CUMBRIA County Council has dealt a blow to the prospect of building a £12 billion underground nuclear waste site in its area by voting against the idea.
Council leaders rejected moving to the next stage of studying a possible suitable site, by seven votes to three.
There were huge cheers from environmental campaigners outside the council chamber in Carlisle when the decision was announced.
Earlier, leaders of Copeland borough councillors voted 6-1 in favour of moving to the next stage in the search for a site to bury radioactive waste.
Cumbria County Council said in a statement that its cabinet has decided that West Cumbria should no longer be considered as a potential location for a deep geological repository to dispose of higher activity radioactive waste, and that the two districts of Copeland and Allerdale should be excluded from further consideration in the Government’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process.
The 10 members of the Cabinet also agreed that the council will encourage the Government to invest in improvements to the existing surface storage facilities at Sellafield so that there is a more “robust” surface storage arrangement in the decades to come while a permanent solution for the country’s higher activity radioactive waste is found.
The decision effectively ends the county council’s four-year formal involvement in the MRWS process and puts an end to the “doubts and concerns” of many local people, said the statement.
“As a decision to continue with the process needed the agreement of both the district and county councils, Cumbria County Council’s decision has removed both districts from consideration.”
Council leader Eddie Martin (Conservative) said: “Cabinet believes there is sufficient doubt around the suitability of West Cumbria’s geology to put an end now to the uncertainty and worry this is causing for our communities. Cumbria is not the best place geologically in the UK - the Government’s efforts need to be focused on disposing of the waste underground in the safest place, not the easiest.”
Deputy Leader Stewart Young added: “The case for investment in Sellafield is now more pressing than ever. We had always raised concerns over the lack of any plan B from Government and the fact that West Cumbria was the only area to express an interest in the process left the Government with few options if we decided not to proceed.”