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Letter in Whitehaven News - "Exhibition on Nuclear Waste"

Published May 22nd 2024

Dear Editor,

The first Rock Solid? exhibition by internationally renowned artists took place in 2012 in Kendal Museum with Cumbria County Council famously ending “steps towards geological disposal” in 2013.  

But now the proposal is back with a new remit to include sub-sea burial of nuclear wastes under the beautiful Lake District coastal fringe from Millom to Thornhill, Near St Bees.  Only one other area in the UK is under consideration, Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire.  

This plan includes “co-location” of a shallower dump for low to intermediate level wastes which could according to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CorWM) be used to access a deeper offshore “geological dispsal facility” for high level nuclear wastes. Nearly 30 years ago a public inquiry found that a grave up to 1000 metres deep for low and intermediate level wastes would percolate to the surface sooner rather than later - a shallow grave for all but the highest level wastes as is now rather desperately suggested would pollute the surrounding area even faster.  

Cumbria is of course the most politically expedient place for this contentious proposal given the presence of Sellafield  where the UK's nuclear wastes continue to arrive by train daily.  The UK government and (CoRWM) which bizarrely includes the “mining expertise” of West Cumbria Coal Mine CEO, Mark Kirkbride, have a bad case of cognitive dissonance.  

How can an energy source be regarded as “clean” when the waste from that fuel requires shielding from our fragile biosphere and all living beings for up to tens of millions of years?  The Chernobyl shield or sarcophagus lasted just  a couple of decades before needing replacement.  

Abandoning nuclear wastes in the hope that Cumbria’s complex geology will provide the last line of defence into eternity is quixotic.

Rock Solid? 2 can be seen at The People’s Gallery, Kendal Museum until 29th June 

yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby

Participating artist/ co-ordinator - Rock Solid? 2

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