Many will have heard by now the awful news that the coal mine in Cumbria has been approved by Government. What the public have not been made aware of despite the banner headlines is the fact that the coal mine CEO Mark Kirkbride is advising Government on the UK Nuclear Dump plan. This nuclear dump advice includes “investigation techniques” which has started with the seismic blasting.
Radiation Free Lakeland’s Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign has delayed the plan repeatedly with the amazing help of lawyers Leigh Day.
This is not the end of the story.
The mine still has to win approval from the Marine Management Organisation in order to mine under the Marine Conservation Zone, under the Irish Sea.
West Cumbria Mining have however told the Planning Inspector “We may not need a Marine Management Organisation Licence.”
We will be fighting to ensure that the coal mine does not bypass this regulatory process (as has happened with the seismic blasting to test the geology for the nuclear dump as advised by the coal boss and carried out under “exemption”)
We continue to be utterly appalled by the lack of attention on:
a) the earthquake potential of this coal mine which is so very close to the worlds largest stockpiles of plutonium at Sellafield, and
b) the appointment of the coal mine CEO Mark Kirkbride as Government advisor on investigation techniques, costings and construction of a very deep hole (Geological Disposal Facility) for heat generating nuclear wastes in the vicinity of the coal mine.
The Planning Inspector in his recommendation to Government stated : “the risk of a seismic event cannot be ruled out” ( Report to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities by Stephen Normington BSc DipTP MRICS MRTPI FIQ FIHE an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State Date 7 April 2022- 21.245.) Radiation Free Lakeland/Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole quoted extensively at the Planning Inquiry from expert reports showing that the coal mine would be “likely to induce seismicity”. The Inspector however concluded that due to the lack of technical expert witnesses from NGOs on earthquake risks to Sellafield “I consider the potential impacts in respect of future seismic events should be afforded limited weight.”
It is beyond belief that the CEO of a seismicity inducing coal mine near Sellafield should be employed by Government as an “invaluable” advisor on nuclear waste burial in a Geological Disposal Facility. The coal mine is in the middle of two target areas for a GDF. Radioactive Waste Management (now Nuclear Waste Services) who are advised by the coal mine CEO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the British Geological Society in June 2020. The BGS are the very people who should be speaking out about the seismic impacts of the coal mine near Sellafield but they are collaborating with the CEO of the coal mine on nuclear waste dump plans. This is many headed cronyism at the highest level.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out) – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
“We urge all those speaking against the mine at the public inquiry to give at least a mention to the fact that this coal mine would mine out voids faster than any previous coal mine in UK history and would induce earthquakes and cause subsidence in the Irish Sea and Sellafield area.”
“Earlier this year, the first batch of waste was safely removed from one of the most hazardous sites at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site. “Perhaps they’re going to bury it down the pit,” says a resident with characteristic Cumbrian grit.”
Image: Mark Kirkbride the multi-talented CEO of West Cumbria Mining currently focussed on coal but Kirkbride is also employed by UK Government to advise on the plan to Deliver a deep Geological Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes. UK Government via Secretary of State for Communities Michael Gove MP, are due to take a decison on their “invaluable” nuclear dump advisor’s coal mine any day now. If it sounds dodgy – thats because it is. It is a “Secret Santa” surprise.
Why not retweet this to @michaelgove and tell him to stop with the nuclear waste/coal cronyism, turn down the earthquake inducing coal mine near Sellafield being touted by their key nuclear dump advisor.
We wrote to you back in July to thank you for creating the Marine Conservation Zone above the proposed subsea Cumbria Coal Mine.
As a protector of ocean life legislating to “safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come” we are sure you must be as horrified as we are that the first round of nuclear waste Geological Disposal Facility “investigation” of the subsea area adjacent to the coal mine in Mid and South Copeland has resulted in damaging consequences to marine life.
Nuclear Dump Seismic Blasting in the “Protected” Irish Sea -“Invaluable Advisor” CEO of West Cumbria Mining
The seismic blasting which took place throughout August with blasts of noise every five seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 20 days was advised by coal boss Mark Kirkbride who has been appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management as “invaluable advisor” on nuclear dump (aka Geological Disposal Facility) “investigation techniques” and “costings” The nuclear dump “investigation technique” of seismic blasting coincided with the deaths of harbour porpoise, seals and hundreds of jelly fish along the West Coast of Cumbria. These deaths have been photographed and reported to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme- Dead Strandings. Over 50,000 people signed a petition opposing the “investigation techniques” as advised by coal boss Mark Kirkbride. 1000 m deep boreholes into the seabed into a methane rich and heavily faulted area of the Irish Sea are the next stage in the GDF “investigations” plan.
Context: First Opposition to the Coal Mine Was from Nuclear Safety Campaigners
To put this into context, the first opposition raised against the coal mine was back in 2017 by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out) a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign. Over the last five years our vigorous and dedicated opposition to the coal mine’s inevitable nuclear impacts has been airbrushed out of the public debate. The sheer bloody minded recklessness of proposing an earthquake inducing coal mine close to Sellafield’s growing stockpiles of high level nuclear wastes has been carefully kept out of the public arena despite our constant lobbying of NGOs and the media to flag this up.
Climate Noise and Nuclear Silence
Climate, jobs and need for steel are valid issues but to stay utterly silent on nuclear impacts is morally incoherent and myopic. Deep coal mining produces more earthquakes than fracking and this coal mine is just a few miles from the UKs stockpile of plutonium. This is not virtue signaling on our part, it is a desperate plea to you to have a mind for nuclear safety. Damage to Sellafield’s ponds from coal mine induced earthquakes and the predicted subsidence of the Sellafield mud patch above the subsea coal mine would result in release of the “historic” radioactive wastes. Cumbria would not not be alone in bearing the brunt of nuclear fallout which would extend to Europe. Sellafield’s ponds of high level wastes would not be forgiving of deep coal mine induced earthquakes.
What we never could have imagined in a million years when we first started campaigning against the earthquake inducing coal mine near Sellafield was that the coal mine CEO, Mark Kirkbride, would be appointed by Government to advise on the digging of a very deep hole in which to dump heat generating nuclear wastes.
The Copeland and Allerdale “search areas” for a Geological Disposal Facility are directly either side of Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine, which should have raised a multitude of questions from mainstream NGOs and the media – but the silence has been total.
Back in the 90s there was an inquiry which halted the government’s “NIREX” plan to bury intermediate level nuclear wastes deep underground on the Cumbrian coast near Sellafield. In 2007 the government again returned to Cumbria for a second go, this time to try putting even more dangerous high level wastes deep underground. The NIREX Inquiry Lead Inspector Chris McDonald wrote in 2007 that “..10 years ago the nuclear industry had not found a way of maintaining the stability of that geology when physically exploring the underground site. This difficulty was linked to the second issue of “imperfection”, because the imperfection consists of simply failing to meet the internationally agreed criteria on the suitability of rocks for nuclear waste deposit. The site should be in a region of low groundwater flow, and the geology should be readily characterisable and predictable, whereas the rocks there are actually of a complex volcanic nature, with significant faulting” The rocks haven’t changed, the coal mine and surrounding subsea area of the Irish Sea is on numerous faults but now as well as creating instability by “exploring the site” there would also be instability created by the massive void of a deep earthquake inducing coal mine immediately adjacent to the nuclear dump plan. The nuclear dump plan which, by the way, is advised by the same geological instability creating coal mine boss. This is mind blowing stuff.
Corruption of Governance?
The fact that UK government is taking advice from the coal mine boss on nuclear dump plans while UK government also has the last say on the coal mine is a corruption of governance. Approval of CEO Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine while KIrkbride is also the governments key nuclear dump advisor would signal the triumph of vested nuclear interests over democracy. Approval of the coal mine would confirm deep and well founded suspicions unreported in the press or flagged by mainstream NGOs that facilitating deep mining for a 25km square, 1000 metre deep, subsea nuclear dump immediately adjacent to the smaller shallower subsea coal mine was the goal all along.
Marine Conservation Zone or Nuclear Sacrifice Zone Courtesy of Coal Mine CEO?
We urge you to honour your hard won Marine Conservation Zone in the Irish Sea and even more importantly to honour government commitments to ensure nuclear safety by halting the coal mine plan. A green light for the earthquake and subsidence inducing coal mine would signal a massive red light for nuclear catastrophe.
We plead with you -Don’t do it – Do not approve the UK nuclear dump advisor’s coal mine.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out!) – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
Marine Conservation Zones: “The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean – but we know there is more to do. Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come.”
Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
CEO of West Cumbria Mining – Key Advisor for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
Letter from NIREX Inquiry Lead Inspector Chris McDonald
Flaws in search for nuclear waste site
Thu 28 Jun 2007
As the lead inspector (now retired) of the 1995-96 public inquiry into the proposed nuclear waste facility in west Cumbria, I was concerned by a couple of points in your piece on the new site search (Report, June 26). The relevant geology in west Cumbria is apparently now claimed to be “stable, although imperfect”. But 10 years ago the nuclear industry had not found a way of maintaining the stability of that geology when physically exploring the underground site.
This difficulty was linked to the second issue of “imperfection”, because the imperfection consists of simply failing to meet the internationally agreed criteria on the suitability of rocks for nuclear waste deposit. The site should be in a region of low groundwater flow, and the geology should be readily characterisable and predictable, whereas the rocks there are actually of a complex volcanic nature, with significant faulting. Also, the industry was relying on an overlying layer of sedimentary strata to dilute and disperse any groundwater leakage, when the international criteria require such a layer to act instead as a barrier. The comprehensive assessment that reports the deficiencies in detail is available on the internet (jpb.co.uk/nirexinquiry/nirex.htm). The site is not suitable and investigations should be moved elsewhere.
The site selection process was flawed, not treating safety as the most important factor, and irrationally affected by a strong desire to locate close to Sellafield. A final point – the sketch design for the repository has not been newly revealed. It was submitted to the 1995-96 inquiry, and has subsequently been discussed in technical journals.
It was baffling to see that in amongst all the resignations from Boris Johnson’s Cabinet there was only one sacking. The sacking of yourself, Communities Secretary of State, due to give a verdict on the Cumbria Coal Mine on 7th July, the very next day.
Mainstream NGOs assume that your decision on the Cumbria Coal Mine was to be an approval and see your sacking as an opportunity to now lobby Greg Clark MP who has taken over your role as Communities Secretary.
As the first group to oppose the coal mine back in 2017 we see it in an entirely different light given your achievements while Environment Secretary. Under your leadership was the creation of the Marine Conservation Zones. MCZ’s are a landmark in a vision aiming to protect the oceans. The Irish Sea Marine Conservation Zone includes the Irish Sea area of the proposed West Cumbria Coal Mine. Should the coal mine be approved then two decades of sub-sea coal transports from the mine area to the onshore processing area would be necessary. 2.78 million tonnes of coal a year until 2049 would be trundled through corridors beneath the Marine Conservation Zone causing likely subsidence (and resuspension into the water column) of the Sellafield contaminated Cumbria Mud Patch lying on the sea bed. West Cumbria Mining say this would be mitigated by concrete backfill…in over 20 years time – when the coal would be mined out and the Marine Conservation Zone subsea corridors no longer needed.
We believe you were going to turn down the subsidence and earthquake inducing coal mine for these and other overwhelming reasons including climate, proximity to Sellafield and the lack of “need” for the product of lower quality coking coal.
Chris McDonald, chief executive of the Materials Processing Institute and chair of the UK Metals Council said, “I think it’s important to be clear that even if this mine opened tomorrow, it would not displace a single tonne of Russian coking coal from the UK – and I can say that with confidence”. Coal Action Network have pointed out that “Tata Steel already does not use any Russian coking coal. British Steel have said they can’t use the coal from Cumbria because the sulphur levels are too high. So there’s no possibility that a new mine can meaningfully displace any Russian imports”.
Members of the public in Cumbria have been writing to you recently to oppose not only the coal mine but also the seismic testing for the UK’s vision of a Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes.
It is clear that the British steel industry neither wants nor needs the Cumbrian coking coal mine, however the nuclear industry very much does! The nuclear industry and government nuclear interests need the “invaluable” advice of the CEO of West Cumbria Mining and his former Head of Operations Steve Reece who is now Site Selection Manager for the Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes.
Mark Kirkbride’s role at the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management includes:
“scrutiny and provision of advice to BEIS (Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy) and RWM (Radioactive Waste Management) on activities relating to the continued development of a GDF safety case
scrutiny and provision of advice to BEIS and RWM on GDF siting activities, including selection criteria, methods of investigation, and the timescale for carrying out site selection in the three rock types
advise on new technologies that could be applicable to the development of a GDF including those in the mining and construction sectors and their potential impacts on a GDF programme”
Along with the above advice, costings to Government have been produced for the Delivery of a GDF (Nuclear Dump) including advice on enormous Tunnel Boring Machines from the same company (Herrenknecht) which would supply the coal mine. This is a direct conflict of interest.
Mark Kirkbride’s role at CoRWM to advise on “methods of investigation” means that he has clearly advised on the seismic blasting due to take place in August in the Irish Sea to “investigate” the complex geology for a deep nuclear dump.
A recent Freedom of Information question by a Drigg resident reveals that the information garnered from the seismic survey, the search area of which overlaps the coal mine, would be used by commercial interests such as West Cumbria Mining. This is blatant cronyism!
Former Business secretary Greg Clark MP now steps into your shoes as Communities Secretary and will now make the decision on Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine. We are appalled at this appointment which continues the crony capitalism regarding this coal mine.
When Greg Clark was Secretary of State for Business (BEIS) he allowed Mark KIrkbride privileged access to BEIS with several meetings from at least 2017 when, it is now clear, that Mark Kirkbride and his West Cumbria Mining team were being lined up to assist Government in the policy to Deliver a Geological Disposal Facility. What other “small business” (as WCM call themselves for avoidance of full tax returns) in Cumbria is afforded high level access to BEIS ?
CEO of WCM, Mark Kirkbride is “invaluable advisor” to the Governmental Committee on Radioactive Waste Management providing advice on: safety, construction, methods of investigation and costings.
We have no confidence that Greg Clark the Secretary of State for BEIS who had meetings with West Cumbria Mining during his time in office will make an unbiased decision on the coal mine given BEIS’ long standing support for the coal mine, and the BEIS appointments of WCM executives to leading roles in Delivery of a GDF.
We would be very interested indeed to have sight of your own decision – now null and void – with what must rank amongst the most cynically timed sackings in the history of UK government.
Thanks again for creating the Marine Conservation Zones.
We truly believe that you tried to ensure the MCZ of the Irish Sea did what it said on the tin and protected the Irish Sea from a sub-sea coal mine linked in proximity and cronyism to the delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes.
Radiation Free Lakeland
“The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean – but we know there is more to do.
Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come.” Michael Gove MP