Company at heart of nuclear phase-out talks says work is worth billions – but whole city must be on board
A company at the heart of nuclear phase-out talks at Hartlepool has said the work will be worth billions and create thousands of jobs in the area – but the whole community must be on board.
The possibility of a nuclear waste storage facility in the city was revealed following a meeting Thursday evening where a charity presented proposals to Labor politicians.
On Friday, the mayor of Tees Valley revealed details of the meeting in a statement alleging it had been kept “under wraps” and asked if they supported the “ridiculous” plans that he said would sell “our area to the world as a dumping ground for UK nuclear waste “.
Read more: Updates: Nuclear waste problem shouldn’t be ‘thrown in the tall grass’, says association boss exploring proposal
Hours later, however, the company behind the proposed geological disposal facility (GDF), which would bury the radioactive waste deep underground, revealed details.
Steve Reece, head of implementation at Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), said it will be a huge infrastructure project worth billions of dollars, bringing thousands of jobs to many. generations as well as a significant investment needed to support infrastructure in the area around GDF.
He said: “RWM is currently discussing with several interested parties across England and Wales the issues and opportunities of hosting a geological storage facility.
“We are open to early conversations to help people understand the GDF project and decide if they want to get involved. It is a process that is driven by the communities.
“We remain open to talking about this project and the great opportunities for a host community – but we wouldn’t push the project if there was no local appetite.
“The process of finding a suitable SFM site ultimately requires a community to give clear consent through a process called the public support test – this project is unique in that the local community will have the final say. . “
Mr Houchen however objected to the suggestion in his statement and called on Council Chief Shane Moore to publicly state his position on the matter – which Mr Moore did.
Mr Houchen said: “As long as I am mayor, I will fight tooth and nail not to allow our incredible region to become a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
“I’ve been told that Shane Moore feels the same as I do, so it’s time for him to come out and publicly condemn these plans and pledge not to allow any nuclear spills in the city.
“I have already taken steps to speak with the government and have informed them that this is not wanted in Hartlepool and never will be.
“We are making huge strides in Hartlepool and across Teesside and Darlington and the last thing we need as we sell our region to the world is to be known as the UK’s nuclear waste dump.”
Mr Moore quickly revealed his position and said: “I want to be absolutely clear with the residents that I do not support the Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) proposal to create a site for nuclear waste disposal here in Hartlepool.
“Some people may claim that there is nothing to lose by having an initial discussion with RWM, but I am inherently skeptical and not in favor of this development.
“Since becoming Head of Hartlepool Borough Council I have worked to do everything possible to raise the profile of our Borough and we are making significant progress in putting Hartlepool on the map for all the right reasons.
“I’m not ready to be the head of the Council that started the ball rolling to turn my hometown into the UK nuclear waste dump and – frankly – I don’t care how many silver coins are being offered. .
“I would much prefer to devote my time and effort to securing a new power plant, retaining the jobs we already have in this industry or attracting new investment by taking advantage of the benefits of Freeport’s status and our proximity to the exciting developments around hydrogen taking place in the wider Tees Valley. “
Conservative MP Jill Mortimer released a statement in which she said she was “shocked” and “angry” by the news.
She said: “When I first heard about it, I made it very clear my point of view on this damaging project and how much I was against it.
“Finding out that these discussions have since taken place, I am shocked and angry. I fully support Ben Houchen in this regard – this is the last thing our city needs when we are trying to attract good businesses and good jobs to the area.
“We want to make Hartlepool a bright and prosperous town. We deserve to know if anyone would be happy to see it turned into a toxic dumping ground. Hartlepool will not be taken for granted under my watch.”
“We just listened”
Jonathan Brash, union adviser for Burn Valley, said the presentation on nuclear storage was a 10-minute presentation in a two-hour online meeting.
He said the task force had been approached by Hartlepool-based charity The Wharton Trust to discuss a long-term project they knew nothing about until the meeting.
Cllr Brash said: “We didn’t make any decisions to support the proposal. We didn’t decide to do anything with it, we just listened and that’s it.
“Honestly, we said thank you very much for the presentation and that was it. We didn’t discuss it beyond that. We didn’t support it. Frankly, there isn’t enough information. . “
Cllr Brash said he understood Ben Houchen had already been approached about this.
He said: “As far as Mr Houchen is concerned, quite frankly we all have to be better than that in politics. He was approached by the same people with the same proposition.
“He wants to make political football out of it and it’s pretty low politics.
“I would strongly recommend that Mr. Houchen take a step back and think about why he feels the need to behave this way.
“He plays the audience for fools and the audience is better than that.”
‘It was a presentation and that was it’
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham said Mr Houchen had to “be upfront” about what he really knew.
He said: “If he has spoken to his government contacts, what do they say about this apparent proposal?
Victoria Ward union adviser Carl Richardson confirmed he attended the meeting.
He said: “No decision has been made, we are not in power, we have a Conservative controlled council. It is up to them to decide.
“It was a presentation and that was it, currently no decision will be made and I doubt a decision will be made on that very frankly.
“I just want more information, at first I’m not very happy with it, but I want more information.”
“A right to decide”
Sacha Bedding MBE, managing director of The Wharton Trust – a charity that works to minimize the impact of the city’s weak socio-economic opportunities, spoke about the proposal at the meeting.
He said the issue should be discussed and the public should be able to democratically decide whether to accept such a project – which could create jobs and investment.
He said: “The people of Hartlepool, who are highly skilled with experience and a heritage in mining, nuclear power and hazardous waste treatment, have the right to make informed decisions about what to do with them. ‘this is an appropriate economic and environmental opportunity for the city.
“After climate change, the long-term strategy for how we deal with spent radioactive fuel – which includes waste from things like radiation therapy and x-rays – is the most pressing environmental issue of our time.
“This is not a problem that can be ‘thrown in the tall grass’ to be dealt with by our grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“There is a moral obligation to find a permanent solution for spent nuclear fuel and, since Hartlepool has a proven track record in this area and is on the verge of decommissioning its nuclear power plant and with it a third of our economic footprint, having a reasonable, informed and factual conversation about the pros and cons of hosting a SFM makes perfect sense.
“The desirability of creating 750 jobs over more than 100 years and billions of pounds in additional investment should be discussed.
“Politicizing this opportunity is actually a huge disservice to the people of Hartlepool, who have the right to hear the news and ultimately decide for themselves, while benefiting from the process.”
Rob Cook, independent advisor to Hart, provided his opinion on the matter.
He said: “I’m stunned to say the least that they are even considering doing such a thing.
“Personally, I don’t want them, I have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, I don’t want them to suffer in the event of a major disaster.
“The point is we all want jobs for the area, but they have to be the right jobs, what we have to consider is the health and well-being of the rest of Hartlepool and Tees Valley. there was a major disaster, everyone in the Tees Valley would go up, not just Hartlepool.
“I have no idea why we are talking about this at all, because I am sure the majority of people would say no and it would be something that should be discussed in depth before a decision is made.”
He added that Mr. Houchen had done well to bring it to everyone’s attention.
This is not the first time that the controversial issue of nuclear energy has appeared in Teesside.
Augean applied for a permit to dispose of low levels of radioactive waste at Port Clarence in 2019, but was struck by objections.
According to RWM, two regions in Cumbria have already started forming working groups to better understand the process of finding a location for a GDF.
They said it would be built up to 1,000 meters into deep rock and that it would safely contain the waste and isolate it in the very long term, until the radioactivity naturally decays and no longer represents a danger to people or the environment.
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