Twelve Months – One Meeting

NFLA media release, 19 August 2022, For immediate use

Twelve months, one meeting – the complete lack of accountability on nuclear in Copeland

Despite Copeland Council being at the heart of plans to develop a new nuclear plant and a nuclear waste dump in the borough, the Nuclear Free Local Authorities were surprised to see that the Council’s Strategic Nuclear and Energy Board has only met once in the last twelve months.[i]

Only last month, Copeland Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Nuclear and Commercial Services Councillor David Moore described how “the future looks rosy” for new nuclear in Copeland as talks progress on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors.[ii]

Unfortunately, for the members of the Board, there was no opportunity to explore how ‘rosy’ the future was as the scheduled 9 August meeting was subsequently cancelled. Since the last meeting of the Board on 6 October 2021, meetings have been cancelled on 9 December; 10 February; 28 April; 7 June; and latterly on 9 August 2022.

Infact, the Rolls-Royce fronted consortium developing a 470-MW so-called ‘Small’ Modular Nuclear Reactor still faces considerable challenges in bringing a design to market. The design still needs to be approved by the Office of Nuclear Regulation after a comprehensive Generic Design Assessment. If approved, the consortium would need to build and test an actual working prototype; establish facilities to fabricate the parts; master the fabrication and on-site assembly process; secure funding; navigate the siting, planning and Development Consent process; and actually build the first plant. So hardly a rose in fragrant bloom!

Perhaps the infrequency of the meetings of the Board can be related to the disquiet expressed by some members over the lack of accountability over plans for Copeland Borough Council to partner with Nuclear Waste Services to bring a nuclear waste dump (a so-called Geological Disposal Facility or GDF) to Copeland. The Board minutes for 9 October 2021 record that three Councillors wanted the final decision taken by a meeting of the Full Council rather than reserved to the Executive; with a tied vote, this proposal was defeated only on the Chair’s casting vote. To placate the objectors, Councillor Moore promised that ‘this committee and full Council would be updated on a regular basis’.[iii] The Board has since never met.

Commenting, Councillor David Blackburn said: “At a cost of up to £53 billion, the GDF would be the biggest engineering undertaking to take place in Copeland, since the creation of the Sellafield complex. It would be a repository for Britain’s high-level nuclear waste from seven decades of civil nuclear operations, and also take waste from future generation. Taking up to 150 years to build, fill and seal, it would have massive implications for, and be completely disruptive to, any host community in Copeland for generations.

“The GDF process is fast moving on apace. Since October 2021, first a Working Group and then a Community Partnership have been formed with Copeland’s involvement. In the last month, seismic testing has been taking place off the coast of West Cumbria, an activity which has rightly been hugely controversial for its adverse impact on marine life. Yet during this whole time, this Board, the very body charged by Copeland Council to provide oversight on the GDF and nuclear projects, has not met; no reports on these and other important issues have been brought before this Board for debate; and there has been no opportunity for members of the public to sit in on deliberations. Hardly democracy at its finest.” 

For more information, please contact NFLA Secretary Richard Outram by email on or telephone 07583 097793

This media release can also be found on the NFLA website at:

Notes for Editors

[i] Strategic Nuclear and Energy Board – List of meeting dates

[ii] Cavanagh, Gareth, ‘Copeland’s nuclear boss says future is bright for SMR and fusion’, The Whitehaven News, 13 July 2022

[iii] Meeting of Strategic Nuclear and Energy Board, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 1.00 pm (Item SN 21/17 – The UK Government’s approach to identifying a site for a Geological Disposal Facility for higher-activity radioactive waste)