Radioactive waste from medical use, weapons and power stations that has been stockpiled for 50 years can now be ended without the approval of local planning because the sites are now officially considered “nationally significant infrastructure projects”.
The secretary of state for energy, who will not be bound by recommendations of advisors, local councils or communities, will have final decision over the projects.
There are 4.5m cubic metres of accumulated radioactive waste kept in secure containers at sites across the UK, though only 1,100m3 of this is the most controversial high-level waste, and 290,000m3 is intermediate-level waste. It costs £3bn a year to manage the nuclear waste, of which £2bn comes from taxpayers.
Zac Goldsmith MP – “Effectively it strips local authorities of the ability to stop waste being dumped in their communities”
tThe Department for Energy and Climate Change published a white paper last year that said ministers would prefer to work with public support, but reserved the right to take more aggressive action on planning if “at some point in the future such an approach does not look likely to work”.
Zac Goldsmith MP criticised the lack of public debate about such a “big” change, telling the Guardian that it: “Effectively it strips local authorities of the ability to stop waste being dumped in their communities,” he said.
“If there had been a debate, there could have been a different outcome: most of the MPs who voted probably didn’t know what they were voting for.”
Friends of the Earth’s planning advisor, Naomi Luhde-Thompson, said: “Communities will be rightly concerned about any attempts to foist a radioactive waste dump on them. We urgently need a long-term management plan for the radioactive waste we’ve already created, but decisions mustn’t be taken away from local people who have to live with the impacts.”