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Allerdale GDF Working Group proposes search area for further consideration

October 5, 2021

The Allerdale GDF Working Group has today announced a proposed Search Area for further consideration in the search for a suitable site to host a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) to permanently dispose of higher activity radioactive waste.

A Search Area is the geographical area on land within which Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) – the Government organisation responsible for planning and delivering the project – would seek to identify potentially suitable sites.

Search Areas have to be based on district electoral ward boundaries. Following completion of early-stage work today’s proposal outlines an area of approximately 230 square kilometres, comprising 13 Allerdale District electoral wards. The Search Area does not include any land that is within the boundary of the Lake District National Park (LDNP), which will continue to be excluded from consideration. Deep geology beyond the coast is also being considered for the siting of the underground elements of a GDF.

The electoral wards in the proposed Search Area are: Aspatria; Broughton St Bridgets; Dalton; Ellen & Gilcrux; Flimby; Harrington & Salterbeck; Maryport North; Maryport South; Moorclose & Moss Bay; Seaton & Northside; St John’s; St Michael’s and Stainburn & Clifton.

The Working Group’s Independent Chair, Jocelyn Manners-Armstrong said: “We carefully considered all the information publicly available to understand which parts of Allerdale, outside of the Lake District National Park, could possibly be included and where there might be difficulties and opportunities.

“We looked at issues such as safety and security, community requirements, the environment, engineering feasibility, existing or required transport links and value for money. We also listened to the views expressed by all the local people who have been in touch or attended our drop-in sessions over the past nine months. Once we pulled all this information together, we were able to narrow down the proposed Search Area from the whole of Allerdale to a particular area.

“In the coming days I will be writing to local residents providing details of what identifying a Search Area means and what are the next steps, including further local engagement, in the weeks ahead.”

The Working Group’s proposal has been evaluated by RWM who have concluded that the area suggested, including that beyond the coast, does have the potential to accommodate a GDF deep underground, along with the infrastructure needed on the surface.

A surface facility, which would be the entry point for a GDF, would require in the region of 1 square kilometre of land and would require suitable transport links. The underground part is likely to require anywhere between 10-20 square kilometres of suitable geology deep underground. The underground disposal areas do not need to be located directly below the surface site – they could be separated by many kilometres.

This evaluation has not confirmed that the Search Area in question is suitable to host a facility, only that it has the potential, so significant additional work will need to be undertaken by RWM.

The next part of the process involves forming a Community Partnership to continue the conversation. However, a Community Partnership can only be formed with participation from at least one relevant Principal Local Authority.

If a Community Partnership is formed, there will be a process for identifying groups, organisations and individuals aiming to be reflective of the community to continue this work as Community Partnership members.

At that point, Search Area communities will be eligible to benefit from Community Investment Funding for projects, schemes and initiatives that improve the local area or the community’s well-being.

Construction of a GDF requires both a suitable site and willing community. If a suitable site is eventually found in Allerdale – which could take 10-15 years – a Test of Public Support (such as a poll or referendum that gives people a direct say) would be held with those living in the wards affected. Without public support the project would not go ahead.

The Allerdale GDF Working Group will be continuing its work to engage with local people, provide information and answer questions, and anyone with comments or concerns is encouraged to contact the Working Group on 0300 369 0000 or email gdfinfo-allerdale@nda.gov.uk.