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Government begins search for radioactive waste burial site

The Government has begun a new search for a site to store the UK’s radioactive waste.

This follows a consultation on improving the process of finding a site to host a geological disposal facility (GDF) which will store nuclear waste deep underground. Cumbria Council had vetoed a proposed site in 2013.

The facility would hold the decades of waste the UK’s nuclear power industry has accrued, which is estimated to be 600,000m³.

Communities will be offered cash incentives of up to £2.5m a year to allow exploratory drilling to take place, which would establish if a location was suitable. The drilling process would take up to 15 years.

Construction of the waste dump, between 250m and 1,000m underground, will take 10-15 years, meaning it could be almost 2050 before any waste is buried.

The project has an estimated price tag of £12bn.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Geological disposal provides the secure, long-term solution we need to deal with the radioactive waste we have been creating for more than 60 years, and we can learn from the experiences of other countries who are also doing this.

“Today we’re setting out our plan to find a suitable site, based on a fundamental principle of listening to people, to make sure we have the right process in place. The area that eventually hosts a GDF will benefit from significant investment in the community and hundreds of skilled jobs for decades to come.”

Currently, the UK’s radioactive waste is stored temporarily at nuclear sites across the country.

Davey said: “The GDF will enable us to dispose of our waste permanently. It is internationally recognised as the safest and most secure way of dealing with radioactive waste on a long-term basis, with countries including Finland, Sweden and Canada already ahead of us in implementing it.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • Another option is Deep Borehole Disposal (see paper in the recent Energy Proceedings). The UK does not want to discuss this option and seems to close down any discussion or media coverage, but the US has now conceded that it is a serious alternative for some waste from a deep mined repository after the failure of the Yucca Mountain project. It may be worth a debate in NCE.

    Cameron said that there would be no new nuclear power stations until this issue had been resolved, but he has reneged on that promise. The new announcement about sites simply kicks the subject into the very long grass.

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  • Just curious: when people argue about the relative cost of renewables and nuclear per kWh, are the costs of storing the nuclear waste included?

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  • boreholes under Trawsfynydd power station would seem appropriate. If the station is being decommissioned why not store the waste directly under it , in some of UK's most stable geology, it has to be stable as why did they build the station there in the first place ?

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