Nuclear Information Centre.

Scary Nuclear Monster (2022). (Duration 5m 03s)


All constituent parts of this audio exhibit were recorded during a field trip to Theddlethrorpe, Lincolnshire in June 2022. The spoken element was recorded at a Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) backed Community Partnership public engagement event which took place in the gravelled car park outside Theddlethorpe Village Hall. Additional recordings were made at the nearby disused Theddlethorpe Gas Terminal which is being considered as a potential site for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in which to permanently dispose of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste.

Based on my initial visit along with informal conversations, observations and subsequent research, it seems (as of June 2022) the concept of a consent-based process (or indeed any process) for the siting of a GDF sits very uneasily with the local (and wider) Lincolnshire community which has no prior custodial associations with radioactive waste. Of course, personal feelings and opinions may (or may not) begin to shift but this will become clearer in time as the engagement process unfolds or runs its natural course. Another factor that may have contributed to increased levels of initial hostility was that the 3rd Party discussions which preceded the formation of the initial GDF Working Group were leaked to the press before the intended public release date which immediately put both Nuclear Waste Services and the engagement team on the back foot and caused a certain level of initial shock and mistrust amongst the community from the outset. The first round of public community engagement meetings that took place in late 2021 were reportedly quite fractitious which perhaps explains the presence of private security at the “second round” event I attended. Having not previously been aware of all these issues, this was not what I was expecting and felt quite strange, even bordering on unsettling, especially with the security man clad in all black and effecively mute in marked contrast to the informally attired engagement team and NWS subject matter experts also present.

In the very early stages of the process, third party discussions with NWS are deliberately kept confidential to protect the identity of the person or persons who make the initial approach. This is perhaps one potentially contentious part of the GDF siting process as these talks may be running in the background for a year or two before they are opened up to wider public engagement. A inevitable by-product of these discussions is that the motives of those behind the initial approach may not necessarily be fully revealed or understood and even the most generously minded may be hard pressed to assume completely altruistic intentions represent the sole driving force.

Theddlethorpe is the 4th and most recent GDF Community Partnership to form in the UK. The other three are situated in West Cumbria, a region that has played a continuous role in the UK’s nuclear story since the late 1940s. So, even though all community partnerships are governed by the same formal consent based protocols and guidance, it will be interesting to observe how area-specific social, economic and political variables might come into play as each siting process evolves. Historically, nuclear sites tend to become established in “peripheral communities” (Blowers, 2017) which you could say is certainly true of the four current GDF Community Partnerships in terms of their relatively isolated locations and low centres of population.

Although hosting radioactive waste would technically be new to the county, Lincolnshire is not without prior nuclear connections. During the Cold War, nuclear weapons were stationed at a number of RAF bases in the county so the region could yet make a return to the nuclear map by playing host to a GDF. Only time will tell...

The maximal use of echo effects and additional layers of sound in this audio exhibit were deliberately engineered to obscure and re-imagine the [edited] conversation away from the surface-level car park where it actually took place and into the tunnels and vaults which would be constructed deep underground should Theddlethorpe or any of the existing or future Community Partnerships reach the point at which construction of a GDF could take place.

Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) engagement event, Theddlethorpe Village Hall car park. (Note the private security person in attendence - dressed in black). Photograph taken by Nic Pehkonen (28th June 2022).

Theddlethrope Gas Terminal site. Photograph taken by Nic Pehkonen (28th June 2022).

Theddlethrope Gas Terminal site. Photograph taken by Nic Pehkonen (28th June 2022).

Theddlethrope Gas Terminal site. Photograph taken by Nic Pehkonen (28th June 2022).

Theddlethrope Gas Terminal site. Photograph taken by Nic Pehkonen (28th June 2022).

Scary Nuclear Monster, 2022 [Edited Audio Transcript].

GDF Community Partnership engagement event, Theddlethorpe, Lincolnshire, 2022.

When I read your email to us, I felt a resonance with you because I knew where you were coming from. And thanks for coming, because it was hard for me to arrange a specific thing, so I had to find that middle ground and I said look, we’re doing this, if you want to come and see us, we can keep in touch.

This is us. We’re local. We’re a local team. There’s a local team in each site, a core team. And then when we come out, we’ve got a whole load of subject matter experts with us, coming in from different parts of the country.

So, as an engagement person, we have to be given the resources and the time to keep just going out, going out. We’re doing lots of different sorts of engagement. We’re doing little round table conversations with people, with just small groups. We’re building relationships. We’re interested very much in trust because there is obviously always a lack of trust. People get shafted all the time don’t they by big infrastructure, projects, and big faceless organisations. There’s also the perception of the scary nuclear monster here.

Actually, we’re ordinary people, just like everybody else. We have the same fears and hopes and dreams as everybody else, so it’s been a lot of work for us to say look, we’re just like you. We’re here, not to change your mind. We’re here to present you with the facts so you can make an informed choice. That’s what our job is. We’re not here to sell it but we’re here to make sure everyone has all the facts so they can go away, have a think and then if we get to a test of public support, they can make the choice knowing they know what they are talking about.

I mean we are quite transparent. We’re just here. There isn’t a proposal yet, it’s a conversation.  We’re having a conversation and for once the community is involved in that conversation instead of being informed at the end. But even that’s hard for people to get their heads around because they’re saying, well you’re doing this, you’re ruining our lives.

Information last updated -  Sun 18 Dec 2022