Working with Mid Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) has started some initial work to begin to understand the suitability of hosting a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in the area.
The desk-based studies will look at the feasibility of delivering a surface facility connected to the geology of interest off the coast.
A GDF is an underground facility designed to safely and securely dispose of higher activity radioactive waste. It is made up of a surface site and a larger underground facility which would be linked by sloping tunnels and/or vertical shafts.
Deep geology beyond the coast is being considered for siting the underground elements of a GDF in Mid Copeland. This means a surface facility on, or near, the coast would provide access to a disposal area deep in rock beyond the coast.
Studies may take around 2-3 years and will look at a range of topics which have taken into consideration community feedback gathered since the formation of the Community Partnership.
The work will include looking at issues such as geology, labour & skills, local power supply and transport. Another study is accessways – which looks at potential options for underground tunnels linking a surface site to an underground facility. Contracts have now been issued to supply chain specialists to carry out some of this work.
A single surface facility would require approximately one square kilometre – however all the elements of the surface facilities may not need to be together in one place. The underground part of a GDF will be located at a depth of between 200 and 1,000 metres.
Simon Hughes, Nuclear Waste Services’ Siting Director, said: “The work we’ve now started will address the most common topics to have emerged from our discussions with local people. It will begin to give us a much better understanding of the suitability of the area and enable us to consider how different elements of a GDF could be delivered in Copeland.
“A GDF is a multi-billion-pound infrastructure project, which could bring significant economic opportunities and thousands of jobs to the area which eventually hosts it.
“It’s quite unique in having a construction and operation timeline of around 150 years, so we need to be thinking long term.”
Andy Pratt, Chair of Mid Copeland GDF Community Partnership, added: “This is important work which will help to build a picture around whether Mid Copeland could be suitable to host a GDF.
“Following lots of discussions with local people throughout 2022, the Mid Copeland GDF Community Partnership would encourage the local community to continue to be involved by coming along to events or meetings, asking questions and raising any issues.
“As these studies progress, we will ensure people are kept up to date as findings emerge and provide information.”
Community Partnerships are long-term groups made up of local people, the GDF developer and local authorities to consider the possibilities of hosting a GDF within an identified Search Area. The Mid Copeland Search Area currently includes the electoral wards of Gosforth & Seascale and Beckermet.
After April 1, the Search Area for Mid Copeland will change due to Local Government Reorganisation when the current electoral ward boundaries of Copeland Borough Council cease to exist from April 1, 2023.
The new wards will follow the same boundaries as the current county council divisions. This means the Mid Copeland Search Area will cover the electoral division of Gosforth which includes Seascale, Gosforth, Beckermet, Calderbridge, Haile, Thornhill, Nethertown and Braystones.
The parishes of Drigg and Carleton and Irton with Santon will sit outside the Mid Copeland Search Area in the Millom Without ward and will instead be in the South Copeland Search Area. The full parish of Lowside Quarter will be included in the Mid Copeland Search Area.
A GDF will only be built where there is a suitable site and a willing community.