Environment protection key consideration when evaluating nuclear waste disposal sites

A Geological Disposal Facility will put waste hundreds of metres deep underground and will only be built where there is both a ‘willing community and a suitable site’

Protection of the environment, safety and opportunities for communities will be key considerations as part of the evaluation of sites for the disposal of radioactive nuclear waste in the UK.

Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), which aims to deliver a geological disposal facility (GDF) in Britain, has set out its approach to GDF site evaluation in England and Wales, following a “comprehensive and open” national consultation.

It says a GDF – which will put waste hundreds of metres deep underground and internationally recognised as the safest long term solution for radioactive waste – will only be built where there is both a “willing community and a suitable site”.

The so-called ‘siting factors’, which are guided by government policy and legislation, will inform the conversations RWM will be having with communities and evaluations of site suitability.

There are six siting factors, which cover:

Safety and security – It must be assured and endorsed by independent regulators. A GDF will not be built unless RWM and the regulators are satisfied it is safe.

Community – RWM says it will consider social and economic opportunities, community wellbeing and how a GDF can align with the host community’s vision.

Environment – a GDF is a major environmental protection endeavour and construction will need to meet independent regulatory requirements.

Engineering feasibility – RWM will need to ensure there is scope for sustainable design and the ability to construct and operate a GDF in a location.

Transport – The safe and secure transport of waste, people and other materials.

Value for money – RWM has a duty to ensure that value for money is delivered.UK

RWM Chief Executive Karen Wheeler said: “A GDF is the best long-term solution for managing the UK’s legacy of higher activity radioactive waste safely. A facility will only be built where there is a suitable site and a willing community so it is important that communities and their representatives understand how we will evaluate suitability.

“The site evaluation documents we published today set out the ‘siting factors’ which we will use to assess suitability as we work with communities interested in exploring the benefits and implications of hosting a GDF.”

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