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Regulators publish joint geological disposal facility scrutiny and engagement report

24 November 2023

The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has published a joint report with the Environment Agency outlining regulatory activities during the last year to oversee work to develop a geological disposal facility (GDF) for higher activity radioactive waste.

Image: ONR
Image: ONR

While construction of a GDF is not expected to start for many years, ONR and the Environment Agency are engaging with Nuclear Waste Services (NWS), the organisation responsible for delivering a facility, to provide regulatory advice and ensure that any future applications to develop a GDF takes account of all legal requirements, including for permitting and licensing.

ONR and the Environment Agency have said it is essential that NWS provides the right advice to waste producers, so that radioactive waste packaged at their sites is suitable for future disposal, can be safely kept in current storage, and be safely transported to a future GDF.

This year’s report contains details of regulatory advice provided to NWS and updates on our engagement work with the local communities that have expressed an interest in hosting a GDF.

While ONR and the Environment Agency have no regulatory role in selecting potential GDF sites, they are committed to offering support to communities considering hosting a GDF and are ready to offer advice and explanation about how we would regulate any potential facility under a nuclear site licence.

The report also discusses the ongoing preparatory work to develop regulatory guidance needed to regulate a GDF, and reflects upon recent international engagements with other regulators and international programmes relevant to geological disposal.

Current government policy is that UK higher activity radioactive waste will be managed in the long-term through geological disposal, which involves placing it deep within a suitable rock formation, providing long lasting protection by acting as a physical barrier.

ONR and the Environment Agency are responsible for ensuring that a future GDF meets the high standards necessary to protect people and the environment when under development, while in operation, and after closure.

Read the report in full by clicking here.

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