Copeland Council's executive has voted to "open up discussions" on the possibility of building an underground nuclear waste repository in the borough - though not in the Lake District.

The council's leadership voted yesterday to begin discussions with Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), with a view towards setting up a working group to explore the prospect of an underground facility - a geological disposal facility (GDF) - being constructed in the borough.

One red line agreed upon by the Copeland executive was that no consideration of siting the underground repository anywhere in the Lake District National Park should take place.

While the Lake District is, for the Copeland executive, off the table, the inshore area up to 12 nautical miles (22.2km) off the coast of Copeland will form part of the scope of further exploration.

Councillor David Moore, Copeland council's portfolio holder for nuclear and corporate services, stressed that yesterday's unanimous agreement among the executive to move forward with discussions on a GDF does not signal blind support for its eventual construction in Copeland.

"The council's engagement at the working group stage does not presuppose support for a GDF in Copeland or west Cumbria," Mr Moore said.

"Any future decisions on this matter will be subject to a future test of public support."

Mr Moore said that it was vital going forward that Copeland's community was fully involved in the discussion, and Copeland council has a role to play in ensuring that happens.

"In the early stages we consider it is our duty as a community to engage in the process, and understand the implications for Copeland, and for this project," Mr Moore said.

Councillor Steven Morgan, commercial services portfolio holder, said that it was "very important" for the council to have a "key role" where its voice is heard "in the loudest possible way.

"Being a participant in other organisation's activities puts us at a real disadvantage," he said.

"This is a key opportunity and if we sit very much longer on the sidelines, we will have little or no voice."

Mr Moore added that robust discussion on the future of an underground repository, whether it is in Copeland or not, is important for the future of the borough.

"Regardless of final location for a GDF, the Copeland community is affected as a current host of the vast majority of the materials," Mr Moore said.

"The Sellafield site will be the front end of the operations phase of a GDF, again regardless of final location, for many decades to come.

"Working in the best interests of our community, the council will engage in the process to better understand the implications for our communities.

"The council reserves the right to vary or withdraw the nature of our involvement."