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Implementing Geological Disposal: A Framework for the Long-term Management of Higher Activity Radioactive Waste

24 July 2014

The UK government has today published a White Paper setting out a revised process for siting and implementing a geological disposal facility (GDF) for radioactive waste. Over the past 18 months, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has been reviewing the previous siting process, and has consulted widely.  During this review, the Geological Society has provided evidence to two consultations, and has taken part in workshops and meetings with other stakeholders, to help ensure that geoscience is used and communicated as effectively as possible in the new siting and implementation process.

The publication of the White Paper marks the start of a two year period during which a national geological screening process will be carried out, alongside work to develop land-use planning processes and other actions preparatory to engaging with local communities.  These initial actions will inform the subsequent process of identifying potential host communities for a GDF and suitable sites within these localities.

The Geological Society continues to support the principles of community voluntarism and partnership, which remain at the heart of the new siting and implementation process.  The Society welcomes the decision to carry out a national geological screening exercise at the outset of the process, and to strengthen communication of the relevant geoscience to potential host communities both in the initial stages and later on.  This will greatly enhance local communities’ engagement with the process, and will enable their deliberations and decision-making to be much better informed than was the case within the previous siting process.

The Geological Society has agreed to oversee the establishment of an independent review panel to assess whether the national geological screening guidance is technically robust, whether it can be implemented using the existing geological information available, and whether it provides an appropriate assessment of the prospects for developing a robust long-term safety case for a GDF.  It is also discussing with DECC and other learned societies and academies how best to establish a mechanism through which technical statements made by government, the developer, campaigning organisations and others can be independently reviewed by a third party, to help grow the confidence of local communities and other stakeholders in the information made available to them.

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