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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 11:22 GMT
Hunt for nuclear waste dumps
Michael Wild
Michael Wild
The Politics Show, North East and Cumbria

Drigg nuclear waste site
The Drigg nuclear waste site is over 40 years old

If a new generation of nuclear power stations is to be built, then somewhere needs to be found to bury the dangerous waste.

Hands up if you want a nuclear waste dump in your village? Don't all rush at once. It sounds like a joke, but it is a deadly serious business for the government.

But how do you convince a local community that it should allow nuclear waste on its doorstep?

The answer is inducements or, to put it another way, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

Cumbrian coastal village

The Politics Show visits the coastal village of Drigg, in Cumbria - home to just 400 people.

Those 400 are in line for a share of a £25m payout over the next 10 years, if the local council gives permission for an existing waste dump to be extended.

Low-level nuclear debris has been deposited in Drigg for almost half a century but the town has received no more than the odd ad hoc payment from the nuclear industry by way of compensation.

But that is all about to change.

Payment for planning

Copeland Council has negotiated regular yearly payments from the government in return for extending the site.

So good is the deal considered by politicians of all parties that planning approval for Drigg is expected to get the go ahead.

But not everyone is convinced.

Villagers in Drigg say they do not yet know what share of the £25m will come their way.

Then there is another tricky question... Can councillors really make a fair and balanced judgement when a large cheque is being dangled in front of them?

Sellafield
Sellafield: Main source of nuclear waste

250,000 years of waste

So what will be buried there?

It is to be mostly protective clothing, packaging and equipment contaminated by radioactivity.

Much of it comes from Sellafield, just up the road - the rest from hospitals and other businesses.

It is mixed with cement, packed in steel containers and then left underground in huge concrete vaults. Safe and sound.

But even if planning permission is given, that is far from the end of the story for the government and its nuclear ambitions.

There is still the really dangerous stuff to dispose of... so called "high level radioactive waste", which will remain toxic for 250,000 years.

Previous attempts to open a repository in Gosforth, Cumbria, were rejected in 1997, after local opposition.

Now there is even more urgency for the government to find another community willing to take this most hazardous of waste.

To help smooth the way, a sum of up to £1bn in inducements is being talked about in the national press.

Any takers?

Watch the Politics Show as we report from West Cumbria and talk to Copeland MP, Jamie Reed, and the Green Party.

We also have an exclusive interview with the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg.

The Politics Show

The Politics Show for the North East and Cumbria, with Jon Sopel and Richard Moss on Sunday 20 January at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

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