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University of the Third Age (u3a) enjoy presentation on GDF science from leading experts

June 17, 2022

The Allerdale GDF Community Partnership and Subject Matter Experts from the GDF Programme have delivered a presentation to the Cockermouth u3a Science & Technology Group on the GDF siting process and the science behind geological disposal.

A Geological Disposal Facility, or GDF, is an underground facility designed to safely and securely dispose of our radioactive waste – specifically ‘higher-activity’ waste (the most radioactive kind) – and the GDF Programme is about finding a willing community and a suitable site to host one.

The presentation, attended by 35 Cockermouth u3a members, was designed to give an overview of some of the major areas of scientific understanding which will need to be fully developed through the design and development stages of this major UK infrastructure project.

Cockermouth u3a – or University of the Third Age – is a charity that provides opportunities for those no longer in work to come together and learn for fun. It is part of the wider, national u3a network which encourages and enables older people to share knowledge.

The presentation was opened by GDF Operational Readiness Director, Paul Skelton who set the scene, before handing over to the Allerdale GDF Community Partnership Interim Chair, Mary Bradley.

Mary delivered a presentation on the role of the Community Partnership and how they are working with communities. She said: ‘It’s our job as a Community Partnership to listen to the views of local people, answer questions and make sure everyone has access to the information they need to make a decision on whether Allerdale hosts GDF, should we reach that stage. The community is at the heart of this process and it’s really important that they are informed and involved in the conversation.”

Paul Skelton then gave an overview of the science that underpins geological disposal before Chief Scientific Advisor, Neil Hyatt gave a talk on the science of the waste itself, including what it looks like and where it comes from. Neil also touched on international comparisons, including the geological disposal programmes currently underway in Finland and France.

Senior Scientific Advisor, Rob Winsley, then explained how radioactive waste is packaged and how Nuclear Waste Services (the GDF developer) and waste producers work with the wider scientific community to understand waste behaviour and how this influences decisions on how waste is packaged.

Geologist, Kirsty Simpson followed with a presentation on the role of natural barriers in providing the long-term environmental protection required to safely manage the hazards associated with radioactive waste. She also gave an overview of Allerdale’s rock geology and the local studies that will be undertaken to identify any suitable sites.

At the end of the presentations the panel responded to a number of interesting and challenging questions from u3a members. Co-Leader of the Science & Technology Group at u3a Cockermouth, Leslie Webb said: “The information on GDF was presented very clearly and u3a members were very much engaged in the conversation. We are planning to arrange further events with the Community Partnership in the near future and I look forward with interest to seeing how the GDF Programme progresses.”

If your group or organisation would also like to receive a presentation from the Community Partnership or you would like to invite a Community Partnership member or subject matter expert to speak at your event, you can make an enquiry by getting in touch, or submitting a request online via our Speaker Booking Form.