Government says it could put nuclear waste site under national parks

The Lake District was under consideration for a nuclear waste site in 2013 (Duncan Hull @ Flickr)

The Lake District was tipped to host radioactive waste facility last time government was looking for deep disposal site

The British government has refused to rule out placing an underground nuclear waste facility beneath protected areas such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

In response to a written question last week, Lord Henley, parliamentary under-secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, said the government is “not excluding” developing the proposed storage site at protected areas, though it should only be consented in such areas “in exceptional circumstances and where it would be in the public interest to do so.”

The government is currently searching for the future home of its geological disposal facility, which it sees as a long-term solution for most radioactive waste produced by nuclear power stations.

Its refusal to rule out national parks, however, recalls previous failed attempts to get consent for the site.

In 2013, Cumbria county council voted to reject the facility amidst local opposition. And in the 1990s an attempt to build an underground lab on the edge of the Lake District to examine the case for such a facility was rejected at a Planning Inquiry.

In response to another written question, Henley said the facility could also be placed under the sea: “The design could allow the underground facilities to extend offshore if accessed from onshore surface sites.”

What is a geological disposal facility?

Geological disposal involves placing radioactive waste deep within a suitable rock formation where the rock formation provides long-term protection by acting as a barrier against escape of radioactivity and by isolating the waste from effects at the surface such as climate change.

In addition to geology, community acceptance is key to the development of a deep disposal site.

Last year Ann McCall from Radioactive Waste Management said building the facility was “mission critical” to store the UK’s radioactive waste, which the country has “an awful lot of.”

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