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Environmentally designated areas not to be excluded from nuclear waste storage

Dartmoor NP

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS) has published a report on geological disposal infrastructure (GDI) and has not ruled out nuclear waste storage under national parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The draft National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure published this week has outlined recommendations for gaining planning consent orders for GDI in England.

A GDI is defined as a specially-engineered vaults and tunnels located deep underground designed to store higher activity radioactive waste that cannot be stored at existing surface facilities on a permanent basis. Initially it would need to be operational for 150 years.

Looking at improving the engagement of and benefits to local communities, the report states that national parks and AONB ae not exempt from being used to for GDI to dispose of nuclear waste.

The news has caused concern in Devon around the use of Dartmoor as a storage facility for waste from EDF’s new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

The committee’s report summary said: “Although we agree that major developments should not be allowed in designated areas except under exceptional circumstances, we believe that existing planning legislation and the National Policy Statement contains sufficient safeguards against intrusive developments and environmental damage in national parks and AONBs.

“Moreover, we support the government’s view that it is conceivable for a GDI to be designed in a way that would be acceptable to communities, preserve the socioeconomic benefits that national parks and AONBs currently bring them and avoid any intrusive surface facility in conservation areas.”

Minister for business and industry Richard Harrington, who gave evidence to the committee said that the government was not in favour excluding ANOB and national parks as it would preclude proposals from communities who may be interested in hosting a GDI that will have been designed to minimise the environmental impact:

“We have to look at all possible sites where communities want it. For example, the potash proposal near Whitby in North Yorkshire is in a national park, but the people who are proposing the site have shown a way of doing it where the actual buildings that are left will leave very little blot on the landscape of the national park.

“I am not saying we should have them on national parks, but it would be very wrong to exclude them at the moment in this big policy statement,” Harrington added. 

The committee concluded that the draft national policy statement was for for purpose and contained adequate guidance and details needed for the developer, the Planning Inspectorate and the secretary of state to put forward and make recommendations on development consent orders.

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