Press release

New long-term plan to safely dispose of radioactive waste

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Today the Government launched a new long-term plan to deal permanently with the country’s radioactive waste.

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Today the Government launched a new long-term plan to deal permanently with the country’s radioactive waste. It follows a consultation on improving the process of finding a site to host a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), which will safely isolate our radioactive waste deep underground and inside multiple barriers to provide protection over hundreds of thousands of years.

Building a GDF will help us permanently deal with waste from decades of generating low-carbon electricity from nuclear power. It will also support the development of new, low-carbon, nuclear electricity generation in the UK by ensuring there is a safe, modern facility for permanently disposing of waste. Alongside renewables and clean oil and gas, nuclear energy will help us build a home-grown, clean energy mix that will help keep the lights on.

Based on feedback to our consultation, we have created a new and improved plan for working with communities to identify a site for a GDF. Over the next two years the Government will work with experts and the public to give greater clarity on issues such as national geological screening, the planning process and the environmental impacts. We will also look at how communities will be represented and what further investment they can expect to see if they choose to host a GDF.

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. Building and running a GDF will be a multi-billion pound infrastructure project, which will bring significant economic benefits to a community.

“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 Geological Disposal Facility will benefit from significant investment in the community and hundreds of skilled jobs for decades to come.”

The local community which hosts a facility will benefit from jobs for hundreds of people over many decades, and bolster local service industries. The local area will also receive significant direct investment for the benefit of the community.

Radioactive waste comes from a range of sources including generating electricity in nuclear power stations, using radioactive materials in industry, medicine and research, and from defence-related nuclear programmes.

Currently, it is stored temporarily at secure nuclear sites across the country, but a 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.

Notes to editors

  1. White Paper, “Implementing Geological Disposal”
  2. Government response to the consultation
  3. Written Ministerial Statement
  4. A GDF was originally recommended by the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) in 2006.
  5. CoRWM produced its recommendations following an extensive programme of deliberative engagement with expert stakeholders and the public.
  6. Infographics from the White Paper are available on Flickr
Published 24 July 2014