Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Anti-nuke dump campaigners at Barrow, September  2011
The plan to house the waste site in Cumbria was rejected by the County Council last month and so Baroness Verma has confirmed the county is no longer an option and announced work must begin on identifying an alternative UK site.

For many years the campaign against the shipment, processing and storage of highly irradiated nuclear waste was conducted by CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) formerly BAG (Barrow Action Group).
(I never discovered why my alternative suggestion for BAG - Barrow Anti-Nuclear Group - BANG! - was rejected in those earlier days.  Too flippant, maybe?  Anyway, once it was agreed to expand the action beyond Barrow and include the whole of Cumbria whoever thought up CORE did a great job.  Muddz)  There isn't  space here to describe the work and campaigns of CORE but Martin Forwood and Jean McSorely deserve special mention as they were the leading lights of the organisation.  Jean achieved international recognition for her work and lived for some time in Japan.  Martin stayed in Cumbria and remains spokesperson for CORE to this day although the group seems to have become much depleted (no pun intended! Muddz) in recent years.  Fortunately,  Radiation Free Lakeland together with supporters of Friends of the Earth stepped in to take the reins.  The photograph shows wildlife artist and RFL member, Marianne Birkby,(centre), with two fellow campaigners outside Barrow Town Hall having delivered their protest before a meeting of Cumbria County Council.

I remember attending a Cumbria Joint TUC meeting at Whitehaven during the 1980s when an expansion of the irradiated waste facility at  the Sellafield site had been proposed and was met with resistence by trade unionists.  Ray Buckton, a senior national officer - probably General Secretary - of the ASLEF union became most agitated when, despite his cajoling and pleading for the proposal to be adopted, members still rejected the idea. Then, as it is commonly said, he 'lost his rag'.  He ranted and he raged. It was, he claimed, a brilliant idea because trade unionist would be involved so safe handling and procedures would be guaranteed.  Sadly, some members changed their minds but I suspect this had more to do with preventing Buckton from having a seizure than actually agreeing with him.

So what's the situation at the moment?  Moves to have the council decision overturned are now afoot.  Councillor Anne Burns (pro-dump) "The waste is already at the site, it's deteriorating unless we do something about it.";  Councillor Oliver Pearson (pro-dump) "If we shut the door on this, they (the government) may shut the door on us."  (That's blackmail, Oliver!  Muddz) Steve Nicholson, Sellafield Workers Campaign, "Fifty thousand people in my community depend on the nuclear industry.";  Councillor Tim Knowles (pro-dump) "It is inherently uncertain whether a suitable site can be found. Is it worth more to reduce doing that uncertainty?" (A nice example of mangled English! Muddz)  T. Farrer, in letter to Westmorland Gazette "Why was it that only ten councillors - the Cabinet - made the decision? Surely a matter of this magnitude should have been debated in full council....Once again it seems that the 'green' lobby with its anti-nuclear stance is blocking progress."  Kevin Coyne, Unite union national officer "This is an extremely short-sighted decision by the Cumbria councils that voted no." (Shades of Ray Buckton?  Muddz.)  

The bureaucratic structure of local government administration involving several borough councils here in Cumbria can create complications. For example, Copeland Borough Council has voted to remain within the process (of searching for a suitable Cumbrian site for nuclear waste storage) and Copeland's MP, Jamie Reed, could now pressure the government to have the repository built within his district.  

Then, of course, we have the 'Political Thespians' dramatically hamming up all too expected performances in enacting scenes of subterfuge and 'outrageous fortune'  (Apologies to Bill the Bard. Muddz)  County Councillor conspirators claim Council Leader, Eddie Martin, had threatened to quit unless fellow Tories backed him in the vote (against the repository) (Friends, councillors, Cumbrians! I come to bury the repository, not to praise it! Muddz)  and this is denied by Eddie Martin who then announced he would not, in any case, be standing for re-election in May (Touche! Muddz) Now, get this for a great closure by Eddie Martin: "There was no one single reason for rejecting.  It was a cumulative effect. We were left with no other choice. This particular issue is not Copeland specific.  It affects the whole of Cumbria and my responsibility is to the people of Cumbria, not Westminster.  I'm not beholden to Westminster or David Cameron.  The people of Cumbria elected me, not David Cameron."         
(Bravo, Councillor Eddie Martin!  Although you are a Tory, you get a standing ovation from this Communist.  As for the Labour specimens who would consign Cumbria to the nuclear dustbin in perpetuity it's a case of 'hold the nose and yank on the lavatory chain'  Muddz)

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Anti-dump celebrations may be somewhat premature

Despite a huge financial outlay in terms of newspaper advertising, hiring halls for public meetings, prime-time slots on radio and TV,  glossy brochures with full-colour illustrations and distribution of literature by those having a vested interest in a vast underground facility for the storage of high level irradiated nuclear waste beneath Cumbria the only thing to be dumped was their ambition.

Now, most people can be forgiven for believing that this is the end of the matter because  democratically elected councillors had weighed up the results of the numerous public consultations and lobbying by both those for and against the proposal and agreed the weight of local opinion was firmly on the side of rejection.  In the words of Council Leader, Eddie Martin, "I have to ask myself why it is no other community in the whole of England or Wales has ever wanted to host a geological disposal facility, even given that there are 36 placesin the UK that produce nuclear waste. I am just not convinced that Cumbria is the place to even begin looking for a geological disposal facility."  

Three councillors voted for continuing the planning process and seven voted against but it was not long before there was a clamour of protest against that decision from the usual suspects .......the 'pro-nuke' tribe comprising big money interests such as developers and the construction industry, local trade unions whose only interest is 'jobs' (irrespective of consequences for the environment and the health of the local population) and 'populist' politicians who will milk the 'positive economic' aspects for all they are worth.  Then, of course, there is the government that only wants to bury this highly toxic material as quickly and with as little fuss as possible.  None of these will accept their plans have been thwarted by a bunch of local peasants and, in the weeks and months to come, I can imagine great pressure will be brought to bear upon those councillors who had the audacity to bow to the will of the people and morality.

Consider for a moment the situation in Barrow, just a few miles south of the proposed dump site - 'work' is the only thing that matters which is why Barrow imports irradiated nuclear waste, why nuclear submarines are built here and why it is likely that a new fleet of submersible launch platforms for American Trident weapons of mass destruction will also be constructed.  "Such work is good for the town because it boosts the local economy and will allow the town to grow." parrot the pro-nuke lobby. If this really is the case in the past why has Barrow got a declining population, high unemployment, areas of deprivation and shops and businesses closing down?  "Trident means jobs!" was the slogan bleated by the pro-nuke lobby in the late 1980s....we got Trident......and 11,000 jobs were lost!  But they've got a short attention span in these parts and take little account of the long-term damaging consequences of seeking immediate short-term gains.

Forces are already gathering to have the County Council's decision overturned.  The unions cannot see further than their economic snouts , some councillors will use the myth of 'jobs and a brighter future' for purely political purposes (in the hope of getting re-elected) and the government just wants to bury a really difficult problem so it can forget about it. So the people of West Cumbria should prepare themselves for the battles ahead.  Not everyone is a Nuke Nutter.  What of our farms and forests, our tourist industry, those who work in public services - hospitals, schools, colleges, accomodation, catering, environmental maintenance, utilities, etc.? And what of those in construction and manufacturing that have no connection with the nuclear industry in any form?

Then, of course, I could be mistaken and the pro-nuke supporters will accept that a democratic decision has been made and move on........

(The 'nodding donkeys' piece will have to wait until a more convenient time)