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The GDF siting process: What is different this time?

January 26, 2023

For over seventy years, the UK has benefited from nuclear technology, including through large scale electricity generation, medical treatments and wider research and development.  As a result of this, the UK has been producing and managing radioactive waste for many decades.  While the majority of this waste is low in radioactivity and disposed of safely every day, some waste remains highly radioactive for many years and is currently held safely in interim stores on the surface – the majority of which are at Sellafield.

The UK Government believes that the safest permanent solution for the management of this higher activity radioactive waste is to dispose of it in a deep geological disposal facility (GDF) and that the process for finding a suitable site for a GDF must have community consent at its heart.  The Government’s Working with Communities policy sets out how the delivery body, Nuclear Waste Services, will work in partnership with communities to identify a suitable location to host a GDF.

A more flexible approach – The previous siting process (“Managing Radioactive Waste Safely”) was rigidly staged and required local authorities to make decisions at predetermined points before further work could be carried out to answer community questions. These were often seen as big commitments in practice, even if they were not intended to be and were interpreted as decisions about hosting a GDF, instead of decisions about simply moving to the next stage of the siting process. The current process is clear that participation in GDF siting discussions is in no way an indication of being willing to host a GDF.

More information to help start and guide discussions – Much more information about geology is available from the outset. Geology was a key topic raised in the previous process and a national geological screening exercise was conducted before opening discussions this time. Information on the National Geological Screening is available at:

Early investment – Early investment funding of £1million annually is available for local initiatives, recognising that jobs and other major investments will only materialise later.

Anyone can contact the Community Partnership – It is now possible for anyone to contact the Community Partnership to find out more about the process for identifying and selecting a site for a Geological Disposal Facility. We can put your questions directly to the developer if needed. This allows more people to find out about the programme for themselves and start a local discussion without any commitments being required.

Right of withdrawal – The process now gives the final decision to the community, through a ‘Test of Public Support’. Principal Local Authorities can still withdraw communities at any time prior to a Test of Public Support but a final decision to support a GDF can only be taken by the community in the immediate vicinity of the proposed facility and its associated infrastructure.

Mechanisms for stronger engagement/partnership – The new process allows the community to directly engage with the developer and have their questions answered, as well as develop a community vision for the long-term.

For further information and to ask your questions, you can contact us.