Permission sought to expand Drigg repository

04 November 2015

A planning application has been submitted by LLW Repository Limited for the phased construction of three new vaults for the disposal of low-level radioactive wastes at the UK's national repository for such wastes at Drigg in Cumbria.

Drigg repository - 460 (LLW Repository Ltd)
The UK's national low-level waste repository at Drigg (Image: LLW Repository Ltd)

Drigg has been operating as a national low-level waste repository since 1959. It receives wastes from a range of producers, including nuclear power plants, defence establishments, general industry, hospitals and universities. Between 1959 and 1995, some 800,000 cubic metres of waste were disposed of in seven trenches, which have since been covered with an interim cap.

The disposal of waste in metal containers placed in an engineered concrete vault (Vault 8) began in 1988. Vault 8 has a total capacity of 200,000 cubic metres of waste and is almost full. A further Vault 9, with a capacity of 110,000 cubic metres, was officially opened in August 2010 but is currently only used for temporarily storing waste.

The application submitted by LLW Repository Ltd is for the construction of three new vaults (Vaults 9a, 10 and 11) where waste would be disposed of in specially-grouted containers. If successful, construction work on Vault 9a could start next year and run for almost four years, the company said.

The application would also allow higher stacking of containers in Vault 8 and the disposal of containers in Vault 9. It would also permit the construction of a final cap over existing and new vaults and the seven landfill-style trenches where waste was disposed of before the opening of the site's first vault in 1988.

LLW Repository Ltd - which manages the facility on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - said the "far-reaching" planning application, if successful, will ensure the future of the site until 2050.

The announcement of the planning application came just days after the UK's Environment Agency issued a revised environmental permit to LLW Repository allowing the continued disposal of low-level radioactive wastes at Drigg.

LLW Repository managing director Dennis Thompson said, "The environmental permit and the planning application go hand-in-hand: one cannot work effectively without the other."

"Our planning application is the next step," he said. Hopefully it will be determined early in the new year. We will then be in a position to press ahead." Thompson added, "We plan to develop the site to its full capacity, which will allow us to accommodate all the forecasted low-level waste arisings well into the next century."

LLW Repository Ltd said it hopes eventually to build up to 14 vaults on the Drigg site, leaving a closure date of around 2130.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News