NFLA All Ireland Forum media release
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) fully supports the resolution passed by Newry, Mourne and Down Council that opposes a deep radioactive waste repository coming to its area, or any other part of Northern Ireland for that matter. (1)
The concerns come after a recent video placed on the Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) website includes Northern Ireland (as well as of English regions and Wales). The video gives an overview of its 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 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. (2)
Northern Ireland is not an appropriate location for the long-term deep-underground storage of radioactive waste, and NFLA have always found it peculiar that the Northern Ireland Executive has supported the policy.
The reasons are obvious, but 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.
NFLA remains sceptical that a deep waste underground repository is the appropriate long-term solution for radioactive waste management, as it outlined in detail in its responses to the UK and Welsh Government’s in 2018. There are many complex technical and scientific uncertainties that still need to be resolved, as outlined by the Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates, the most recent of which lies in a Swedish court case which highlighted weaknesses with the proposed canisters that would store waste for the long-term in a deep underground repository. (3)
NFLA is supportive of the Scottish Government’s policy of ‘near nuclear site, near surface’ retrievable management facilities of radioactive waste, and has taken an active role in providing its views on the matter. NFLA will continue to also take an active part in this debate for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The NFLA supports Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s call to the other 10 Councils of Northern Ireland to also publicly state that they would not express an interest to host an underground repository. They should be mindful of the ‘nuclear free’ status of the Republic of Ireland.
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co Chair, Councillor John Trainor said:
“I am pleased that Newry, Mourne and Down Council have made it absolutely clear that it will never express an interest to host a deep underground radioactive waste repository. I call on the other 10 Councils in Northern Ireland to take the same decision and to also consider working with the NFLA to support ways for a long-term resilient, safe and sustainable policy for radioactive waste management, nuclear policy and renewable energy alternatives to nuclear power. Northern Ireland is clearly not an appropriate location for such a facility.”
NFLA All Ireland Co-Chair Cllr Mark Dearey, a member of Louth County Council in the Republic, added:
“Any attempt by RWM to identify a specific site in Co Down would further damage already fragile relations between Britain and Ireland. It must be noted the NI Assembly has in the past supported the principal of Geological Disposal, hence a chink exists for this kite flying by RWM. The Assembly whenever it meets again, will need to review this position, as we can now see how deeply problematic it is for people living in proximity on both sides of the Border. It needs to be remembered by RWM and politicians in NI who support geological disposal, that Omeath in the Republic is only a mile across Carlingford Lough from Warrenpoint in County Down at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, the geological area being considered.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s resolution on radioactive waste management repository –
“This council notes with great concern the conclusions made from the National Geological screening for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) by Radioactive Waste Management which suggests that parts of Newry, Mourne and Down District and other areas in Northern Ireland might be suitable for a GDF.This council will write to the UK Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy stating the councils position as: Newry, Mourne and Down District Council does not consent, and never will consent to hosting a Geological Disposal Facility in our council area or any part of Northern Ireland.
“This council asks the other 10 councils in the North to take a similar position and equally write to the minister.”
(3) NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing 71, April 2018