Talks on multi-billion pound nuclear waste facility in Hartlepool stall amid lack of council support
Talks over Hartlepool potentially becoming home for a multi-billion pound development to store large amounts of nuclear waste underground have stalled.
Presentations on the controversial development for a Geological Disposal Facility were led by leaders of Hartlepool community organisation The Wharton Trust earlier this year (2020).
But the issue is unlikely to go any further after the leader of Hartlepool Borough Council and other political leaders spoke out strongly against it.
Sacha Bedding, chief executive of The Wharton Trust, says councillors have been denied the chance of debating the issue and coming up with an overall position, including remaining neutral.
Mr Bedding said it prevents the proposal moving to the formation of a Community Partnership which would unlock millions in grants and pave the way for a wider town consultation.
But council leader Shane Moore says no councillors have expressed their support or asked for a debate.
In the facility, all of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste would be sealed in concrete and copper and buried 1,000 metres (3,280ft) underground until the radioactivity naturally decays and no longer poses a hazard to people or the environment.
Hartlepool was identified as a possible place by Radioactive Waste Management Ltd, acting for the Government, due to the town’s geology and nuclear background.
Mr Bedding said: “Disappointingly, our democratic right to have a conversation has been curtailed.
"It’s a real shame our town, which has benefited enormously from the production of that waste, isn’t in a position to have an informed conversation about what to do with that waste that we have created.”
He said the problem was not going away and is the most pressing environmental issue after global warming.
Mr Bedding added: “When you’ve got the push for a new nuclear power station, which will inevitably create more nuclear waste, and until we have a permanent storage solution, radioactive waste is going to be in Hartlepool at the power station for up to 60 years at surface level disposal.”
Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said they would fight “tooth and nail” against it.
Councillor Shane Moore said: “I want to be absolutely clear with residents that I do not support any proposal to create a site for the disposal of nuclear waste here in Hartlepool and it is disappointing to hear that people are still trying to push this.
“I am not prepared to be the council leader that started the ball rolling to turn my hometown into the nuclear waste dump of the United Kingdom and frankly I don’t care how many pieces of silver are being offered.
"I appreciate that my view may not be shared by all councillors, but if that is the case then I would encourage any who do actually support this proposal to step forward and make themselves known to the council and their residents, because to date none have formally asked for this debate."
Mr Bedding defended Hartlepool councillor Mike Young, who resigned as deputy council leader after he was criticised for helping to organise meetings between The Wharton Trust and senior council officers.
Mr Bedding said: “Nobody anywhere has done anything other than follow government policy.
“We stand ready to lead a mature, civilised public conversation about the second most important environmental issue of the day.”