Talking about radioactive waste is scary. I would rather we didn’t have to but we do.
This is the second biggest environmental issue we face; we can’t ignore it and we have to take responsibility for the side effects of the clean energy we have produced. This issue is part of the Green / Clean Energy debate. We can’t just focus on new technologies without cleaning up after ourselves. Just like the issue of single use plastic, we have to deal with the problem in front of us rather than bury our heads in the sand and leave it to others. Our generation has taken, and is still taking, the benefits of nuclear technologies, therefore we must be accountable for the safest possible permanent disposal of the waste. We cannot leave it to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to clean up after us …. that would not be fair.
Prior to May 2021, I had never thought about what we do with our nuclear waste. When Sacha Bedding first spoke to me about it, I was rather rattled. This was one of those uncomfortable issues that would be much easier to ignore. I vividly remember the unease in the pit of my stomach when he told me about the government policy for the deep and safe storage of our waste. Up until this point, I was pleasantly oblivious to it.
These are some of the things I did not know:
- Every country in the world, which has a nuclear programme, faces this environmental issue. As the excerpt below demonstrates science-based discussions / programmes are taking place across the globe;
- Swedish community voting to host their nation’s geological repository
- Two Japanese communities choose to enter into initial discussions
- Expectation in UK that at least one community will come forward
- Germany publishes geological analysis identifying potential host areas
- Canada completes acquisitions of land that could host a repository
- Hungary Opposition leader wants public debate on radwaste disposal”
Ref: http://www.gdfwatch.org.uk/news/ (2020)
- Some countries are progressing with the development of their disposal facility. These two clips show how much progress has been made in both Finland and Sweden;
- Sweden https://www.skb.com/
- Finland https://binged.it/3CYTP7h
- We currently have radioactive waste in shallow storage in Hartlepool and around the UK. This is not a secret, the information is publicly available if any of us choose to look;
- Wherever the Disposal Facility is eventually sited, it will be one of the largest infrastructure projects of our time. The processed material will be stored at depths of up to 1000 metres in geologically stable rock formations. At this depth, the material will become inactive, it will be safe from climate change, threats of terrorism and other factors. Additionally, this project will bring in over a billion pounds to the hosting local economy creating secure high tech jobs for over 100 years.
- The facility will operate for about 100 years after which the surface will be permanently sealed.
As I moved from my state of comfortable unawareness, doing my own research, trying to understand and confronting the reality of the environmental issue, I began to consider how little I understood. I also realised that this government policy allowed people like me, residents of our town and citizens across our country to have their say. That our voices would be heard. The policy can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/communities-and-gdf
For me, this became not only about one of the biggest environmental issues we face, I realised it was also about my democratic right to have my voice heard.
I have spent my public service career working to deliver care to people, working to improve our NHS, helping teams in difficulty and public service organisations to improve their corporate culture. Central to all of this work is the fundamental principle that we all should be able to speak our truth, to have our voice heard, to be able to sit with others and talk, to civilly challenge, to accept alternative perspectives, to be tolerant and kind in our dealings with each other. It seems to me that if we need to have the national debate about geological disposal of our nuclear waste (and we do) then we should do so civilly, slowly and with purpose and everyone’s voice should be heard.
The government policy allows us to have this debate over a 5 – 10 year timeframe, without saying YES to the Disposal Facility. We can sit together in our town, we can talk with our young people, we can be civil with each other as we learn about this issue. The policy also allows us to access several million pounds of community funding while we have our conversations and learn about the issues, again without ever having to say YES. The final say will be with the people. On this basis, I agreed to act as the Independent Chair of a Working Group for Hartlepool, HAD the discussions Sacha Bedding was leading come to fruition. Sadly, we have not reached that point and I have never taken up the role.
As a resident I find it hard to accept where we find ourselves. It seems to be a place where our opportunity to talk together, share our views, share our fears and concerns and our aspirations seems to have stopped. As someone who believes with all their heart, that democracy is about all of our voices and starts with each of us being able to have our say I find this so, so sad.
I have already spoken to the national government agency leaders at Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) https://tinyurl.com/3m9ymk5t, to explain that if their intention is to let the people of our country have their say, then our experience here in Hartlepool suggests that the policy may need to be adjusted to ensure this can take place.
For me this whole situation is now about a principle of democracy and our moral obligation to future generations in finding a solution to one of the biggest clean energy issues we face.
If you want any information about the things I have done in my career, the best way to find that is via my LinkedIn profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxinecraig/
I currently undertake a number of voluntary positions which are close to my heart:
I am a member of the Advisory Board of the Helen McArdle Nursing & Care Research Institute
I am the Chair of the Love Hartlepool work across our town
I am working as part of an international group creating global conversations about organisation development across the world with the https://www.odnetwork.org
I am a member of the Hartlepool Town Deal Board, leading the subgroup on Public engagement https://www.hartlepool.gov.uk/homepage/101/hartlepool_town_dealI am a Visiting Professor at Sunderland University
contact : firstname.lastname@example.org