The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes its member authority Fermanagh and Omagh Council as the latest local authority in Northern Ireland to pass a resolution opposing the local development of a deep underground radioactive waste repository. This follows on from a letter of the UK Government to all Councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland asking if they would wish to ‘express an interest’ in hosting such a development.
All councillors present at the meeting passed the following resolution:
“That this Council opposes any plans for a Geological Disposal Facility in any part of Ireland. We will write to the Northern Ireland Office and the British Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to clearly state our opposition to any part of Ireland being used as a dumping ground for toxic waste.” (1)
The Council’s resolution follows on from resolutions passed by other Councils in Northern Ireland, starting with the NFLA lead authority in Northern Ireland, Newry, Mourne and Down Council. It is also notable that a number of Welsh Councils have passed resolutions on this matter, such as Swansea City Council and Neath Port Talbot Council. NFLA member Ceredigion County Council has linked their concern over this issue in recommitting to their long-standing ‘nuclear free’ stance. (2)
The concerns of these Councils arose after a recent video placed on the Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) website includes Northern Ireland, as well as of English regions and of Wales. The videos give an overview of the local geology in terms of generic suitability for hosting what is called a ‘Geological Disposal Facility’. This would be a deep underground repository to store much of the UK’s high and intermediate level radioactive waste from the past 70 years of the nuclear cycle for a period of hundreds of thousands of years.
Whilst the Northern Ireland Government has not sat for over 2 years at Stormont, the Northern Ireland Executive has supported ‘geological disposal’ of radioactive waste as a policy for some time and theoretically a Northern Ireland Council or community could express an interest to host such material. The UK Government and Welsh Governments, who also formally support ‘geological disposal’ are currently encouraging Councils to consider expressing an interest. RWM admit though that Northern Ireland is the ‘region least likely’ to host such a repository. (3)
In the NFLA’s view, Northern Ireland is not an appropriate location for the long-term deep-underground storage of radioactive waste. The reasons include:
- Northern Ireland has never hosted a civil nuclear power station.
- All higher and intermediate radioactive waste generated currently lies in England, Scotland and Wales. The bulk of that waste is at Sellafield in West Cumbria.
- If a site in Northern Ireland was to host such a facility then waste would have to be transported by sea or air, both of which are hazardous. With the amount of waste that would need to be transported it could take a substantial time and require very large amounts of transports to achieve this option, which would also be very expensive.
- In the NFLA’s view, there is little likelihood or benefit for any Northern Ireland Council wishing to express an interest. Indeed, if recent experience and public pronouncements are to go by, the NFLA sees there being no Councils in Wales and few Councils in England expressing an interest.
In response to the concerns raised by member and non-member authorities in Northern Ireland, Wales and England, NFLA has developed a short factsheet outlining its extensive concerns over this new policy process and over the development of a deep underground radioactive waste repository. (4) This follows on from the detailed issues of concern it raised when responding to UK and Welsh Government consultations on moving forward with a policy of ‘deep geological disposal’. (5)
NFLA member representative for Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Cllr John Feely said:
“Nobody in the Fermanagh and Omagh area want their communities to be used as a dumping ground for nuclear waste and I am glad all councillors and parties agreed with these sentiments.”
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co Chair Cllr John Trainor added:
“It is clear from the cross-party supporting resolutions that have been made by Councils across Northern Ireland that there is no appetite for hosting a deep underground radioactive waste repository. Indeed, it is abundantly clear that Northern Ireland does not want any of the radioactive waste created by a nuclear programme generated across the Irish Sea. The island of Ireland is essentially nuclear free and it should stay that way.”
NFLA Welsh Forum Chair Cllr Ernie Galsworthy added:
“This recent process by the UK Government, supported by the Welsh Government, to ask Councils to express an interest to host a radioactive waste repository has reignited concerns over the real risks that remain with a 70 years nuclear programme. I share the concern of Welsh Councils over such a development and I urge reconsideration of the alternatives to this policy, such as the Scottish Government’s ‘near site, near surface’ policy. Like Northern Ireland, Welsh Councils do not want to host a deep underground radioactive waste repository.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Fermanagh and Omagh Council resolution passed 5th March 2019.
(2) Swansea City Council motion, 28th February 2019
Ceredigion County Council remains committed to nuclear free stance, 5th March 2019
(3) Irish News 5th February 2019
(4) NFLA Radioactive Waste Briefing 76, March 2019
(5) NFLA Radioactive Waste Briefing 71, April 2018