Although radioactive waste is stored at nuclear facilities around the country, the bulk of our radioactive waste is already at Sellafield. Its range of purpose-built stores were designed to keep this waste safe and secure for many decades. Nevertheless, these facilities require constant maintenance and monitoring while the radioactivity naturally decays. For some of the waste this will take many thousands of years, so even if well maintained, these surface stores will be vulnerable to natural and human events such as rising sea levels and even the next ice age.
A geological disposal facility (GDF) built up to 1,000 metres in the rock deep underground will contain the waste safely and isolate it from glaciation or future human intervention, until the radioactivity naturally decays and no longer poses a hazard to people or the environment. In essence, a GDF removes any requirement for our descendants to take perpetual care of today’s hazardous legacy.
Scientists and other authorities all over the world agree that a GDF is the safest way to deal with ‘higher-activity’ radioactive waste (the most radioactive kind) for the long term. This international consensus comes after decades of scientific research.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency will review the designs for a GDF, the proposed site, and the science that informs them, to make sure it protects people and the environment. A GDF will only be built if it can meet these criteria.
Please explore the documents below from the developer tasked with delivering a GDF in the UK, for further information on geological disposal.