The Indirect Impact of Geological Disposal Facilities
As of the 19th December 2018, a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Radioactive Waste Management, has started its search to find a willing host community and suitable site to construct a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). Geological Disposal is the act of removing harmful radioactive waste from stored surface facilities and placing it within specially-designed facilities up to a kilometre underground. The waste is placed in protective cement and steel packages which provides a shelter for the radioactive substances until it starts to decompose after several millennia.
The new geological disposal facility will be one of the UK’s largest ever environmental protection projects, that will provide a safe and secure long term solution for the disposal of higher activity radioactive waste (gov.uk). Similar projects have already been undertaken worldwide, with the best example being on Olkiluoto Island in western Finland. The facility exists up to a kilometre under the ground and has between 60-70 km of tunnels where spent nuclear fuel will be stored for up to 100,000 years.
Expectantly, Malcolm Morley, Chairman of Radioactive Waste Management’s Board of Directors, supports the plans and stated “the Radioactive Waste Management recognises that this nationally important project needs to contribute positively to the community... Working with communities will be at the very centre of its approach to the delivery of the GDF,“ moreover Bruce McKirdy, Managing Director of Radioactive Waste Management, added: “our team has been preparing for this vital project to provide a long-term solution for the management of higher activity radioactive waste.”
However, the creation of such a large facility for the storage of nuclear waste suggests that the Government want to step up their nuclear energy programme, despite the recent failures to secure contracts with Hitachi and Toshiba to build new nuclear reactors. Several radioactivity experts, including Dr Ian Fairlie, have implied that increased radioactivity in the environment from nuclear sources is extremely harmful for our health, with Fairlie even suggesting that it is “killing children.” Furthermore, opposition to the the plans stem from MPs from both of the major parties. With the view that the Government incentives to attract communities to be hosts for the project as “completely inadequate.”
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