The White Paper
setting out the framework for the geological disposal implementation
has six stages
to establish a geological disposal facility (GDF).
Stage 1 : communities invited to express an interest in finding a site for a geological disposal facility (GDF)
Shortly after the 2008 White Paper was published, three councils in Cumbria made an expression of interest and formed the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership (West Cumbria MRWS Partnership). In 2012 Shepway District Council held a consultation on whether it should express an interest for the Romney Marsh area. It decided not to do so.
- We have advised Government on ways of encouraging more communities to express an interest.
Stage 2 : British Geological Survey (BGS) “screens out” rock volumes that would be unsuitable for a GDF within the area expressing an interest
BGS carried out the screening out process for West Cumbria in 2010. We scrutinised the BGS work. We held meetings with BGS and advised Government and the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership about matters such as the peer review of the BGS report. In our view the screening out process in West Cumbria was completed very satisfactorily (doc. 2922).
Stage 3 : the “Decision to Participate” - community decides whether to participate in the siting process
The West Cumbria MRWS Partnership completed its work in summer 2012 and submitted its final report to the three councils as input to their decision on whether to participate further in the siting process. We observed all the Partnership’s work and scrutinised Government and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) engagement in it. We found that, overall, Government and NDA provided good support to the Partnership (doc. 3036).
We also provided information to the Partnership. For example, Professor Simon Harley spoke on behalf of CoRWM at a Partnership seminar on geology in June 2011 (doc. 2948
) and we provided clarification of our views about geology when asked to do so for the Partnership's final report (doc. 3053
In October 2012 the three councils announced that they had decided to defer their decisions about further participation in the siting process until January 2013. In the meantime they would seek clarification from DECC on a number of issues
Stage 4: desk-based studies to identify and assess potential sites for the underground and surface parts of a GDF
We scrutinised and advised Government and NDA in their preparation of the consultation document on the framework for Stage 4. We were pleased that Government took our advice and led the consultation. The final framework document was published in March 2012 (MRWS website). While we think it is largely satisfactory, we consider that the framework should give more emphasis to the geological and hydrogeological characteristics of potential GDF sites and to the likely need for geophysical surveys in Stage 4 (doc. 3036). We are scrutinising preparations by NDA’s Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) for the implementation of the framework
Stage 5: surface-based investigations (e.g. boreholes)
- We are scrutinising preparations by NDA's RWMD for Stage 5.
Stage 6: underground investigations and construction of a GDF
Our 2009 report on research and development (doc 2543) (R&D) recommended that an underground research facility be established at any site that reaches Stage 6. Our visit to France in April 2012 (doc. 3050 ) reinforced this view.
NDA work on geological disposal
We are scrutinising all the work of NDA’s RWMD on geological disposal (NDA website
). To date, our scrutiny has included:
- assessing the generic Disposal System Safety Case (gDSSC) suite of documents to determine whether RWMD’s understanding and use of scientific knowledge is adequate (doc. 2994)
- reviewing RWMD’s work on options for accelerating the geological disposal programme and advising Government on the way forward (doc. 3006)
- following RWMD’s progress with its organisational development, including its plans to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of NDA (doc. 3036)
- scrutinising RWMD’s work on a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the implementation of geological disposal (doc. 3036)
- engaging with RWMD on its process for managing geological disposal issues (NDA website).
Research on geological disposal
We scrutinise RWMD’s development of its research and development (R&D) strategy and programme. R&D was one of the topics covered in our assessment of the gDSSC and we concluded that RWMD has, or will have, appropriate processes in place to fill gaps in its knowledge (doc. 2994
More generally, we think there is a need for independent research on geological disposal, as well as the R&D programmes of RWMD and the regulators (doc. 2973
). We strongly support the recommendations and suggestions of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology for greater involvement of the Research Councils in research on the long-term management of higher activity wastes, spent fuels and nuclear materials, particularly on geological disposal (doc. 2995