Agenda item

Application no: 4/15/9012. PROPOSAL: Phased construction of Vaults 9a, 10 and 11 and for the disposal of low level radioactive wastes within these new Vaults and within the existing Vault 9 with higher stacking, for the retention of temporarily higher stacked containers in Vault 8 with additional higher stacking. Phased construction of a permanent engineered capping layer over Trenches 1 to 7 and Vaults 8 to 11, with other ancillary works. Site/Location: LLW Repository Ltd, near Drigg, Holmrook, Cumbria

To receive a report from the Corporate Director – Environment and Highways (copy enclosed).


A report was considered from the Assistant Director – Environment and Regulatory Services regarding the phased construction of Vaults 9a, 10 and 11 and for the disposal of low level radioactive wastes within the new Vaults and within the existing Vault 9 with higher stacking and for the retention of temporarily higher stacked containers in Vault 8 with additional higher stacking.  Also included was the phased construction of a permanent engineered capping layer over Trenches 1 to 7 and Vaults 8 to 11, with other ancillary works at the LLW Repository, near Drigg, Holmrook, Cumbria.


The Lead Officer – Planning guided members through the report with a detailed presentation which provided a pictorial representation of the site and addressed the respective roles of the planning regime and pollution control regulation, need for the proposal, development plan and national policy, access to the site, protection of water resources, coastal erosion, ecology and landscape. He referred members to the number of objections received after the publication of the Agenda; these had been included in the update sheet which the members had received and read before commencement of the meeting.


He advised that since the publication of the Agenda, conditions 2, 4, 10, 11, 17, 22, 23, 25, 26 and 31 had been amended slightly and it was recommended that the amended conditions supersede those set out in Appendix 1 of the report. He drew members’ attention to futher small changes now proposed to the wording in Condition 4 and advised that the suggested amendments made to Condition 25 in the Update Sheet should not be implemented; instead, it was proposed that Condition 25 would remain as in the report.


He concluded that the proposal was in accordance with the Development Plan, that there was strong policy support for it, that all impacts of the proposal could be adequately controlled  and that planning permission should be granted based on the information contained within the report, the update sheet and the verbal update presented at the meeting.




Ms Marianne Birkby had attended the meeting to represent Radioactive Free Lakeland and presented a Petition to the Chairman which contained approximately 2000 signatures, objecting to the proposal. She addressed the Committee and made the following summarised points in her objection:


Ø      The nuclear industry was out of control

Ø      Drigg was a quaint village, now synonymous with nuclear waste.

Ø      The site was a dump rather than a repository with waste being tumble tipped into the ground between 1950 and 1989. A slight improvement had been made when waste was subsequently stored in shipping containers.

Ø      Since 1950, waste had leached into the air, ground water and stream. The site was above the West Cumbria aquifer creating risk to those that rely on locally abstracted water. The site was important to Cumbria and nationally.

Ø      The waste was not low level; it included plutonium which had been grouted into place when deposited.

Ø      Waste moving up the the waste hierarchy sounded nice but it was questioned what this meant as it was now acceptable to bury lower level nuclear waste at Lillyhall rather than Drigg, and Drigg was accepting higher levels of nuclear waste.

Ø      The industry was so out of control that Drigg was now receiving greater concentrations of higher level nuclear waste

Ø      There was radioactive waste in ponds which was intermediate level waste.

Ø      Drigg should never have become a dump and landfill should not take place close so close to the coast.

Ø      The site was dangerous and the nuclear industry was obscene.

Ø      The gate should be locked on Drigg and the nuclear industry should stop the tsunami of waste.


Mr Martyn Lowe had attended the meeting to represent the Close Capenhurst Campaign, Kick Nuclear and the Nuclear Trains Action Group. He addressed the Committee and made the following summarised points in his objection:


Ø      He and other groups were concerned about the future of nuclear development which would bring more waste to Cumbria.

Ø      He was concerned about rising tides and climate change

Ø      Drigg would be susceptible to flooding, in particular the railway which could result in problems with communication and the evacuation and movement of local people

Ø      The area was not ideal for adding more waste.

Ø      The whole of Britain’s coast was subject to rising tides.

Ø      Waste from nuclear plants would need to be treated and Sellafield and Drigg were the only locations to store the waste and that was a national problem.

Ø      There was no planning for the future in the report.

Ø      At present, the site had long term waste to store and the waste processed at Sellafield originated from all around the world therefore, the problem needed to be addressed on a global scale.

Ø      Drigg needed to be assessed for leakages

Ø      He questioned whether the LLWR had contingency plans in place if tides rose faster than that which had been modelled.

Ø      He expressed concern about what would happen if no further LLWR sites were developed in the future.




Mr Richard Cummings, Head of Science at the LLWR responded to the points raised by the Objectors as follows:


Ø      The LLWR repository only accepted low level waste, as stipulated by Government policy.

Ø      Drigg was the only national facility so there was a clear need for it and it was the key enabler for decommissioning.

Ø      LLWR  had consulted with the County Council on the proposal for a number of years and the disposal of waste would be undertaken, taking all monitoring and controls into consideration.

Ø      Capping of the trenches and vaults would give protection to local people and the environment.

Ø      There had been no objections to the proposal from statutory consultees.

Ø      The LLWR had demonstrated  in the past that it would undertake construction without significant impact to the local area

Ø      The LLWR worked with local residents and believed that there was support in the area for the proposal.

Ø      There would be socio economic benefits as construction jobs would be allocated to local small and medium term enterprises.

Ø      The nuclear industry was not out of control as it was highly regulated. The safety case was regularly reviewed and the Environment Agency had stated that the LLWR met its stringent requirements.

Ø      A request was made that the application be approved so that the LLWR could carry on its work and cap the trenches and vaults to provide protection for people now and in the future.


The Chairman asked for questions from members to both the Objectors and Applicant.


A member was concerned about changing weather patterns, referencing three flooding events in Cumbria and whether provision had been made for climate change. He also questioned whether plans were in place to avoid congestion and delays on the County’s roads if there was an accident involving vehicles carrying nuclear waste and if there were an accident on the rail route, such as Arnside viaduct, where the waste would go. The Applicant explained that Drigg was located in Flood Zone 1 and sat in an open valley and estuarine location which could accommodate extensive surcharges of water from three local rivers and therefore would not flood. There were arrangements in place to respond to an accident.


A member requested confirmation that no waste was released into local rivers and into the sea. The Applicant advised that very low level leachate was collected from the vault and site and was released two kilometres out at sea.


Locking the gate on Drigg was not considered to be an option for one member as he considered that waste had been well managed since 1988, therefore Mrs Birkby was asked where she would store waste if not at Drigg. Mrs Birkby clarified that no new waste should be brought to Drigg rather than locking the gate and walking away from the waste already there. She referred to safety concerns regarding fires and waste leaking from the site. Another member considered the site to be fit for purpose and commented on another site which had been decommissioned. Ms Birkby  considered that decommissioning was not a positive action and referred to the waste hierarchy. She stated that she would rather leave the waste at Sellafield and not bring it into the wider environment.


The impact of rising high tides and the potential for a tsunami such as that which affected the Fukushima nuclear plant was raised. The Applicant stated that Drigg was 15 metres above sea level and modelling of tsunamis in the Irish Sea had been undertaken and concluded large waves would not occur given the location of Ireland in relation to the site. He confirmed that no tidal surge would reach 15 metres above sea level to the site.


The effects of flooding on the railway network was outlined by Mr Lowe after a member questioned the transportation of nuclear waste on the railway. Mr Lowe referred to the flooding event of December 2015  when waste was prevented from being transported on the coastal route due to flooding in south Cumbria. He stated that riding tides and tidal surges would go further inland than anticipated and modelling should be undertaken to establish what the effects would be.


In response to a question about coastal erosion taking place near the site, the Applicant advised of geomorphological work undertaken by the LLWR and it expected the coast to erode between 300 - 1000 years but over that time, the waste would have depleted. He acknowledged that there was evidence of coastal erosion over the previous 50 years.


One member reminded the Committee that that  the decision should be made on planning grounds and not on environmental matters.


Mr Clarke from the Environment Agency explained that the organisation was an independent regulator, then outlined the processes and work undertaken with the LLWR on the Environmental Safety case since 2002. He considered that  the site was low risk for flooding and that coastal erosion and river alluvial flooding had been modelled. He stated that there had been an inventory of the trenches’ contents and that there were strict regulations about the movement of waste which was considered to be intrinsically low level risk. The Environment Agency approved the environmental maintenance programme and undertook third party reassurance monitoring.


The meeting adjourned at 10.20am and reconvened at 10.30am.


Members were advised that the licence from the site was based on the Safety Case to ensure that waste arrived on site safely.


One member explained to the Committee why the site had been established. He considered that in planning terms, the proposal fit in with national policy and that the environmental case was complete and Drigg was the premier repository in the United Kingdom. However, although he did support the capping of trenches 1 to 7 and Vaults 8 to 11, he felt that allowing expansion of the site would not drive innovation for dealing with the waste and was therefore undecided on the subject of expansion and the longer term expansion of the site beyond the current proposed life.


A number of members commented that they sympathised with the points raised by the Objectors and referred to the historical development of the LLWR and the legacy for future generations, with one member stating that in the future, a solution to the treatment of waste could be discovered.


It was raised by one member that there was a need for the site to expand. He thought it would be well managed, travel to the site would be monitored, proposals for drainage of the site seemed adequate, modelling had taken place which  addressed the issues that had been raised by members in the meeting and the site had the best technical specialists who used innovative technology.


A site visit had been held and one member commented that he was impressed by the officers on site and he felt that the conditions covered the concerns raised by members and residents. He referred to the Community Site Liaison Group and hoped that it would be effective in any future development.


One member who had visited the site stated that she believed that as long as there was sufficient environmental and safety monitoring, the site would be safe.


The local member stated that local residents had lived near the site for many years. He commented on the successful Community Site Stakeholder Group and Liaison Committee of Parish Councillors and site managers. Local residents felt safe and considered the site was well run with decision making now more transparent. He informed members that Vault 11 had initially been larger than that presented to the Committee but had been reduced in size following negotiation.


Many members thanked the Officers for their work on the project and the comprehensive report.


It was Moved by Mr Fletcher and Seconded by Mr Markley that planning permission be granted. Following a vote, 16 in favour and one abstention it was


RESOLVED that, after first taking into consideration the environmental information, as defined in the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulation 2011 submitted in connection with the application, planning permission be granted subject to conditions controlling time limits, working programme, landscaping, environmental management, hydrogeology, ecological mitigation and management, the diversion of Drigg Stream, drainage, waste types, HGV movement limits and waste types as set out in Appendix 1 to this report as amended by the update sheet and verbal report to the Committee.

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