Today, the government of the United Kingdom has launched a public consultation in order to help it decide on where to develop a new site for radioactive waste storage, offering communities a maximum of £1m per year to host the said facility.
A so-called geological disposal facility would involve the placement of radioactive waste that is created by the nuclear plants of Britain at least 200 meters underground in a facility that is specially engineered.
Around a fifth of the electricity of the United Kingdom that is generated by nuclear plants. However, the waste that was created must be stored for thousands of years, and currently, only temporary storage facilities are utilised.
A new facility is required in order to safely dispose of the waste that will be produced by the new generation of nuclear power stations which are being developed currently, including the Hinkley Point C.
The government said that the said facility will create a maximum of 2,000 skilled jobs and bring at least £8bn to the economy over the lifetime of the facility. However, Richard Harrington, the energy minister, said that planning consent would only be granted to sites that secure local support.
Harrington stated: “We owe it to future generations to take action now to find a suitable permanent site for the safe disposal of our radioactive waste. And it is right that local communities have a say.”
According to the consultation plans, the communities could receive a maximum of £1m per year in funding during the initial land testing if they would agree to host the waste site. The said figure could increase to £2.5m per year for those that permit boreholes to test whether the land of their community is suitable.
An earlier attempt to look for a host for the said project failed when Cumbria county council declined the plans in 2013.
Consultations in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England is set to run for 12 weeks.
The chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, Tom Greatrex, said that the consultations will give greater clarity regarding the key issues of effective community engagement and underground storage.
“It will place the community at the centre of the process, as well as delivering the long-term job creation such a facility will bring,” said Greatrex.
However, environmental groups criticised the plans, with Greenpeace UK saying that the government was “bribing” communities. The group urged ministers to pursue solar and wind power plans instead of new nuclear builds.
The director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), Richard Black, stated: “Finding a secure resting place for Britain’s growing nuclear waste stockpile is something that government after government has failed to do – sometimes for lack of trying, sometimes through trying to foist on communities something they really didn’t want.
“The only approach that stands a chance of succeeding is absolutely openness – and one hopes that this will indeed be the approach, because the waste can’t be wished out of existence.”