COPELAND WORKING GROUP: Burying Heat Generating Nuclear Wastes is “The Right Thing to Do” No it Isn’t!

Copeland “Working Group” along with Allerdale “Working Group” are ostensibly the “local support” for a Geological Disposal Facility in Cumbria. They are enthusiastically going along with the ‘new and improved’ process of steps towards Geological Disposal of Heat Generating Nuclear wastes. The last process was a bit of a “dogs dinner” (said pro nuclear George Monbiot who supports making ever more nuclear wastes by burning plutonium) in that it allowed Cumbria County Council to veto the plan and bring the whole process to a halt. This time the process dumps any semblance of democracy with the County Council now having no “right of veto,” now anyone, anywhere can “express an interest” in “site selection” with a “test of public support” and Geological Disposal has been made a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (ie it can overrule local opposition in the “national interest”).

The stand out statement in the “Virtual Exhibition” from Radioactive Waste Manangement is that Geological Disposal is The Right Thing to Do (RWM are advised by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management answerable to BEIS and comprising of a dozen or so members including the CEO of West Cumbria Mining, Mark Kirkbride).

In the words of Victor Meldrew “I Don’t Believe It!” Geological Disposal is NOT The Right Thing To Do – Not Now and Maybe Not Ever.

Here is an extract of the Newsletter from Copeland “Working Group” which dropped into my inbox, it is scary in its denial of previous findings and the inconvenient fact that there is no GDF for heat generating nuclear wastes in existence, anywhere! The Right Thing to Do would be to STOP making ever more nuclear wastes but somehow that thought never crosses the minds of those supposed to be thinking clearly about ethics and safety with regards nuclear wastes.

Here it is – read it and get active in opposing the new push to bury nuclear wastes under land and sea.

“Newsletter – Issue 3

January 21, 2021

Happy New Year to you and welcome to the third edition of the Copeland GDF Working Group newsletter.

Today we’ve launched a ‘virtual exhibition’ to bring the subject of geological disposal to life and give you a better understanding of what it’s all about.

During these current uncertain times it’s more important than ever to offer alternative ways for people to access factual information about what a GDF is, in an easy to understand way.

Please find a link to the interactive virtual exhibition here where you will find videos, graphics and information – including a 360-degree tour – to demonstrate how a GDF works, why it’s needed and what it could mean for Copeland.

It provides the opportunity to find out more about the GDF programme, offers a good source of information and it’s very easy to access, even from a mobile phone.

Please come back to us with your views, comments and questions and feel free to share the virtual exhibition link with anyone who may be interested.

Our engagement with people on the potential for consideration of a GDF somewhere in the area of Copeland is important as part of the search to find a suitable site and a willing community to host a GDF for the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste.

Our Working Group has three main tasks – begin to understand community issues, opportunities and questions about GDF; identify a search area or areas within Copeland which could then befurther investigated for potential locations for a GDF, and identify initial members for a Community Partnership that could take that work forward. The Working Group will not identify specific sites or decide on locations, it will merely suggest areas for further consideration by a Community Partnership.

Mark Cullinan, Independent Chair, Copeland Working Group

Community consent is at the heart of the process and a GDF cannot be built unless there’s a suitable site and a willing community.

Under normal circumstances, we’d be going out to speak to people face to face and offering them the opportunity to see an exhibition. We can’t do that right now, so we want to provide an experience that’s as near to that as possible. Please also take a look at our website for information.

And don’t forget that the Working Group and communities have access to a whole series of experts who can provide further detailed information.

If you’re part of a community group, we would like you to get involved in these early conversations so please do get in touch. We can hold ‘virtual’ meetings and provide you with some content for a newsletter or website. Our email address is:

Of course, those who don’t have access to online channels can access information through our contact centre, telephone 0300 0660 100.

This is undoubtedly the biggest environmental protection project of our lifetime, please let us know your views, ask questions and get involved.

Take a 360-degree virtual tour of a GDF

The virtual exhibition is designed to offer an interactive experience to help people understand geological disposal.

It’s been designed to replicate digitally the experience of visiting a more conventional exhibition with information stands, a 360-degree virtual tour and infographics to get people involved.

To access the exhibition click here and let us know what you think.


Dear Friends,

Big apologies as this will read like blowing my own toy trumpet – but recent uncorrected press reports re the legal challenge have stated that climate groups and their campaign organisers were “involved in the legal challenge” . This is not true. See below….

MANY THANKS to all who have supported the Legal Challenge from myself Marianne Bennett (aka Birkby) against  Cumbria County Council’s decision to approve West Cumbria Mining’s original planning application.


My decision to take on the legal challenge was not made easily.   As a known anti-nuclear campaigner and founder of the small, volunteer anti-nuclear group Radiation Free Lakeland, I  have no climate activist following (despite nuclear being the ultimate block on a healthy future). Our focus at Radiation Free Lakeland is nuclear safety. Namely to stop new nuclear build, the dumping and dispersal of nuclear wastes and the biggie – the proposed Geological Disposal of Nuclear Wastes.  I took the Legal case on with the extraordinary help of top lawyers Leigh Day primarily because at that time no one and no other group in Cumbria or the UK was willing to take such a bold stance against the plan.  The plan to mine for coal so near to the Sellafield nuclear waste plant and directly below the radioactive Cumbrian Mud Patch is outrageous on many levels.  So on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole which is a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign – we took up the challenge – and that challenge has been successful in that we have engaged the interest and energy of climate activists and West Cumbria Mining have been forced back to the drawing board  (they deny their new application is anything to do with the legal challenge- more on that below!). 

Brief Time- Line of the Legal Challenge 

31st May 2017 – West Cumbria Mining applied to Cumbria County Council for planning permision for a new underground coal mine with coking coal intended for use in the steel industry and middlings coal intended as a fuel source for other industrial uses.

March 2019 – Cumbria County Council resolved to grant planning permission.

June 21st 2019 – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole wrote to Cumbria County Council pointing out that their flawed decision justified a reconsideration.  The Secretary of State had also been asked by Tim Farron MP and KCCH and others to call in the decision for his consideration.

October 31st Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee reconsidered their resolution and once again resolved unanimously to grant consent.

November 2019 – the Secretary of State resolved not to call in the decision  (In the same month the CEO of West Cumbria Mining was appointed to the government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management – tasked with delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility)

The application by Marianne Bennett V Cumbria County Council  for Judicial Review was filed on 12th December 2019.   The Grounds included failure to consider Green House Gas emissions,  15% extraction and ‘need’ for Middlings coal and failure to have regard to the introduction of the net zero target by 2050 into the Climate Change Act 2008 on 27thJune 2019.

 7th May 2020  – The High Court made an order listing the hearing for the 18th May 2020. Coincidentally, on the same date, West Cumbria Mining submitted the amendments to its planning application to Cumbria County Council.   West Cumbria Mining proposed that they would amend their planning application to exclude Middlings Coal – ie the Middlings Coal would undergo a new process on site to render it into Coking Coal.  In order to do this the overall quality of the coking coal would be reduced to include a much greater ash and sulphur content.  

13th May 2019 – Marianne Bennett withdraws the now null Judicial Review challenge against the original planning application.  

Fast forward to August 2020 and the thorny issue of who pays for the Court Costs.    

Battle Over Costs

West Cumbria Mining (the Interested Party) applied to the High Court for their costs of over £26,000 to be paid for by M Bennett.  The Judge – Mr Justice Dove ruled that “In short, there is in my view no substance to the Interested Party’s application for costs against the Claimant and it is dismissed.”

M Bennett on behalf of KCCH made a counter claim for costs on the basis that the amendments to the developers planning application had been made with a view to overcoming the grounds upon which judicial review was based.   Unfortunately for us the Judge dismissed this claim also.


This means that Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole have achieved, despite all the odds stacked against, us a massive victory in doing what we set out to do – namely to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole and send the Developers back to the drawing board (date of amended planning application may be 2nd October). 

This achievement would not have been possible without the massive generosity of all those who have contributed to the Crowd Fund.  Our lawyers Leigh Day have put in far more time and expertise than the amount we have raised.  By not achieving any Costs through the High Court – All the monies raised will now go towards covering some of Leigh Days costs (the work they have done has been far in excess of the monies raised) and also the court costs.  

This means that we no longer have a fighting fund – but the good news is that others are now ‘on the case.’   

We will continue to oppose the amended planning application and with all our collective opposition  – we will stop this plan in its tracks for good.   


There is more information here on how you can continue to TAKE ACTION against the plan to mine for coal under the Irish Sea spitting distance from the worlds most dangerous nuclear waste site, Sellafield.

Article in the Ecologist Exposes Links between West Cumbria Mining and Radioactive Waste Management

Trojan Cumbrian Coal Mine ?


Dear Friends,

Thank you for so much to everyone who has contributed to the CrowdJustice page to fight the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years.  We have succeeded so far – now we need to put a full stop to the plan!!  

An article published this week in The Ecologist exposes yet another layer to the myriad of reasons why this coal mine must be stopped.  

An extract from the article states :

Nuclear Safety campaigners feel that it is of great concern that the Conservative government made no attempt to be transparent about appointing the CEO of West Cumbria Mining to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in the very same month that they gave the green light to the same CEO’s Coal Mine project.  This is at the very least a direct conflict of interest. 

They argue that it is shocking that this appointment regarding radioactive wastes has been made at all, given the fact that one of Radiation Free Lakeland’s major objections to West Cumbria Mining’s coal project is that there is a strong likelihood of radioactive consequences – from subsidence and resuspension of radioactive and chemical material from the Cumbrian Mud Patch  –  and from induced seismicity near the Sellafield site.

Please do keep sharing the petition to Stop the Coal Mine and if you have time ….Please do send in letters to members of the planning committee asking them to scrap this dangerous plan for the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years.  Even if you have written before – write again to remind the councillors to say a big fat NO!! 

Quote – West Cumbria Mining: Planning Application Ref 4/17/9007: 

Woodhouse Colliery, High Road, Whitehaven

and remember to put your name and address.   People can also ask to speak at the meeting which will be taking place online and via telephone.  


With Many Thanks – We CAN Stop this mine with your help!!

Intimacy Between WCM and the “Need” for a Geological Disposal Facility (to facilitate new nuclear build there needs to be a ‘solution’ to the waste- this is it)

Sellafield to Ennerdale
Sellafield to Ennerdale – Ennerdale Granite is one of the areas in the frame for a GDF? WCM executives are in this nuclear dumping game as well as in the coal game.  (google map)

What with obsessing about “need for coking coal for steel” and emissions of carbon and methane from the proposed coal mine,  I totally missed this appointment back in November 2019.  Along with, it seems, the press and everyone else.

I wonder if the councillors would have been as keen to offer unanimous approval to embed West Cumbria Mining into the fabric of Cumbria had they been thinking about the intimate connections between WCM and the grandson of NIREX  – RWM.

Radioactive Waste Management is the government quango (previously NIREX, then MRWS) tasked with delivery of the plan for the Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes.

We already knew that Steve Reece the former Operations Director of West Cumbria Mining had been appointed to the Head of Site Evaluation at Radioactive Waste Management but we were warned off flagging this up by various, focussed on climate, folks who said it would ‘cloud the issue’ of the coal mine.

So we have kept quiet about this connection for quite some time.

However – Steve Reece has now been joined in the GDF game by the CEO of West Cumbria Mining, Mark Kirkbride. Mark Kirkbride told me in front of councillors and other campaigners at the last planning meeting (where councillors again voted unanimously for the coal mine) to “Get a Conscience, Marianne!”

OK – well my conscience (or whatever) is bothering me a bit about this intimacy between WCM and the plan to “facilitate a GDF”  under a  “volunteer community.”

Of course the plan for the coal mine may not actually be to use the voids for concrete paste dispersal of “exempt” or “high volume very low level radioactive wastes”.

However, it is clear by the appointments to RWM of West Cumbria Mining executives that the expertise for deep mining to ‘dispose’ of heat generating nuclear wastes is being embedded in Cumbria.

‘Get a Conscience’ indeed.