Hartlepool identified as possible site for multi-billion pound project to store UK’s radioactive waste

Hartlepool has been identified as a potential site for a multi-billion pound underground store for all of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste.

By Mark Payne
Thursday, 14 March, 2019, 05:00
An artist impression of what a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) could look like above and below ground.

A nationwide process is underway to find a site somewhere in England or Wales suitable for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

A survey of geological data says rocks of a suitable type and depth are present in Hartlepool and Teesside as well as elsewhere in the North East.

The areas of the Northern England subregion 2 where any of the three rock types of Interest are present between 200m and 1,000 m below National Geological Survey datum.

Public organisation Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), which is leading the project to develop the waste facility on behalf of the government, stressed it will only be built where there is community support.

It is believed there may be greater support in Hartlepool due to the town having a nuclear power station which has an expected decommissioning date of 2024.

In an exclusive briefing with the Mail, a RWM spokesperson said: “This facility could come here. It could go anywhere else [in England and Wales], but it’s probably more likely to go somewhere where the communities already have an understanding of nuclear and they have lived with it and feel relatively safe with it.

“We are talking to communities that understand what this facility could be all about.”

Diagram showing how intermediate and high activity radioactive waste would be sealed for storage underground.

Project leaders reject the term ‘dump’ stressing the proposal is for a highly engineered, organised facility with underground train lines, robots and involving many skilled jobs.

The spokesman added the final host community would benefit from significant investment including creating hundreds of jobs for generations to come.

Places that form Community Partnerships to have formal dialogue with project bosses would receive up to £1m a year from the government.

That would rise to £2.5m a year if it progressed to the next stage of drilling boreholes to test the rocks.

Diagram showing how deep radioactive waste would be stored underground.

The final host community would then get to determine along with the government what they wanted for significant long term investment.

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The facility would store all of the UK’s intermediate and higher activity sealed radioactive waste between 650ft (200m) and 3,280ft (100m) underground.

With a value of at least £12 billion it is described as potentially the UK’s largest ever environmental protection project.

Project leaders say the UK has accumulated a legacy of higher activity radioactive waste and material that needs to be stored safely in one place.

Hartlepool Power Station.

The search for a willing host community is expected to take up to 10 years and the facility would not open until the mid 2040s.

It would operate for 150 years before being permanently sealed.

A RWM report as part of the initial consultation states that rocks up to 250 million years old are present in a depth range of interest around Hartlepool and Teesside.

It states: “There are granites, volcanic lavas and similar strong rocks under the centre of the subregion centred on Weardale, in which we may be able to site a GDF.

“There are also layers of rock salt around Hartlepool and Teesside, in which we may be able to site a facility.

“We would need to do more work to find out whether these rocks have suitable properties and thicknesses in the depth range of interest for a GDF.”

Before the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy gave the final go ahead there would have to be a Test of Public Support by the potential host community.

Ann McCall, RWM’s siting and engagement director, said: “Working with communities will be at the heart of our approach and our job is to ensure that people understand what hosting a GDF will mean in terms of their commitment and what it could deliver for their community.”

For further details visit www.gov.uk/rwm