Fourth location joins search for UK repository site

01 July 2022

A Community Partnership has formed in Theddlethorpe, Lincolnshire, in eastern England to consider whether the UK's Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) could be safely located and built deep underground beyond the coastline there. It is the fourth such partnership in the UK, following three that were established in west Cumbria in north-west England over the last year.

An artist impression of a GDF off the coast of the Theddlethorpe area (Image: NWS)

Conversations with local people will now extend over the coming years, taking over from engagement started last year by a Working Group to consider the possibility of hosting a GDF in the Theddlethorpe area.

Recruitment to the Community Partnership, a larger and longer-term group, is now set to begin. Following identification of a search area covering the two electoral wards of Withern & Theddlethorpe, and Mablethorpe, activities will focus on further discussions to help build local understanding of a GDF. While this search area covers Withern & Theddlethorpe and Mablethorpe, Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) said it is looking to site a GDF deep underground beyond the coast.

The Theddlethorpe search area

It said a former gas terminal will continue to be considered as a possible surface reception facility, with planned underground facilities constructed in the deep rock layers beyond the coastline. This means a land-based surface facility could provide access to underground tunnels and vaults many kilometres away, constructed in rocks up to 1000 metres deep.

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.

"We're really thrilled to see the formation of Theddlethorpe GDF Community Partnership," said NWS Deputy CEO and Major Capital Programmes Director Karen Wheeler. "This provides a platform to increase community engagement and trigger investment funding for projects that will provide immediate benefits for the communities involved.

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

Jon Collins, interim Chair of the Theddlethorpe GDF Community Partnership, added: "Community Partnership is an exciting new phase of work, that will take place over a number of years, where all aspects of the proposal to develop a GDF in the area can be explored and discussed. To do this, the Partnership needs to reflect the community, and this is the chance for people to get involved, share their views and work alongside others looking at what this could mean for the area."

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 Theddlethorpe, a Test of Public Support will be required to give a direct say to those living in affected wards. Without public support the project will not go ahead.

Three Community Partnerships - Mid Copeland GDF Community Partnership, South Copeland GDF Community Partnership and Allerdale GDF Community Partnership - have already been established in west Cumbria.

NWS 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