FRACKING plans for West Lancashire have stalled after major energy company Cuadrilla withdrew applications for radioactive waste permits that would allow the controversial process to go ahead.
BBC Inside Out North West was told by the company that, following recent changes in the Environment Agency's guidance on permits and an ongoing review of its exploration programme, it had decided to withdraw the previous permit applications for our sites in Lancashire.
Without them, the company can still carry out drilling on site, but cannot actually frack.
The company told the programme, which went out on Monday evening: “We are preparing new permits and will provide further detail when we announce a number of proposed new exploration sites.
“We will need a radioactive substances permit to flow test any well after fracturing.”
But, according to a leading expert, the Environment Agency will not grant the special licences until it is satisfied a disposal route is available for the by-product of fracking – radioactive wastewater.
Radiation waste adviser Dr Trevor Jones told Inside Out that significant investment is likely to be needed before that happens – meaning plans for fracking across the UK could be delayed.
The radiation, which occurs naturally, is low level but attracts more stringent rules on waste management procedures.
It is the problem with the correct disposal of this contaminated water that could prove to be the industry’s Achilles’ heel.
Cuadrilla believe they can overcome the issue of disposing of radioactive water. According to the programme, they say they’ve run successful trials, but these have yet to be proved full-scale.
The programme also investigates why almost 2m gallons of radioactive water – produced by Cuadrilla at the Greaves Hall site – was processed at a water treatment works and then discharged, quite legally, into the Manchester Ship Canal.
The company was authorised by the Environment Agency to send contaminated water to a sewage works in Trafford before it was discharged into the Manchester Ship Canal three years ago.
It happened before regulatory changes came into play, which mean that this would no longer be possible, but the programme questions the potential health risks following warnings from installations in America that radioactive wastewater cannot be treated effectively and high concentrations can impair the ability of treatment facilities to properly treat domestic sewage.
Find the programme at: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer
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