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Radioactive Waste Disposal

Geosciences and the Long Term Management of Radioactive Wastes

In January 2006, the Geological Society organised a one-day meeting to review the current situation regarding the long-term management of radioactive wastes from a geoscientific perspective. 

In 1999, the Geological Society and the British Geological Survey held a meeting which concluded that deep disposal is the best technical and scientific option for safe and sustainable long-term containment.  In 2003, the UK Government appointed a Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) to review options for long-term solutions, to engage the public and other stakeholders in the review, and to deliver a recommendation to Government in 2006. The meeting heard about the wastes to be managed in the UK, the range of options and the process of consulting with stakeholders. It looked at the technical and scientific advances that are currently being made towards selecting and investigating sites for deep disposal and assessing long-term safety in radioactive waste management projects elsewhere in Europe. The broader geoscience basis for understanding subsurface processes, particularly from oilfield studies, was also illustrated.

The safety of deep disposal was discussed in terms of the stability of deep rock environments with respect to groundwater flow, rock mechanics and other properties which would allow engineered containment and natural barriers to operate successfully for very long periods of time. Appropriate criteria and information by which different parts of the UK can be identified as being stable at the surface or in the subsurface with respect to long-term climatic and tectonic changes were considered. The meeting concluded with a discussion of these and other aspects of the geoscientific basis for implementing a future strategy for radioactive waste management and for securing long-term safety.

Conveners: Adrian Bath, Robert Chaplow, Charles Curtis, Rob Knipe, Bruce Yardley (Science Secretary)

Following the meeting, on 23 February 2006, the Society published a report stimulated by the conference, written by Neil Chapman (University of Sheffield and ITC School, Switzerland) and Charles Curtis (University of Manchester and Nirex), entitled 'Confidence in the Safe Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste'.  This can be downloaded below, along with some of the presentations made at the meeting.