The group was officially launched by Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) last month and members of ELDC’s Executive on Wednesday (November 3) voted in favour of taking part in discussions around the potential plans for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in Theddlethorpe.
Campaigners opposed to the plans gathered outside the council offices prior to the meeting – they had anti-nuclear storage site signs and were singing popular songs with words changed to reflect the situation. Instead of asking the authority not to join like when they campaigned at Lincolnshire County Council, this time activists said ELDC should join the group in order to have the local representation needed.
Residents and those opposed to the plans fear the ‘test of public support’ could be removed in the future if no willing community is found or that RWM will push for a much larger search area than Theddlethorpe.
Other concerns include uncertainty for residents and business owners over the next 10 to 15 years, the effect on house prices and infrastructure and concerns over any exclusion zones.
They argued that a much-vaunted claim that thousands of jobs will be brought to the area were meaningless as they felt the majority would not go to local construction companies.
However, they accepted, and ELDC leaders agreed, that now LCC was part of the working group the district council needed to be as well.
Campaigner Ken Smith told councillors: “I hope you will nominate someone who will do their utmost to turn the ship around and bring it back to port.”
And campaigner Melanie Gibbons said: “It’s important that ELDC also joined to ensure that the proposals from RWM are fully and carefully scrutinised and that the interests of what is essentially a vulnerable community are not lost in the process.”
Councillors also appeared wary of the plans, with Steve Kirk saying: “I really, really struggle with this. I have a deep-seated distrust of RWM.
“Any decision process that has to be sweetened to get the residents to agree with it and sweetened by tens of millions of pounds, in an economy in a neighbourhood which has been crying out for tens of millions of pounds of investment previously causes me grave concern.”
Councillor Danny McNally, the neighbouring ward member, said: “It is widely accepted that a GDF [Geological Disposal Facility] is possibly the right thing to do, but is this area, which seems so far away from any generating facilities, really the right one?”
The authority follows in the footsteps of Lincolnshire County Council, which voted in favour of joining the group officially on October 5.
Around 10 per cent of the UK’s nuclear waste needs to be disposed of in more secure ways for thousands of years, and the GDF would aim to do that through a mix of engineered and natural barriers between 200 to 1,000 metres underground.
The working group will take six to 12 months to carry out its initial processes, which will include starting conversations with local communities and identifying a search area to undertake feasibility studies.
It will also head up the setting up of a longer-term Community Partnership of local authorities, organisations, community groups and RWM, which will cover the rest of the decision making process over the next 10 to 15 years until a test of support (such as a referendum) is carried out.