NWS eliminates Allerdale from UK GDF siting process

2 October 2023

UK Nuclear Waste Services (NWS), which has been investigating potential sites to host a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for highly radioactive waste, has eliminated Allerdale from the list.

Four localities had formed Community Partnerships interested in hosting the GDF – Allerdale, South Copeland and Mid Copeland in Cumbria in northwest England, and Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire, in eastern England.

NWS CEO Corhyn Parr said: “After careful consideration NWS has reached a decision not to take Allerdale further in our search for a suitable site to host a GDF. We need enough suitable geology to accommodate a GDF and to support safety cases to build, operate, and close the facility. Our assessments show evidence of limited volume of suitable rock for a GDF in the Allerdale search area, including the adjacent inshore area.”

As part of this process NWS obtained existing data and undertook assessments to understand if six siting factors, safety and security, community, environment, engineering feasibility, transport, and value for money, could be supported if a GDF were sited in Allerdale. NWS noted that there is a positive legacy to the Allerdale community’s participation in the process, with around £2m ($2.4m) in GDF Community Investment Funding supporting over 50 local projects we will continue.

Initial assessments of existing data and information for the other three communities in the siting process have indicated potentially suitable geology, and NWS is continuing in the siting process with those communities. “We’re engaging with three other communities about hosting a GDF, with site evaluation work underway in these areas. The door also remains open for new communities to join the process,” NWS said.

The GDF Programme is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK. It will dispose of higher activity waste deep underground. The GDF programme requires both a suitable site and a willing community and is still in the early stages. Construction will only start on a GDF when a suitable site is identified, a Potential Host Community has confirmed its willingness to host the facility through a Test of Public Support, and all the necessary consents and permits have been obtained. These steps could take around 15 years.

Data from aerial, and other environmental surveys will help NWS understand an area’s suitability to host a GDF.

Marine aerial surveys in Mid and South Copeland, and Theddlethorpe will take place from October to March 2024. These will provide information on the presence and numbers of birds and marine wildlife in the area and, together with other environmental surveys, will provide baseline data as part of work to understand if an area is suitable for a GDF.

Simon Hughes, NWS Director of Siting & Communities said the aerial surveys are an important part of gathering the data needed to understand the environment of an area. The plane will fly at a low altitude, at least 1600ft (500m) height in accordance with recognised best practice, yet be high enough not to disturb the wildlife being observed. “At this stage we are not looking for any specific species although the data will be used to get a better understanding of protected species using the area,” he noted.

Image: The Allerdale search area (courtesy of NWS)

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