In a written ministerial statement yesterday, Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for business and industry, formerly designated the government’s National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure, which was laid in parliament in July.
If built, the facility, or facilities, would store the country’s high-level and intermediate-level wastes, such as plutonium and uranium stocks, which have been created as a byproduct from 60 years of nuclear power generation, medicine, research and defence-related nuclear programmes.
Such schemes would be built between 200 and 1,000 metres below the surface and protected in the event of earthquakes, tsunamis and long-term environmental changes such as future glaciation, according to the statement.
Zahawi said that the NPS "provides an appropriate and effective framework for the Planning Inspectorate and the secretary of state for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to examine and make decisions on development consent applications for geological disposal infrastructure in England".
The government has been trying to create a geological disposal facility since 1974, but has repeatedly suffered setbacks in finalising the scheme. The last delay was in 2013 when Cumbria County Council withdrew from the government’s search to host the underground waste dump.
The government’s geological disposal NPS sits alongside the government’s ‘Working with Communities’ policy document published in December 2018, which made clear that any such disposal site would be determined by the willingness of a community to host it, as well as the suitability of the geology in the area.
A Planning article looking in detail at the contents of the geological disposal NPS can be read here.