GDFWatch prides itself on carrying both pro and anti-GDF views, to encourage debate. We have no intention of stopping this. However, sometimes people are “over-laissez” and “un-fair” with their facts, and in this Trumpian world there will sadly be occasions when it is necessary to point out something as “fake news” (in the sense that it is an untrue assertion, rather than being something we don’t like).
An article that appeared this week in Nation Cymru, entitled The Welsh Government is happy to make us a dumping ground for England’s nuclear waste, requires some simple fact-checking.
The article opens up with the claim that “the Welsh Government has revealed its true colours by offering to bury radioactive waste from England and Northern Ireland in Wales.” As a matter of fact, not opinion, this is simply not true.
Radioactive waste management is a devolved responsibility. The Welsh Government has accepted its responsibilities to ensure the country complies with international law and best practice by establishing an appropriate legal and regulatory framework — from a nationalist perspective you might think that placing Wales alongside sovereign states is something to be commended not condemned.
Furthermore, the Welsh Government has been explicit and consistent in saying that it is not advocating for geological disposal in Wales. Indeed, the Welsh Government has reserved itself a ‘veto’, so that even if a Welsh community was willing to host a GDF, the Senedd could still oppose the project if it considered there was a wider Welsh national interest in blocking construction of the facility.
The article later states that “they [have] not taken on board the reality that if nuclear waste it is buried deep underground the radioactivity can still escape through the water tables.” Again, this is demonstrably incorrect.
As the GDF delivery body, RWM have established criteria which need to be taken into account when assessing the geological suitability of a potential site. The criteria have been the subject of public consultation, peer review, and overseen by an independent group of international experts (whose cross-examination of RWM was held in public and live-streamed online). One of the key criteria is groundwater movement. If there are water tables or other ways in which water passing through the rock can reach the surface, the regulatory authorities will not permit a GDF to be built in such an environment.
The article also states that “anti-nuclear power campaigners have debated the whole question of storage of radioactive waste for decades and we have largely come to the conclusion that it should stay where it is, on-site at the Nuclear Power stations where it was created. That is the safest option.” It is completely true that anti-nuclear campaigners have debated this issue for many years. It is also true that the international scientific community have also examined this issue for many years, and have come to the very opposite conclusion. Even the anti-nuclear Scottish Government seeks (alone amongst every other nuclear country on Earth) ‘near surface’ — rather than deep geological — disposal as a solution.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but now more than ever we need to ensure public debate is based on fact and evidence. There will be plenty to debate once we have specific sites to consider, and the evidence may not always be clear. GDFWatch may well one day find itself on the side of Nation Cymru in many of these debates, but not today, not on the evidence.
The article ends with the comment that “nuclear power … was Humankind’s greatest technological mistake and we should always remember it.” That’s a wholly different debate from how we safely manage the radioactive waste we already have, and one on which we have no further comment.