MPs have given the green light to plans which could see nuclear waste buried deep in vaults beneath national parks.
The Government has launched a search for an area to site an underground radioactive waste facility and set out the framework for making planning decisions on the proposal in England.
The Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee backed the Government’s approach and decided against calling for national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) to be excluded.
The cross-party group said “in our view it is right for safety matters to prevail over environmental concerns in this case”.
It added that existing planning safeguards would prevent “intrusive developments and environmental damage”.
Giving evidence to the committee, energy minister Richard Harrington told the MPs: “I am not saying we should have them on national parks, but it would be very wrong to exclude them at the moment in this big policy statement.”
The Government’s approach to “geological disposal infrastructure (GDI)” was set out in a draft national policy statement (NPS) in January.
A GDI would involve specially engineered vaults and tunnels located deep underground which would be able to contain waste which is more radioactive than surface facilities could store.
In its assessment of the NPS, the committee said it was “fit for purpose”.
But it said ministers should clarify the “level of uncertainty” about the waste that would be stored in a GDI and make information about proposals accessible to members of the public to “promote engagement by prospective communities”.
It also recommended that any developer should rely on local employment and sourcing opportunities in areas where a GDI would be located.