Collection: Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for high-activity radioactive waste

By HM Government

The UK Government is committed to implementing geological disposal for the safe and secure management of higher-activity radioactive waste over the long-term, which includes taking a voluntarist approach for selecting a site that is based on working in partnership with communities.

Latest developments

  • The Community Representation Working Group is developing the process for working with communities and to support this action DECC has launched a Call for evidence (published 1 July 2015) which asks for contributions on how communities can become involved in the siting process for a GDF.
  • Implementing Geological Disposal 5th Annual Report (published 20 July 2015) explains the background to the geological disposal programme and covers progress from April 2014 to March 2015.

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 multiple barriers that provide safety for geological waste disposal are a combination of:

  • the form of the radioactive waste itself, for example high level waste that arises initially as a liquid is converted into a durable, stable solid glass form before storage and disposal
  • the packaging of the waste
  • engineered barriers (buffer) that protect the waste packages and limit the movement of radionuclides if they are released from the waste packages
  • engineered features of the facility that will contain the waste packages
  • stable geological setting (rock) in which the facility is sited.

Geological disposal is internationally recognised as the safest and most secure means of permanently managing our higher-activity waste, with countries including Finland, Sweden, Canada and the USA pursuing it.

Implementing Geological Disposal

The Implementing Geological Disposal White Paper sets out the framework for the long-term management of higher radioactive waste. The White Paper outlines an approach based on working with interested communities, beginning with two years of actions overseen by Government and intended to address issues that the public and stakeholders have told us are important to them.

These actions will:

  • establish a geological screening exercise to examine existing data on the UK’s geology
  • bring a geological disposal facility within the definition of a “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project” and
  • define what we mean by working with communities.

Community Representation Working Group (CRWG)

Following its commitment in chapter 7 of the Implementing Geological Disposal White Paper DECC has engaged external support by convening a Community Representation Working Group (CRWG). CRWG will help develop practical processes for how community representation, the test of public support, and community investment will operate throughout the siting process for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

Land-use Planning

Following its commitment in chapter 6 of the Implementing Geological Disposal White Paper, the UK Government amended the Planning Act 2008 to bring GDFs in England (and the deep boreholes required to identify and characterise suitable sites) within the definition of nationally significant infrastructure projects. A draft National Policy Statement will be developed for public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, informed by an Appraisal of Sustainability and Habitats Regulations Assessment.

Independent Review of National Geological Screening

The Geological Society has established an independent panel to review and evaluate the guidance for national geological screening, which will inform the process of identifying a suitable site or sites for geological disposal of the UK’s radioactive waste.

Links to further information

Contact

Anyone looking for more information about geological disposal policy should contact DECC at ond@decc.gsi.gov.uk and Radioactive Waste Management Limited for technical questions at gdfenquiries@nda.gov.uk.

Source:: Collection: Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for high-activity radioactive waste