Geological Disposal - a programme like no other

Learn more about the history, science and policy behind GDF

Applies to England and Wales

The UK’s nuclear history

A long-term solution A short introductory film, featuring an independent nuclear waste disposal expert from Sheffield University, Prof Claire Corkhill.

Find out more about our pioneering past and today’s mission

Why underground?


Discover why a GDF is the safest solution

Communities and GDF

Working together

Find out how communities will have a say

About National Geological Screening (NGS)

Types of rock

Find out about the rocks beneath your area

Essential facts about GDF

What is a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF)?

Geological disposal involves isolating radioactive waste deep underground, inside a suitable rock volume to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity ever reach the surface environment. A GDF will be a highly engineered structure consisting of multiple barriers that will provide protection over hundreds of thousands of years.

Has any region been selected for a GDF?

At this stage, no host site for a GDF has been identified and discussions are happening with communities around England and Wales. Working Groups and Community Partnerships have been formed in different areas of the country to start exploring whether a GDF is right for their area and whether their area is right for a GDF. This will be a consent-based, partnership approach, with Right of Withdrawal by the community right up to a Test of Public Support.

What is radioactive waste and where does it come from?

Radioactive waste is radioactive material for which we have no further use. Most comes from the generation of electricity using nuclear power but it is also a by-product of many medical and industrial processes, research and defence activities that make use of radioactivity and radioactive materials.

What waste is destined for geological disposal?

A GDF will take higher activity waste. This consists of High Level Waste, Intermediate Level Waste and a small amount of Low Level Waste which is not suitable for disposal at existing surface facilities. For planning purposes, we consider wastes from existing uses of radioactive materials, as well as wastes that would be generated from new nuclear power stations. We also include various nuclear materials in our planning that are not currently classified as waste, since these would need to be managed through geological disposal if it were decided at some point that they had no further use.

Where is the waste now?

Radioactive wastes that will be disposed of in a GDF are currently being packaged in specially engineered containers and stored at over 20 nuclear sites around the country. The stores are designed to withstand severe weather and earthquakes.

Why can’t we leave the waste where it is?

Surface stores, whilst designed to be safe for around 100 years, don’t provide a permanent solution. They need to be continually monitored to keep the waste secure and periodically refurbished to prevent the waste from being exposed to the effects of the weather. Eventually, they will need to be replaced, or the waste moved elsewhere. Surface storage is therefore less safe than geological disposal for the long term, and would end up being much more labour intensive and costly in the long run.

When will a GDF be built?

Construction will only start when a suitable site is identified, all the necessary consents and permits have been obtained and the host community has indicated its willingness to host the facility through a Test of Public Support. The latest planning assumption is that a GDF could be ready to receive intermediate level waste between 2050-2060, with high level waste and spent fuel from 2075. Filling a GDF with waste and then closing it, once full, will run into the next century.

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Updates to this page

Published 3 November 2020
Last updated 9 April 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated email address

  2. First published.

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