Northern Ireland news

Stormont suspension thwarts nuclear dump proposals

Amy Shelton of Radioactive Waste Management outlines the geological conditions that make certain areas potentially suitable for the disposal of radioactive waste

THE British government-owned company tasked with finding sites for disposing of radioactive waste has said it cannot progress any plans for a nuclear dump in Northern Ireland while Stormont is suspended.

Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) said the north is the "region least likely" to house a nuclear waste disposal facility because the project requires the approval of the devolved administration, as well as those living near a potential site.

Concern about the company's plans was triggered by an online video showing prospective locations for a nuclear dump.

The video shows Amy Shelton, a senior research manager with RWM, outlining the geological conditions that make certain areas suitable for the disposal of radioactive waste.

The presentation, which divides the north into four geological areas – or subregions – is similar to corresponding videos produced by RWM that cover England and Wales.

Scotland does not feature as its devolved government adopted a policy of 'near surface disposal', according to RWM.

The video sparked a response from political representatives in south Down after the granite-rich area around Newry was earmarked by Ms Shelton as a potential location for a "geological disposal facility".

She said more work was needed to establish whether conditions are suitable.

But Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said any proposal to locate a site in parts of Co Down and Co Armagh was "totally unacceptable".

“Britain cannot use the north as a dumping ground for this hazardous and toxic material – not only would this have dire consequences for our environment but it would also pose a serious health risk to the population," he said.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said the proposal outlined in the video "beggars belief".

"Our areas of outstanding natural beauty and of significant environmental importance cannot become dumping grounds for British nuclear waste," he said.

"We have been subjected to years of abnormal radioactive levels given our proximity to Sellafield and this news that government agencies have been poking around our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to find holes for nuclear waste is beyond comprehension."

A spokesman for RWM said the disposal of radioactive waste is a devolved matter and that "no host site for a geological disposal facility has been identified and no region is being targeted over another".

"In the continued absence of the executive, no further commitments regarding the disposal of radioactive waste in Northern Ireland – including Newry – can be given," the spokesman said.

"Accordingly, we can confirm that for the time being at least we will not pursue a siting process in Northern Ireland."

The RWM spokesman said that in addition to suitable geological conditions, the "consent of a willing community" was required.

"Without these two things we cannot go ahead and build the facility," he said.

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