First marine geophysical surveys for nuclear waste disposal begins in Cumbria

The surveys will gather data to provide a better understanding of the rock structure and help find a suitable site for radioactive waste in the UK

Big Zero Report 2022

The first marine geophysical surveys that will help towards the search for a suitable site for nuclear waste disposal in the UK has started in Cumbria.

A 92-metre vessel carrying specialist acoustic equipment is being deployed 5km – 20km off the coast of Copeland, with the non-intrusive surveys, carried out by Shearwater GeoServices, gathering data to provide a better understanding of the rock structure.

The technology is based on sound waves, similar to ultrasound scans used in medicine, which are reflected as an echo from different geological layers.

This enables a 3D picture of the underlying rocks to be gradually built up, without disturbing the seabed, with surveys of this type common in the offshore wind, carbon capture and storage and other infrastructure sectors.

Detailed analysis of the data collected will be undertaken over the next year and conclusions will be shared with communities to support discussions about the potential of an area to host a geological disposal facility (GDF).

NWS Senior Project Manager Chris Eldred said: “We are looking forward to the first surveys beginning over the weekend off the south-west coast of Copeland, with specialists at Shearwater GeoServices.

“The information we gather will help us to further consider the suitability of the geology beneath the seabed, to host a GDF and support informed dialogue with the communities that are at the heart of the siting process.”

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