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Inside what a GDF site may look like if Cumbria is chosen as host area

IF you have lived or worked in West Cumbria, you will have come across the term 'geological disposal facility' (GDF) – but what does it mean?

Ideas around how we safely dispose of the country’s nuclear waste have been in existence for many years, however the GDF programme is now said to be ‘further ahead than ever before’ after Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) was formed in 2022 in order to lead on the creation of a GDF facility in the UK.

Plans are well in place to create a facility in the United Kingdom, with hopes that the earliest date for waste in placement at a site would be by the 2050s. Currently three sites are in the mix with Cumbria being home to two potential areas: Mid Copeland, South Copeland, with the third one in Lincolnshire around Theddlethorpe.

There is also the potential for further 'search areas' to join the process in England and Wales.

Detailed studies and investigations of site suitability will be conducted over a number of years to help ensure a GDF can be constructed, operated, and closed safely and securely.

NWS added it will evaluate each potential site to establish whether it is suitable, based on siting factors which include safety and security, community, environment, engineering feasibility, transport, and value for money.

Reporter Bridget Dempsey inside the laboratory. (Image: NQ staff)

I was invited by NWS in November to look a little deeper (quite literally) at one of the nearest examples on Earth we have to what it may look like inside a geological disposal facility.

It was a surreal experience taking the trip 450 metres underground into the Andra Meuse/Heute -Marne laboratory in Northern France, but the work that is going on there is quite honestly ground-breaking.

The site gives a glimpse into what the project will most likely look like when ground is broken on the nearby Cigeo site, the French GDF facility planned to store France’s nuclear waste.

The aim of the GDF is to isolate the waste and contain the radioactivity until it eventually decays.

Read more: Inside what a GDF site may look like if Cumbria is chosen as host area | News and Star