In June and July, a sample of 158 residents in the two South Copeland Search Area wards (Black Combe & Scafell and Millom) were surveyed about their awareness of the Community Partnership and Geological Disposal. This survey was completed to gain an initial baseline measure of awareness, understanding and support of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) across the Search Area.
We asked the independent research consultant, Yonder, to summarise the results, and the Chair of South Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Ged McGrath, to share his thoughts on the findings.
Overall, residents were engaged with the subject matter. The majority (85%) recalled seeing, reading or hearing something about radioactive waste or geological disposal in the past year. Additionally, awareness of the Search Area and the formation of the Community Partnership was also high. Three-in-four (75%) claimed to be aware that a Community Partnership had formed in December 2021. A similar proportion (76%) claimed to be aware that a Search Area had been identified within South Copeland for further investigation of its suitability for a GDF.
Though general awareness and engagement was high, detailed understanding of how radioactive waste was managed was more limited. Two-in-five (42%) believed that the UK’s radioactive waste was stored at interim surface or ground-level storage facilities at sites across the UK. However, 7% believed it was disposed of underground and 6% thought it was shipped to another country and one-in-three (33%) admitted that they did not know. Some residents’ knowledge of geological disposal was also limited. Half (48%) were able to identify an accurate description of Geological Disposal Facilities. 20% said they had heard the term ‘Geological Disposal Facilities’ but did not know what they were, and 16% had never heard of the term.
When considering a GDF within the South Copeland Search Area, this initial survey showed there were more opponents than supporters of such a proposal. Three-in-five (61%) were opposed to the construction of a GDF within the Search Area, whilst a quarter were supportive (27%). NET support for the construction of a GDF in the South Copeland Search Area (calculated by subtracting the proportion of opponents from the proportion of supporters) stood at -34.
There was appetite for further information regarding geological disposal and the siting process, and specifically relating to the impact on human health (47%) and why geological disposal was a safe and secure approach (46%). 32% wanted information regarding the impact on the local economy, and 26% wanted information about environmental protection. Two-in-three (67%) wanted to receive more information via postal information (e.g. leaflets / newsletters sent in the post), whilst one-in-three (36%) said they wanted more information via Facebook.
Reaction of the Chair of South Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Ged McGrath:
“We commissioned this survey to gain an initial baseline measure of awareness, understanding and support of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) across the Search Area in South Copeland, which includes the electoral wards of Millom and Black Combe & Scafell.
“The survey documented the views of approximately 150 people and showed that residents have a high level of awareness of the GDF programme, but still have many questions. The Community Partnership’s role is to ensure that the community has all of the information it needs when considering the possibility of hosting a GDF in the future. The survey showed that many residents are not currently in support of the potential development, but there are questions, uncertainties and inaccuracies in people’s current understanding on hosting a GDF which need to be addressed.
“We are only just beginning to engage on what is a long-term and detailed programme, with no commitment on anyone’s part in the community. Residents have been clear in the survey about the information and knowledge they need and how they want to receive it, which will inform our engagement and communications approach as we move forward. Providing information and answers to these concerns and questions will allow the community to make an informed decision.
“We are listening to everyone’s views, and we will continue to do so, having many conversations and gaining feedback. If a suitable site were to be found in South Copeland – a decision which could take 10-15 years – a Test of Public Support would ensure the local community makes the final decision as to whether or not they want a GDF in the area.”
Between 27 June and 15 July, Yonder oversaw a programme of research across the wards of Black Combe & Scafell and Millom. 158 interviews with local residents were conducted face-to-face by Red Research, on behalf of Yonder. Quotas and weights were employed to ensure the sample was representative in terms of the relative populations of the two wards and the age and sex profiles of the wards in question. Yonder is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Yonder was formerly known as Populus and changed trading names in October 2020. For more information, see www.yonderconsulting.com.