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Cumbria is predominantly rural and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park, considered one of England's most outstanding areas of natural beauty, serving as inspiration for artists, writers, and musicians. Much of Cumbria is mountainous, and it contains every peak in England over 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea level, with Scafell Pike at 978 metres (3,209 ft) being the highest point of England. An upland, coastal, and rural area, Cumbria's history is characterised by invasions, migration, and settlement, as well as battles and skirmishes between the English and Scottish. Historic sites in Cumbria include Carlisle Castle, Furness Abbey, and Hadrian's Wall.
Shock and ore: Mine shaft collapse leaves 75ft-wide crater in back gardens forcing families to flee their homes
• Eight houses were forced to be evacuated after hole opened up in Cumbria
• Worker had to be rescued as he was harnessed to drilling rig which fell into hole while it was being used to cap the former iron ore mine with concrete
Arguments over nuclear waste disposal have been raging for decades, especially in Cumbria where the search continues for a site suitable for storing waste for tens of thousands of years.
Nuclear and scientific experts disagree about geological issues and, combined with Cumbrian public concerns at having an underground repository for nuclear waste, the dilemma continues.
Cumbria has volunteered to consider housing waste in the county - and nationally, it is currently the only option.
But experts say the way in which site selection is being carried out is wrong.
Britain needs to find a site for long-term underground storage for high level nuclear waste, as some of the spent fuel from the Sellafield nuclear plant will remain dangerous for up to 100,000 years.
Concern is growing about the possibility that Cumbria could be a possible site for the controversial underground gas extraction technique called fracking.
The Government last week gave the go-ahead for a firm to resume the hydraulic fracturing technique, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into deep boreholes to force out shale gas.
Despite worries about the environmental impact, Energy Secretary Ed Davey has said the gas was a promising and secure potential future energy source for the UK.
Boreholes have already been drilled at a potential extraction site near Canonbie, north of Carlisle, and the Government has identified areas near Silloth and in west Cumbria as possible locations for shale gas extraction licences.
The repository would be between 200 and 1,000 metres below ground and could range from 6km sq (about the size of Sellafield), to 23km sq (as big as the city of Carlisle);
Rock excavation would be similar in scale to the Channel Tunnel, which involved the removal of 13 million cubic metres of material;
Construction and operation costs are estimated at between £12bn and £20bn;
Nuclear reprocessing accidents at Sellafield
1950 - 1996
The following accidents and incidents resulting in worker contamination or
over-exposure in Sellafield’s reprocessing plants have been reported since
Six workers contaminated in B205 (Magnox reprocessing plant)
Contamination of external concreted area B205; worker contamination
Worker contamination above site level in Magnox plutonium finishing plant
Worker contamination above site level in Chemical Separation plant (April)
Worker exposure above site investigation level, fuel finishing plant (July).
Abnormal exposure to 2 workers in fuel finishing plant above site
investigation level (January).
Worker contamination in THORP product finishing line (August).
Worker contamination in chemical separation area (July).
Spillage of liquor in Magnox waste handling facility. Process worker
received skin contamination (June).
Worker suspected uptake of radioactivity in plutonium finishing plant
Worker exceeded annual dose to bone surface after cut in arm at
plutonium finishing plant (February).
Worker in chemical separation area contaminated by arm cut (March).
Worker contaminated in chemical separation area handling contaminated
sample bottles after incorrect disposal (April).
Radiation exposure to worker who discovered sample bottle of active
liquor in reprocessing plant (November).
Building B30 is a large, stained, concrete edifice that stands at the centre of Sellafield, Britain's sprawling nuclear processing plant in Cumbria. Surrounded by a three-metre-high fence that is topped with razor wire, encased in scaffolding and riddled with a maze of sagging pipes and cabling, it would never be a contender to win an architectural prize.
Yet B30 has a powerful claim to fame, albeit a disturbing one. "It is the most hazardous industrial building in western Europe," according to George Beveridge, Sellafield's deputy managing director.
Nor is it hard to understand why the building possesses such a fearsome reputation. Piles of old nuclear reactor parts and decaying fuel rods, much of them of unknown provenance and age, line the murky, radioactive waters of the cooling pond in the centre of B30. Down there, pieces of contaminated metal have dissolved into sludge that emits heavy and potentially lethal doses of radiation.