Nuclear technology provides energy to our homes and businesses, radioactive materials to treat serious illnesses, and is used in R&D and industrial processes. As a result the UK has been producing and managing radioactive waste for many decades.
Most of the waste is low in radioactivity and disposed of safely every day, but some remains highly radioactive for many years. At the moment this type of waste is held safely in stores above ground, mainly within the country’s existing nuclear sites. It is an interim storage measure though, so we need a permanent solution for disposing of this waste.
What is a geological disposal facility?
Geological disposal involves isolating radioactive waste deep inside a suitable rock volume to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity ever reach the surface environment. A geological disposal facility will be a highly engineered structure consisting of multiple barriers that will provide protection over hundreds of thousands of years.
The RWM Geological Disposal pages explain in more detail how a GDF will work.
Geological disposal framework
In December 2018 the government launched a new consent-based policy to identify a suitable location for a geological disposal facility (GDF). This document details how:
Radioactive Waste Management Ltd, the UK developer for a geological disposal facility, will engage with communities that participate in the process
- investment will be provided to communities that participate in the process
- communities can withdraw from the process
- a Test of Public Support will need to take place before construction of a geological disposal facility can take place
The National Policy Statement puts in place a clear and transparent process for planning decisions for geological disposal infrastructure in England. It sets out guidance for the Examining Authority and the Secretary of State for their assessment of applications for development consent under the Planning Act 2008.
BEIS consulted on the National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure from January to April 2018. The BEIS Select Committee also scrutinised the document, and BEIS will shortly be laying a revised version in Parliament.