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Meeting the challenge: Geological disposal of UK higher activity radioactive waste

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In June 2008, based in an extensive independent public consultation exercise, the UK Government published a White Paper describing a framework for the geological disposal of UK high- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. This was followed by an invitation to communities to participate in discussions around volunteering to host one or more geological disposal facilities (GDF) in their local area. After failing to attract a volunteer community, in 2013 the Department of Energy and Climate Change launched a consultation process to reconsider their siting strategy for a GDF: they are still committed to the principle of voluntarism.

The UK has substantial volumes of so-called ‘legacy’ wastes arising from its weapons programme, from its various experimental reactor programmes, from nuclear power plants and from the reprocessing of spent fuel. I believe society has a moral obligation to provide a long-term secure solution for these wastes. This lecture discussed the technical and societal challenges that must be overcome for successful construction of a geological disposal facility in the UK.

Erratum: We apologise for an error in the size of the percentage of net support in the Mori Poll, which is on the third from final slide entitled 'New Siting Policy Development'. An amended slide can be seen below.


New siting policy slide


Rebecca Lunn (University of Strathclyde)

Rebecca Lunn is a Professor of Engineering Geosciences and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. She has over 20 years of research experience in hydrogeology, with a particular focus on energy. Her research explores deep flow systems, hydromechanics, and the spatial and temporal evolution of rock permeability. In 2011, she was the first woman and the first engineer to be awarded the Geological Society Aberconway Medal for research of particular relevance within industry. Her research experience is multi-disciplinary and she currently collaborates closely with structural geologists, seismologists, mathematicians,, microbiologists, psychologists and statisticians. She leads two multi-partner EPSRC research consortia in nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning: ‘Biogeochemical Applications in Nuclear Decommissioning and Disposal’ (BANDD) and ‘SAFE Barriers’. Current research interests include: new monitoring technologies for nuclear waste disposal and geological carbon storage sites; design of novel grouts for injection as ground barriers and for sealing fractures in rocks; and exploring public understanding of science, such as carbon storage and shale-gas extraction, to inform the regulators’ approach to public information and decision making. 

Meeting the challenge: Geological disposal of UK higher activity radioactive waste

Event Details

Date: 19 March 2014

Venue: The Geological Society, London

Speaker: Rebecca Lunn


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Naomi Newbold
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