Welsh communities asked if they'll accept nuclear waste

The Welsh government is launching a 12 week consultation to see if anywhere in Wales would volunteer to be the home of a nuclear waste disposal site. It would house the most radioactive material, some of which won't be safe for 250,000 years. The waste and its containers will occupy 650,000 cubic metres, which is about half the volume of the Principality Stadium.

Any community that did volunteer would be paid £1 million a year during the selection process, rising to £2.5 million a year once test bore holes were drilled. Choosing a site could take 20 years and local people would be consulted, probably in a referendum. There would be long term payments as well, with construction and operation of an underground facility lasting 150 years before it's left buried between 200 and 1,000 metres below the surface.

Nearly all the radioactive material is so-called legacy waste, mostly from now closed nuclear power stations such as Wylfa on Anglesey and Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd. There is also military and medical waste. There will almost certainly be just one site chosen, in either England or Wales. As well as the financial incentives, there's the prospect of about 550 permanent jobs.

More than half the used nuclear fuel at Wylfa has now been removed Credit: Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

Both the Welsh Government and the UK Government, which is responsible for seeing if there's a site in England, are looking for a volunteer community at this stage. The Welsh Government says it is giving an absolute assurance that nowhere in Wales will be compelled to accept the waste but in England there is the possibility of the UK Government resorting to compulsion if necessary.

Nuclear fuel rods: there were more than 100,000 in the two reactors at Wylfa Credit: Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

The chosen site will offer geologically stable storage in rock, clay or salt. Anywhere that's been "geologically compromised" by activity such as coal-mining will be ruled out. 95% of the nuclear waste is currently in England, with just 5% in Wales. The disposal facility would also take a very small amount of medical waste from Northern Ireland. Scotland has decided to store its nuclear waste for another 300 years before disposing of it.