Plans to build a large-scale radioactive waste repository in West Cumbria have been boosted after initial studies into the geology showed that the vast majority of the region is suitable.
Only a small area in the north west of the region has been ruled out following a survey by the Department of Energy and Climate Change for its Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme.
Local authorities in the area must now decide whether they want to locate a repository within their boundaries after consulting local stakeholders.
Energy minister Charles Hendry said: “These results do not present any reason why West Cumbria cannot continue to consider whether or not to participate in the process,” he said.
The desk study, carried out by the British Geological Survey, was based on currently available geological data.
It excluded areas including Carlisle, Workington and Whitehaven based on the risk to future generations attempting to extract resources and to protect groundwater quality.
Further detailed investigation will be carried out if the relevant local authority decides it wishes to proceed.
Geological disposal involves putting radioactive waste within an underground barrier deep inside a suitable rock formation. This should ensure no harmful quantities of radioactivity reach the surface.
West Cumbria is the only region in the UK to have expressed interest in housing the deep storage facility.
Around 70% of the UK’s radioactive waste is stored at Sellafield, on the West Cumbria coast.