Last updated at 08:39, Friday, 13 September 2013

Government yesterday launched a consultation on a revised process for working with communities in order to agree a site for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) after the plans were rejected in Cumbria this year.

The multi-billion pound facility would be used to dispose of higher activity radioactive waste safely underground. This would provide a permanent solution for the disposal of existing legacy waste, and waste from new nuclear power stations.

Under the new approach, which Government is consulting on from today, communities would be provided with more information at an earlier stage in the process; a positive community-wide demonstration of support would be required before a community could host a GDF; and communities would have an on-going right to withdraw from the process.

The multi-billion pound infrastructure initiative could provide skilled employment for many thousands of people over its lifetime. Over 1,000 people would be employed on the site during its construction, with over 500 staff employed on average each year over the 100 year life of the facility.

This would have a profound and long-term positive economic impact on the area selected for the site, stimulating local businesses, supply-chains, and providing skilled jobs and training opportunities.

Government will provide a generous community benefits package, potentially through a community fund, to ensure that the strategic national importance of the project is properly reflected at local level.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed welcomed the announcement.

He said: "Managing radioactive waste safely is one of the most important environmental and economic challenges facing this country and our community. It is morally indefensible to leave this problem for future generations to solve.

"This is a national process - not one centred solely upon West Cumbria and I expect other interested areas to come forward.

"The Department of Energy & Climate Change has learned from the previous process and has listened closely to the West Cumbrian Community and the Sellafield workforce. I hope that there is widespread engagement with this consultation and I'm sure that there will be: wherever a GDF is ultimately sited, this is the most important issue facing West Cumbria.

"Nuclear generation is the only form of electricity production determined to manage the waste products it creates. It's strategically essential for the UK and a vitally important part of West Cumbria's future."

Baroness Verma said: “Geological disposal is the right approach for the long-term, safe and secure management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste.

“Hosting a site would bring lasting economic benefits with jobs, opportunities for businesses, and a generous benefits package to support the community.

“We want to make sure those benefits are well understood and supported by all those in the area surrounding any host community.”

Bruce McKirdy, Managing Director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Radioactive Waste Management Directorate said:

“For more than 50 years, we have all benefited from the use of clean and secure nuclear energy, but we have not successfully addressed the long term disposal of higher activity radioactive waste. Geological disposal is an internationally recognised technically sound solution for higher activity waste to protect people and our environment.

“As the body responsible for the design, development and delivery of a geological disposal facility, we look forward to working with communities, stakeholders and the Government to take responsibility for our past and avoid passing the burden of legacy waste to future generations.”

The process to select a site would vary according to the specific needs of the community, but could take around 15 years, with construction taking a further 15 years.

The Government continues to believe that geological disposal, preceded by safe and secure interim storage, is the right policy for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste.

Throughout the revised process being consulted on, communities would be represented by the most local competent authority, (the District Council or unitary authority in England, or relevant equivalent in Wales or Northern Ireland), who would have the right to withdraw the community from the siting process.

Given the scale and national importance of the GDF, Government proposes bringing it within the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project planning regime, as set out in the Planning Act 2008.

Government will consult on this new approach from 12 September to 5 December, and will then re-launch the national site selection process in 2014. As part of the consultation, a series of events will be run across the country with the public and interested parties.

First published at 09:51, Thursday, 12 September 2013
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