Nuclear waste on Dartmoor?

Laura White
Laura White

Chief Exec admits DNPA would be powerless to stop Government using Dartmoor as dump for nuclear waste

Dr Kevin Bishop (pictured), Chief Executive of Dartmoor National Park has admitted that the Authority would be effectively powerless in the event of the Government choosing Dartmoor as the UK’s nuclear waste dump. Speaking publicly for the first time on the issue he said:

“If the government determined that Dartmoor was to be the location it would be a government decision not a National Park Authority decision and we could well find ourselves in the situation whereby we were trying to mount a legal challenge.It would have to be a judicial review and that’s only successful if there has been impropriety in the decision making. The time it takes to develop these things we’ll all be dead anyway.”

A cross-party committee of MPs decided last week that the country’s National Parks should not be ruled out when it comes to selecting a site for permanently storing nuclear waste. Until now, the waste has been stockpiled above ground at nuclear reactors and will remain radioactive for thousands of years.

Andy Bradford, a Dartmoor farmer whose agri-tourism business at Brimpts Farm in the middle of the moor attracts visitors from all over the world is concerned about the impact if Dartmoor is chosen. “It’s a suicide pill, isn’t it. It would be toxic to tourism.”

Tom Greeves, Chairman of the Dartmoor Society, agrees: “The thought of nuclear waste stored under Dartmoor is anathema.”

The dangerous legacy has been building up for decades and now amounts to 750,000 cubic metres of radioactive material which will remain harmful for thousands of years.

The Government is looking to bury it in a single Geological Disposal Infrastructure (GDI) facility. This would comprise a network of tunnels spreading 10-20km2 underground and an extensive development on the surface occupying a square kilometre. Although the Government is hoping for communities to volunteer to give a home to the massive infrastructure project, it has now reserved the right to have the final say on selecting a location and low population density areas such as national parks are obvious candidates.

The DNPA says it has no plans to formulate an official policy or hold a meeting on the issue. Dr Bishop added: “With everything else the government is facing at the moment I can’t see that they will be rushing to identify a nuclear waste repository in the next couple of years.”

The Moorlander approached other national parks for their thoughts on the issue. Jonathan Cawley, Director of Planning and Land Management of Snowdonia National Park Authority said:
“The Snowdonia National Park Authority does not have a specific policy for dealing with nuclear waste, therefore without further details to enable us to understand the implications of such a proposal it would be premature for the Authority to draw a conclusion. Large developments of national significance are generally unsuitable for National Parks, but we must address each application on its own merit.”

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive for Exmoor National Park Authority said: “This is to confirm that we are not aware of any current plans for nuclear waste disposal on Exmoor and have not been approached by Government or by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. We will of course be following the discussion as it develops.”

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