On 22 May 2012, the MRWS Partnership released the results of a telephone Poll of local residents in West Cumbria - in the Boroughs of Copeland and Allerdale, whose leaders have volunteered for to engage with MRWS, and from residents across Cumbria Region (unspecified). About 1,500 people were dialled in each sample, from randomly selected telephone numbers and this resulted in a response of about 1,000 in each region. This is a normal type of polling procedure, subject to the normal flaws in that it under-represents young and old, and people with no landline telephones. A typical error may be plus or minus 3 percent i.e. 53% is statistically the same as 47%.
The results of the telephone Poll are reported by the MRWS as indicating strong support for continuing to investigate the siting of a Radioactive Waste Repository (GDF, Geological Disposal Facility) in west Cumbria. Overall, 53% of those responding stated they are in favour of continuing.
However that simplistic figure disguises the lack of public engagement or knowledge.
Looking at the questions asked, there is, correctly, a question inquiring about the respondents level of knowledge about radioactive waste disposal. It is very striking indeed that fully 80% of those replying stated that they have "never heard of it", have "no knowledge" or "very little" knowledge of radioactive waste disposal. That means that only 2 out of 10 respondents judge themselves to have any knowledge or expertise in the subject being questioned. Consequently the 53% in favour means that 530 from each 1,000 polled stated support, if 3,000 people replied in the whole poll, then 530x 3 = answered "yes" to continuing. If only 2 out of 10 actually know anything about the subject, then those 318 votes across the whole west Cumbria poll are what is being relied upon to support this "advice" to continue.
In my opinion, this is clearly bonkers. In the Health Service, we do not give responsibility for highly complex surgical operations or drug doses to the hospital porters and catering staff, even though they may have sincere and strongly held opinions. These people are entitled to their opinions, but are not normally judged to have the level of training and understanding necessary to take complex decisions for large quantities of money, time spent on pursuing objectives, or other peoples lives.
The telephone Poll reveals fatal flaws in the MRWS process, showing that MRWS has failed to engage with, and inform, the local resident communities to any significant level. There is no basis to use these Poll results to support continued engagement. By contrast, the results of Parish Council votes across all of west Cumbria show that 75% of parishes voting =have rejected any further continuation; and the decisions by CALC the Cumbria Association of LocaL Councils is not to proceed any further due to lack of trust in the MRWS process and lack of any firm arrangements or committments by central Government. Both these decisions have a democratic mandate which is much more compelling, and are recommending termination of engagement and withdrawal from the MRWS process.
Results of the westCumbria Consultation submissions were released in draft on 16 May 2012, on the MRWS website, for the Partnership meeting on Tuesday 22 May in Whitehaven.
My reading of these results, is that 8 Questions were asked by the MRWS Partnership. Of the 8 questions asked, fully 7 questions have replies which show a REJECTION of the Partnership proposals by 60% to 40% of the submissions made
The only proposal agreed was Q8 - the overall decision to proceed, which appears to be supported by a clear majority
However its very unclear, from these results or from the written reports, WHY should there be so may more people voting on Q8, and why should the result be so different to the other questions.
It is of course possible that different groups of people voted on Q8, compared to those who voted on Q 1 to 7. And it seems probable that many people must have submitted an answer to Q8 alone, without submitting to the rest of the Consultation. Which makes it all rather UNreliable.
Also remember that 75% of the Parish Councils who have voted, have REJECTED the Partnership proposals. The verbal comments recorded in the Consultation show a range of opinions from fully Yes to fully No. I think that we knew that part at least 15 years ago, so I wonder what we in the UK have been doing positively in the intervening time to enable disposal of this toxic radioactive waste in a secure long-term site.
Precious little it seems.
Graph showing results of the Consultation, as cited in the draft report