Romney Marsh could become site of nuclear waste disposal
ROMNEY Marsh could house a nuclear waste disposal facility under proposals being considered by Shepway District Council.
A consultation has been launched by the local authority to seek the views of people living in the area on potential plans for a multi-billion pound Nuclear Research and Disposal Facility.
If the plans went ahead nuclear waste would be placed in secure containers deep underground in vaults and tunnels, while at ground level there would be a centre housing research facilities and offices.
A policy of geological disposal is being implemented by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and communities are being asked to express an interest in the plans. West Cumbria has already done so, but the council in Shepway says it will not make a move unless there is local support.
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Cllr David Godfrey, who was raised on the Marsh and whose first job was surveying the Dungeness A nuclear power station there, said: "The council does not have a formal view about whether the Marsh should host a Nuclear Research and Disposal Facility.
"Our only view is that local people should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves if it is worth discussing the idea further."
Romney Marsh, widely recognised as one of the most valuable wilderness environments in the country, has long been home to nuclear power at the Dungeness power plants.
But one is being decommissioned and the other is set to close in a few years, leaving the area facing the loss of hundreds of jobs and estimated £46 million a year from the local economy.
The council insists it has not given up the fight for a new power station at Dungeness, but says it wants to give people the opportunity to comment on the possibility of Romney Marsh hosting a nuclear waste facility which would create many long-term jobs.
Consultation over the plans was revealed by the council in a tweet this morning.
Details of the outline proposal were expected to be formally announced under embargo tomorrow morning, but after the news leaked on Twitter the council was forced to confirm the plans to seek the public's opinion.
There is likely to be strong opposition to the plans. Local MP Damian Collins has this morning been quoted on Twitter as saying: "Romney Marsh deserves a better future than being the dumping ground for all of Britain’s high level nuclear waste."
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter reacted with horror at the proposal, saying he would go as far as pushing for a countywide referendum on the plans.
He said: "I would like to make our position abundantly clear. Kent County Council is totally opposed to initiating any process that even entertains the possibility of building a nuclear waste disposal site anywhere near or around Kent.
"These nuclear waste stores should be in remote areas. It is utter madness to do so in a relatively densely populated area, close to London and the Home Counties, that will involve the movement of highly hazardous waste though London and the South East.
"It is also equally irresponsible to consider constructing such a gigantic facility in an area which is both an earthquake zone and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world."
Letters and newsletters have gone to homes and businesses across the Marsh and a series of exhibitions on the proposal will be staged from May 24.
"If the people of the Marsh do not support an expression of interest, things will end there," said Cllr Godfrey.
"If the community does support an expression of interest, DECC will commission experts to see whether the geology accessible from the Marsh is potentially suitable. If it is and the people of the Marsh are still interested in the proposal, the council would help set up a partnership of local organisations to take the lead."
Reacting to the news this morning, Protect Kent spokesman Jamie Weir said: "Protect Kent are very interested in the Government's proposals for nuclear waste disposal in the Romney Marsh area.
"We do recognise that nuclear waste disposal is a national issue that must be tackled immediately, for the benefit of the UK and its domestic energy security. However, the suitability of the Romney Marsh area for such a facility will require intensive investigation and planning.
"The entire proposal will generate a broad range of questions that will need to be answered before it receives substantial support.
"Protect Kent will be studying the proposals intently before making their considered comments known. In the meanwhile, we welcome the engagement of communities and environment groups such as ours that has been sought by Shepway District Council."