Nuclear Information Centre.

Making it Happen (2022).  (Duration 4m 15s)

In 2013, The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) published an informational video entitled UK nuclear waste - today's vision for tomorrow's peace of mind.

The accompanying notes to the NDA video are as follows:

 “An animated film outlining the work of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to decommission and clean-up the 17 publicly owned old nuclear facilities, power stations and research sites. The film examines the radioactive waste arising from these activities and how it is treated before being stored. It then considers how an underground facility to dispose of the waste could become a reality and how such a facility would look and could be operated safely and securely”.

Ten years later, the UK is in the very early practical stages of its latest search for a suitable site and willing community to host a geological disposal facilty (GDF) for the permanent containment of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste. This is similar to processes currently underway in both Finland and Sweden where sites have been agreed. The construction phase of the Finnish GDF is nearing completion and the first waste packages are due for deposition in 2024.

In the UK, the process is being administered by Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) whose current official estimates suggest it may take another 20 to 25 years to identify and agree on a suitable site, assuming a final test of public support is passed. Another 100 years may then pass before the facility is fully populated, backfilled and sealed.

Regardless of the steps that may be being taken today, by definition it seems impossible not to leave the issue of radioactive waste to future generations. There is potential danger in thinking we have somehow solved the problem of nuclear waste simply by initiating the process to find a GDF. However, on the other hand, we could also think of the future as being a cumulative series of todays as we can only undertake physical action in the present.

Making it Happen, [Audio transcript].
[Reprocessed spoken words from a 2013 Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) video].

There are thirty-four major sites in the UK where nuclear waste exists and this legacy will remain hazardous for many generations. We should all be concerned about the safe disposal of nuclear waste. We owe it to each other and future generations to face the reality of our current situation.

As well as coming from nuclear power stations, radioactive waste also arises from research sites, defence, universities, hospitals and agriculture. We have all benefited from nuclear activities whether it is electricity, medical treatments, or security.

This is a global problem.

Most countries with radioactive waste now agree that disposing of it deep underground is the best solution. This is known as geological disposal.

In the UK, after many years of listening to a wide range of views, the government decided that geological disposal is the best way forward.

Deep underground, engineered vaults allow the waste to be kept until it is decided the facility can be sealed. The underground facility will have two main areas. One with tunnels which will contain heat-generating high-level waste, while the second network of vaults will house intermediate level waste. The waste will be transported to the facility in specially designed secure containers by rail, road, or sea. This transport container is designed to withstand severe impact and protect workers and the general public from harmful radiation.

Local communities have been asked by government to take part in a process that may lead to them hosting a geological disposal facility. The government believes an approach based on volunteerism and partnership is the best means of siting such a facility. We know how important it is for the community involved to have confidence and an understanding of geological disposal. We will work closely with communities who volunteer to take part in this process and such a community will benefit from investment throughout the lifetime of the facility and beyond.

We cannot ignore the hazard posed by radioactive waste or leave this costly burden of dealing with it to future generations. We have found, with the help of our global community, the best possible current solution to the radioactive waste problem.

We all need to work together to make this happen.

Information last updated: Sat 03 Dec 2022