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Managing radioactive waste safely : initial geological unsuitability screening of West Cumbria

By J.H. Powell, C.N. Waters, D. Millward and N.S. Robins

Abstract

In 2001 the UK Government began the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely1(MRWS)\ud programme with the aim of identifying a long-term solution for the UK’s higher activity wastes\ud that:\ud • achieved long-term protection of people and the environment\ud • did this in an open and transparent way that inspired public confidence\ud • was based on sound science, and\ud • ensured the effective use of public monies.\ud In 2003 the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)2was\ud established to consider the available options and make recommendations to Government. In\ud October 2006, the Government accepted CoRWM’s recommendations that geological disposal,\ud preceded by safe and secure interim storage, was the best available approach. Government also\ud accepted that an approach based on voluntarism, and partnership with local communities, was\ud the best way of siting a geological disposal facility (GDF).\ud Geological disposal involves placing radioactive waste within engineered, multi-barrier facilities\ud deep inside a suitable rock formation where the facility and geology provide a barrier against the\ud escape of radioactivity. Internationally it is recognised as the preferred approach - it is being\ud adopted in many countries including Canada, Finland, France and Sweden - and is supported by\ud a number of UK learned societies including the Royal Society, the Geological Society and the\ud Royal Society of Chemistry.\ud Following further consultation, the White Paper ‘Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS):\ud A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal’ was published in 2008; it sets out a staged\ud approach to siting a geological disposal facility. The process starts with local communities\ud initially ‘expressing an interest’ in opening up discussions with Government. At each stage, the\ud process allows all those involved to take stock before deciding whether or not to move to the\ud next stage at a particular site. Up until late in the process, when underground operations and\ud construction are about to begin, the community has a Right of Withdrawal - if it wished to\ud withdraw then its involvement in the process would stop. Figure 1, below, shows the main stages\ud in the process.\ud The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) have since published an additional document\ud ‘Geological Disposal: Steps towards implementation’3 which provides further information on\ud what will be required for the successful implementation of geological disposal

Publisher: British Geological Survey
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:15505

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