Public Inquiry - Hurray!? or WTF?




There has been blanket coverage of the Communities Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick calling in the coal mine for a public inquiry. The reporting on this has been widespread from the BBC to the Big Issue but the bar has been set very low to carefully include only climate noise.

To give a very scary example of how incredibly low the bar has been set on reporting around this coal mine. Tonight there will be a Science Discovery talk on “Delivery” of a deep nuclear dump for heat generating nuclear wastes. So what’s that got to do with the coal mine? Well, The talk is on behalf of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management who report to the most powerful department in government, Business, Industrial and Energy Strategy (BEIS). The area in the frame is the Irish Sea area adjacent to the coal mine. The person delivering the talk is non other than the boss of the coal mine, Mark Kirkbride. Not an eyebrow has been raised on this appointment of the coal mine boss to the government plan for a deep nuclear dump (or two or three). Not one NGO or journalist has expressed outrage on this appointment despite our repeated conversations with them that this is a clear conflict of interest by government. The links between the coal mine and the government plan for a GDF are clear to see. The former Head of Cumbria County Council, Eddie Martin, who was instrumental in the Council vetoing the deep nuclear dump in 2013 has told us “clearly the coal mine is a precursor to a GDF.” Government has now ensured that Cumbria County Council no longer has the right of veto on a GDF i.e. deep nuclear dump.

In this context the public inquiry called by government which looks on the face of it a very good thing, is maybe on reflection not so good given that leading councillors had already changed their minds and voted no to the plan. The council’s forthcoming reconsideration of the coal mine has now been superseded by the forthcoming public inquiry. The government will have the last say. This is not reassuring especially if nuclear impacts are not included in the Terms of Reference for the inquiry. Should Mark Kirkbride the coal mine boss continue to be employed by government to “Deliver” a deep nuclear dump how on earth can government make an impartial decision - they want a deep nuclear dump to justify new nuclear build and they have employed the coal mine boss (and another top exec from the coal mine) to “deliver” a deep nuclear dump. A whacking big hole is necessary to dump a whole Lakeland mountain worth of rock that would be mined out of the "possible" nuclear dump area under the Irish Sea and right next to the coal mine.

A coal mine of this size and longevity anywhere would have the same climate impacts - but this is most definitely not an equivalent coal mine. It would extend to within five miles from Sellafield and be under decades of Sellafields discharged wastes while two of the coal mine executives have been appointed to the government’s nuclear dump plan. It feels like the public are being gaslighted over this mine with the focus myopically on climate. Yes the climate impacts are big but the big omission of nuclear impacts is the same as lying to the public. What the mainstream press has in all the recent press also omitted to say is that without nuclear campaigners Radiation Free Lakeland flagging up both Nuclear AND Climate impacts (under the campaign to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole) four years ago and taking on a legal challenge two years ago with the help of lawyers Leigh Day, this mine would most likely be underway right now.

Thank goodness the Nuclear Free Local Authorities have started to see the connections and why local nuclear campaigners Radiation Free Lakeland have been in full on opposition mode to this mine from the outset. The NFLA's report was published on friday,( the same day as the call in by the Secretary of State). The full report can be seen here in a pdf.