Two sites identified for west Cumbria underground radioactive waste storage

Credit: Copeland GDF Working Group

Two possible sites in west Cumbria have been identified for the underground storage of radioactive waste. 

The so-called Copeland GDF Working Group believes an area around Gosforth, Seascale and Beckermet - seen here shaded green - and another covering Millom and Haverigg - coloured purple - should now be investigated to assess their viability.

The group says identifying these locations is the starting point of a process for building a facility that would only go ahead with community support.

Plans to create such a setup - known as a geological disposal facility (GDF) - were first considered almost 10 years ago and were rejected by Cumbria County Council.

The Government though has restarted its search for a community in which to locate such a store and an organisation - Copeland GDF Working Group - has been set up to "explore whether a GDF would be right for Copeland". A similar group has also been set up in Allerdale.

What is a DGF?

A GDF is a place where radioactive waste from the nuclear industry - which accounts for about fifth of the UK's electricity - would be stored several hundred metres underground. It needs to have enough volume of rock surrounding it to prevent harmful quantities radiation reaching the atmosphere.

It would be made up of highly engineered vaults and waste would be stored there while its radioactivity naturally decays to safe levels.  

The plans are being explored by Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, which is itself part of the Department for Business, energy and Industrial Strategy.

RWM has said that a GDF would be the safest way to story radioactive waste in the long-term.