Government body in comms hunt over radioactive waste

A Government body overseeing the proposed burial of rad­ioactive waste in the UK has launched a hunt for comms help in a bid to head off a local community backlash.

Gathering pace: Nuclear waste could be buried in the UK by 2029 (Getty Images)
Gathering pace: Nuclear waste could be buried in the UK by 2029 (Getty Images)

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Radioactive Waste Management Directorate has launched a search for a consortium of agencies as local councils - Kent’s Shepway and three in West Cumbria - consider their areas for suitability for a geological disposal facility.

NDA RWMD head of stakeholder and community engagement Elizabeth Atherton said the agencies would be doing ‘more than easing concerns’, adding the engagement processes were about ‘getting beyond traditional engagement to working in partnership with communities’.

But the consortium that wins the brief is expected to face significant local opposition to the waste plans. Last week, a poll by The Hythe Herald of residents in Shepway, which contains Romney Marsh, showed that 55 per cent were against hosting the proposed £12bn national waste centre.

Atherton explained any high-cost projects carried out by the consortium would have to be individually approved following Government directives to cut quango PR spending.

The authority is taking the unusual step of appointing comms support via the Government’s framework of sustainability companies, which does not actually contain PR agencies.

However, companies pitching for the business will be expected to set up a consortium with a comms consultancy.

Atherton explained the move: ‘The Government is supposed to be developing a new comms framework, and we don’t know under what time­scale it is going to come out.’

The body is looking to have a consortium in place by October. Once appointed, it is expected to be in place for four to five years.

The NDA currently uses Luther Pendragon for comms and public affairs consultancy work. Despite the RWMD working towards becoming a separate subsidiary, Atherton did not rule out using Pendragon on appropriate projects in the future.

The news follows PRWeek’s story last week that EDF Energy has appointed Pagefield to win support for the proposed Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk.

The NDA and nuclear waste burial

The NDA was set up in 2004. Ministerial plans for Britain’s first burial of waste from nuclear power stations could be put into action as early as 2029, a report by The Independent recently suggested.

Sites under consideration include Kent’s Romney Marsh and three sites in West Cumbria overseen by Cumbria County Council, Allerdale and Copeland Borough Councils.

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