Another GDF community partnership forms in Cumbria

19 January 2022

A community partnership has been formed in Allerdale, Cumbria, UK, to take forward discussions around siting a geological disposal facility (GDF) for high-level radioactive waste. The Allerdale GDF Community Partnership is the third to form, following Mid Copeland GDF Community Partnership and South Copeland GDF Community Partnership in late-2021.

The Allerdale search area (Image: RWM)

Initial members of the Community Partnership include representatives from Allerdale Borough Council, Cumbria Association of Local Councils (CALC), Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and Inspira. The partnership's interim chair will be Mary Bradley from CALC, a member of the Allerdale GDF Working Group, who will remain in the role until more members are recruited and a new chair appointed.

Allerdale GDF Community Partnership will focus its engagement activities in a 320 square-kilometre search area covering 13 electoral wards: Aspatria; Broughton St Bridgets; Dalton; Ellen & Gilcrux; Flimby; Harrington & Salterbeck; Maryport North; Maryport South; Moorclose & Moss Bay; Seaton & Northside; St John's; St Michael's and Stainburn & Clifton.

"It's really important that residents in the Search Area understand that they have the final say on whether or not they want a Geological Disposal Facility, and the Community Partnership exists to make sure that all voices are heard," Bradley said. "We'll now start to plan a programme of activities, offer guidance on the community investment funding and share information about GDF as we continue to explore the subject with the public."

Community Partnerships are longer-term groups than the Working Groups and are made up of a larger number of people to consider the possibilities of hosting a GDF within the identified search areas in more detail. Progressing to the formation of Community Partnerships unlocks access to GBP1.0 million (USD1.4 million) per year investment funding for communities, per partnership, for local projects, rising to GBP2.5 million per year if deep borehole investigations to assess geology take place.

"This is the third Community Partnership to form and represents real progress as we engage with communities about a GDF and what it could mean for them," said RWM Chief Executive Karen Wheeler. "We look forward to continuing discussions and beginning investigations in these areas for a site that could be suitable for a GDF."

Construction of a GDF requires both a suitable site and a willing community. Finding the right site to build a GDF could take 10-15 years, but if a suitable site is found in Allerdale, a Test of Public Support will be required to give a direct say to those living in effected wards. Without public support the project will not go ahead.

RWM said it continues to hold informal discussions in other parts of the UK that may lead to the formation of additional Working Groups and Community Partnerships.

A GDF comprises a network of highly-engineered underground vaults and tunnels built to permanently dispose of higher activity radioactive waste so that no harmful levels of radiation ever reach the surface environment. Countries such as Finland, Sweden, France, Canada and the USA are also pursuing this option.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News