West Cumbria nuclear waste debate: argument FOR

Should nuclear waste be buried in west Cumbria? Credit: Roger Parker

It will be one of the biggest decisions in west Cumbria's history.

On Wednesday councillors will decide whether the west of the county should look for suitable areas to build an underground nuclear waste store.

The question at the centre of this debate is what to do with the countrys nuclear waste.

More than 70% of it is stored in west Cumbria and the community has been looking at whether the answer is to bury it in an underground nuclear waste store.

For four years a group of organisations across the county has been looking at the pro and cons of building the facility in the west of the county.

If built the £12billion scheme could be as deep as the height of Scafell Pike and wider than the city of Carlisle.

High level nuclear waste is already kept and monitored at Sellafield. Employees and unions support the move forward.

"To be clear the UK has an amount of nuclear waste that needs dealt with and we have had 30 years of drift and delay on this subject so we are comfortable to see this taken a step further. "

Last year the councils delayed their decision by three months. They had a number of issues they wanted to discuss with the government;

The right of withdrawal - so that west Cumbria can pull out at any stage

Community benefits package - how much the area would received and over how many years.

Suitability of geology - concerns that an underground site is the only option the government is looking at.

Brand protection - how will Cumbria's tourism industry be protected?"

"It was a good decision because there were a number of questions they wanted some clarification on and we have worked over the last three months to ensure that we've been able to respond to those questions. "I'm hoping now having done all the work that I needed to do that the councils are satisfied that they can actually move onto the next stage, however, of course it is a decision that they have to take."

Opponents say the geology of the area is unsuitable and will devastated Cumbria's tourism industry.

But those keen to progress to the next stage say the economic benefits will secure west Cumbria's future.

"There's an urgent need to rebalance our economy, to get more investment in and to rebalance away from the public to the private sector too at the same time. "Moving to stage 4 can help us to achieve all of those things whilst at the same time in no way guaranteeing a repository will be built here. "This is the most important decision that west Cumbria has faced potentially ever and it is absolutely essential that we get the right answer next week so that we can plan for our own future."

Whatever happens it will be a landmark decision. Councillors from Allerdale, Copeland and Cumbria County Council will vote on Wednesday. The county council and at least one of the borough councils must say yes in order to go forward to the next stage and look for a site.

Tomorrow we will be looking at the argument AGAINST going through to the next stage of the process.