On 30 January, Cumbria county council voted against allowing further surveys to see if an underground dump for spent nuclear fuel can be safely built in its area.
According to the Financial Times, “county councillors, who face elections in May, cited public opposition as the reason for their vote to withdraw. Tens of thousands have campaigned against hosting the dump, saying it would ruin the Lake District’s tourism industry and threaten health”.
In fact the vote was a triumph for the NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) principle, similar to the frequent blocking of wind turbines by local authorities.
Even if you reject nuclear power out of hand — which I don’t — the nuclear waste already exists. No amount of political posturing will make it disappear. It has to be stored safely somewhere.
The county council vote was not a reasonable objection to a rushed move to construct an underground dump without proper research into its long-term security, but a ban on further investigation.
One deep underground dump is already in operation in Eddy County, New Mexico, USA, but takes only USA military nuclear waste.
Other deep dumps are due to start construction soon at Östhammar, Sweden, and Olkiluoto, Finland. They are designed to be safe for tens of thousands of years at a minimum.