We are responsible for managing the national Low Level Waste Repository in West Cumbria on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and overseeing a National Low Level Waste Programme to ensure that lower activity waste is managed effectively across the UK.
The LLW Repository site has operated safely since 1959. Its role is to ensure that Low level Waste generated in the UK is disposed of in a way that protects people and the environment.
What we do
The Repository site is the nation’s principal disposal facility for LLW and is the only facility that is permitted to receive all categories of low level waste (LLW).
The LLWR site receives low level solid waste from a range of customers, such as the nuclear industry, the Ministry of Defence, non-nuclear industries, educational, medical and research establishments.
Through the application of the waste management hierarchy, LLWR enables customers to access alternative options that consider re-use, recycling or other means of disposal where practicable.
How we do it
Most waste, typically paper, cardboard, plastic, protective clothing, soil, rubble and metal, arrives at the site in large metal containers.
These containers are subjected to acceptance checks to ensure compliance with the LLWR Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC). The LLW is then grouted in containers prior to disposal in engineered concrete vaults. The vast majority of waste is delivered to the site by rail.
Through the use of Waste Management Services, LLWR also delivers safe and effective options to waste producers to reduce and recycle their wastes, with the aim of preserving capacity at the Repository.
These routes are provided by commercial organisations working with LLWR and include facilities for the treatment and recycling of metallic waste, incineration of suitable waste, the diversion of Very Low Level Waste (VLLW) to suitably licensed landfill sites and supercompaction of waste to minimise volumes sent to the Repository.
The company’s National Waste Programme (NWP) is another key area in ensuring lower activity waste is managed effectively. The NWP team promotes the use of alternative waste management routes by educating and influencing the behaviours of waste producers.
Originally disposal of LLW at the Repository was based on landfill practices, with waste being tipped into clay-based trenches and covered with layers of stone and soil. This practice continued for over three decades.
Ownership of the Repository passed to the newly created British Nuclear Fuels Limited in 1971 and the site was managed as part of Sellafield until 2007, when LLW Repository Ltd (LLWR) was formed to hold the Nuclear Site Licence for the Repository.
The following year international consortium UK Nuclear Waste Management (UKNWM) won the 17-year contract to act as Parent Body Organisation (PBO) with responsibility for operating and managing LLWR.
In 1988 a new approach to the treatment and disposal of low level waste in the UK saw the opening of Vault 8, an engineered facility for the long-term management of LLW.
Under this new system, LLW was placed in containers and grouted prior to disposal in this vault. Some 22 years later, Vault 9 opened.
Planning approval was granted in 2016 for a programme that would permit the construction of a final cap over the trenches, current vaults and any new vaults. This secured the site’s future for decades to come.
More information about the history of the site