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Romney Marsh nuclear dump plan still alive

By Sean Axtell

The potential for part of Kent to house the UK’s first nuclear waste storage site is still alive, amid mounting opposition.

Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) revealed it is “considering whether to respond” to a government consultation identifying potential Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) sites - potentially putting forward Romney Marsh as an option.

After decades of uncertainty about what to do with Britain’s 60-year legacy of dangerous radioactive waste – which is mainly spent fuel from atomic power stations across the country – the government in 2006 decided to bring them all together in a GDF.

Dungeness B power station in Kent
Dungeness B power station in Kent

In 2012 then-named Shepway District Council was one of three UK councils to explore the idea of hosting the facility but the plans were scrapped amid a fire-storm of resistance.

This time around, the government has offered a £1 million a year incentive to interested communities willing to explore the idea of hosting the nuclear storage bunker.

The scheme would see miles of tunnels 200m to 1,000m underground, storing waste for 120 years before the facility is sealed.

It would then be left to become safe over tens of thousands of years.

Inexorably, the project was going to be met with community resistance, however, the district council in 2012 stirred at the prospect of more jobs, especially with Dungeness B’s decommissioning set for 2028.

It employs 550 people plus 200 contract staff.

Romney Marsh could host a nuclear waste site
Romney Marsh could host a nuclear waste site

Gary Fuller, a member of Folkestone and Hythe’s Liberal Democrats who recently set up a petition against the facility, said the latest possibility of a GDF on the marsh could create a health and safety risk.

“I would be very concerned having it there. We don’t know the long term consequences of storing nuclear waste underground in this way.

“I think hitting yourself with a potential money making scheme at the risk of the residents is not a very good idea,” he said.

The leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, who was particularly outspoken against the scheme last time, doubled down on his position.

“I very much support Folkestone and Hythe District Council with its Otterpool Park scheme and the regeneration Roger De Haan is bringing to the area.

“But I feel talking about this is a step backwards.

“My concern is how would it get there?

Cllr Paul Carter
Cllr Paul Carter

“With trains around London and Kent I just don’t think it’s a very good place for a nuclear waste site,” he said.

However there is international consensus that the safest solution to manage higher activity radioactive waste is geological disposal, according to government papers.

It involves putting the waste several hundred metres of solid rock and is a chosen approach in Canada, Finland, France, Sweden and Switzerland.

Some of these countries are already on the way to developing their own GDF.

The district council is committed to engaging with the government and the future of nuclear power and the management of waste, a spokesman said.

"We responded to the Government’s earlier consultations about the process for working with communities and selecting future sites for a (GDF).

"In our response we stressed the importance of real community engagement and making the process as clear and transparent as possible.

“Since then, the Government has begun the process to identify potential GDF sites and to decide how they will be evaluated, and we will be considering whether to respond to this consultation in due course, they ex-plained.

“Our community is supportive of the nuclear power industry as it has been an integral part of our economy since the 1960s.

"We are committed to engaging with the Government and our relevant partners in the conversation regarding the future of nuclear power and the management of its by-products.

"We have built up close relationships with key stakeholders in this area and are keen to support new and innovative ways of working in the industry.

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