GDF Community Partnership South Copeland

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Regulating a Geological Disposal Facility

September 21, 2023

A GDF will have to meet strict environmental protection and safety and security standards which will be regulated by the Environment Agency (EA) and Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) respectively.

The independent regulators will work together to regulate a GDF, scrutinising all aspects of the project, including design, construction, operation and closure.

The UK Government has accepted the recommendation of the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management that geological disposal is the best approach for higher activity radioactive waste – and that this should be delivered in practice with community involvement and support.

An environmental permit and a site licence for a GDF will be granted only if proposals meet the high standards of the regulators.

The ONR and EA are both committed to making their work around GDF open and transparent.

Jon Davenport, a Nuclear Regulator at the Environment Agency and lead for both the South Copeland and Mid Copeland GDF Community Partnerships, said: “We’re independent regulators and, although we’re not involved in decisions about the location of a GDF, we’re getting involved in community engagement now.

“We want to encourage and enable people’s input into this process in west Cumbria.

“Our formal regulation will start after a site, or sites, have been selected for site investigation.

“Previously we’ve attended exhibitions organised by the Copeland GDF Working Group to talk to members of the community about how our work will help protect people and the environment.

“We are looking forward to further discussions at Community Partnership events in your area going forwards.”

Dr Peter Howden, ONR Principal Inspector, said: “We do not have a role in the site selection process for a GDF or a decision- making role in the process for identifying and selecting sites for investigation.

“However, during the site selection process, we will offer our support to local working groups and Community Partnerships and will talk to communities, local authorities and others to explain more about our regulatory role.”

The regulators attended the Community Partnership’s meeting in public on 13 September at The Lighthouse Centre in Millom, and there will be further opportunities to ask them questions in person.

Link to their webpages on geological disposal:

The regulators’ joint annual scrutiny reports (next due late Autumn) are available online and provide more information:

Link to their guides on regulating geological disposal:

If you have questions, email the Environment Agency at or the ONR at