A job advert for a nuclear waste researcher at Lincolnshire County Council has prompted concerns over whether the funding will allow them to be impartial. The policy and engagement officer, looking at the proposed nuclear site in Theddlethorpe, would be funded by Nuclear Waste Services (NWS).
The officer would be tasked with overseeing proposed developments by the NWS and offering advice on any potential advantages and disadvantages of the controversial scheme. Their role would also involve providing the local community with ‘balanced information’ and distributing the latest information about developments in the nuclear industry and waste disposal.
In the listing, the council says that the officer would be independent of the NWS despite receiving full funding from the body. However, the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) organisation has accused the county council of being economically driven.
Cllr David Blackburn, chairman of the NFLA’s English forum, said: “Whilst this may mean job security for the successful candidate, it must represent insecurity for the residents of Theddlethorpe, Mablethorpe, and Sutton. The first duty listed for the post holder will be to act as ‘the main point of contact between the council and the geological disposal facility which is proposed by Nuclear Waste Services for Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire’.
“If NWS is indeed providing permanent funding then it must remain of the view that, despite the clear local opposition to the proposal, a [geological disposal facility] might go forward for Theddlethorpe in the future. Otherwise, why would they invest?”
The NWS’s proposals have been met with significant opposition from the local community, who are worried about the long-term impact. Ken Smith, a Theddlethorpe campaigner, said the funding situation was ‘totally unethical’.
He said: “It gives the NWS a direct line to councillors. They can claim independence as much as they like, but he who pays the piper calls the tune.” He added that the council should encourage companies to develop renewables, as the county was ideally situated.
The county council has defended the listing, saying that the external funding would mean residents wouldn’t bear the financial burden. Andy Gutherson, executive director of place at Lincolnshire County Council, said the authority has an obligation to ensure residents are well-informed so they can make informed decisions about their area.
He stated: “The post holder is independent from NWS, and will ensure the council’s responsibilities are met with regards to this, and any other nuclear developments proposed for the county. This post also includes work with the UK Atomic Energy Agency to make sure Lincolnshire benefits from any opportunities arising from the new fusion facility announced for West Burton.
“Work with Lincolnshire businesses will also explore opportunities to manufacture nuclear industry components, bringing high-value engineering careers to the area.” A spokesperson for the NWS said the funding was structured to not restrict the independence or decision-making abilities of the council.
He added: “The funding provided by NWS for the post is in accordance with the ‘working with communities policy,’ to provide Lincolnshire County Council as a relevant ‘principal local authority’ on the Theddlethorpe community partnership, with financial support to enable them to take part in the GDF siting process at no additional cost to local taxpayers.”