about whether or not to host a GDF will be taken without a future test of public support. But now is the time to get involved, to help shape the process from this initial stage until it reaches its conclusion; whatever that conclusion may be.”

May 2021