Welcome to the first issue of the Copeland GDF Working Group Newsletter
You may have seen the recent announcement about the formation of a Working Group in Copeland. The Group will start local engagement on whether Copeland could potentially be a suitable location for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for UK higher-activity radioactive waste.
A nationwide search is underway in England and Wales for a potentially suitable location to host a GDF, based on achieving the twin aims of finding a suitable site, along with a willing host community.
Establishing the Working Group in Copeland is just the starting point in a process that will take several years. In no way does it mean that it’s been decided that a GDF will be built in Copeland.
The Working Group will engage with local people to begin to understand their views and will identify and propose a Search Area (or Areas) for further consideration. It will also recruit initial members for a Community Partnership, that could take the process further forward beyond a Working Group.
As well as me as independent Chair, members of the Working Group include an independent Facilitator along with representatives from the interested parties who came forward with initial ideas for consideration, Radioactive Waste Management (RWM – a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) and Copeland Borough Council. Other groups and bodies can be invited to join, such as the Cumbria Association of Local Councils (CALC).
In the identification of a Search Area(s), the Working Group will be talking to people across the community to begin to understand their views
I have more than 30 years’ experience of senior leadership in public sector organisations. My role in the Working Group is truly independent, which reflects my professional background, where in all my previous roles there was an expectation that I was politically neutral and independent – that’s no different in this new role.
That requirement for independence is clearly stated in the Government policy and it’s something the members of this Working Group were insistent upon. The members were also clear that the Chair mustn’t have any previous business connections with the nuclear industry, or with Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council.
This GDF process is ultimately based on the consent of the local community and along with other members of the Working Group, I will ensure that local people have every opportunity to ask questions, express their views and get expert advice.
Gathering and understanding the views of local people is important, because at the end of the day, whenever that day comes, the potential host community can take an informed decision on whether their community should or shouldn’t host a GDF.
We’ve already made a great deal of information available through our website and you can find out more about a range of topics, including the technical, safety and environmental aspects of a GDF, as well as details on how you can get involved.
I take the view that I’m in this role, not as an expert in nuclear matters, but as someone who enables the community to have an open discussion about one of the country’s most significant infrastructure and environmental protection projects. I consider myself as the custodian of the views of the people of Copeland in respect of this initial work.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on all of us so while meeting face-to-face isn’t possible at the moment, I do hope it won’t be too long before me and the team can get around Copeland. In the meantime, we have the website and several ways for you to get in touch. We can also arrange virtual meetings, so if you’re part of a community group or a local business and would like to find out more, we can still meet, thanks to digital technology.
We will publish newsletters regularly and introduce you to the members and key activities of the Working Group.
What matters to me is that local people get enough information and are able to express their views, so that they can make an informed choice in future. I look forward to meeting and listening to many of you in the months ahead.
Where to find out more and how to get in touch
The Working Group can arrange informative briefings on a range of topics that may be of interest to you. There’s plenty of information on our website and if you’re part of a community group or a local business, we can organise an online briefing to suit your requirements. Please get in touch.