The consultation process has been quite an adventure for RWM. A taste of the public reaction whenever the issue of radioactive waste is raised.
Public & Political Reaction
Ireland erupted, leading to inter-governmental discussions between Dublin and Westminster about a GDF during delicate Brexit ‘backstop’ negotiations. In Wales there was a request to cancel a public information meeting in Swansea – blocking any meaningful conversation/debate about an issue of national and global significance. And even in England, the merest mention of a workshop or of the generic geological screening maps, encouraged local media to misleadingly write that their area was under consideration for a “nuclear dump”. You can read all the media coverage on our media coverage page.
The noise created by this fallout, while understandable and predictable, somewhat detracted from the purpose of the workshops, to discuss improving the Site Evaluation criteria.
Consultation Events: headline summary observations
GDFWatch attended several of the events, to find out what people were asking, what concerned them, and to gauge wider sentiment about the geological disposal programme. Much of the questioning wasn’t about the site evaluation criteria, but more generally about the siting process, eg ‘how do you define a community’?
Answering such questions was part of the purpose of the workshops, but not their primary objective. However, there seemed to be a general sense at each of the meetings attended by GDFWatch that structuring key issues in this way was a very helpful step to communities beginning to understand an otherwise complex siting process and how it interacts with Planning and other legislation. There also seemed to be a view that this would be an on-going process, rather than something which should be determined within this consultation period.
One point which did come up at each meeting GDFWatch attended was the perceived need to quantify the evaluation criteria, or in some way structure them so they could be assessed more objectively. This was suggested both in terms of offering greater transparency to the public, and in providing RWM with enhanced legal protection if a decision were ever challenged (which most people seemed to think would happen at some point in the future process – though strikingly, it was a community being removed from the siting process by RWM which most people seemed to think was the most likely legal challenge!)
However, this is a just a summary overview, and many other points were raised. You are encouraged to submit your own response to the consultation. If you are considering submitting a response to the consultation, but have remaining questions, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information to help inform your submission. Remember to do so before 31 March in England, and 14 April in Wales.
If there was one critique of the consultation workshops, it would be the limited number of stakeholders who attended, and the range of interests they represented. There was diversity of opinion, but attendees tended to be those who’ve been keeping up-to-speed with the GDF siting process, whether that be from industry or community. There was no obvious involvement of the kinds of groups and organisations whose awareness and engagement needs to be enhanced in a consent-based process.
Remember, the deadline for submitting your responses in England is 31 March, and in Wales is 14 April. You can access the consultation documents and find out how to submit a response by visiting RWM’s website.