Historic list of possible locations for a radioactive waste repository
A New Process
Need for Openness
Will the list be the same next time around?
Old Shortlist of possible Sites for Radioactive Waste Repository
Old long-list of sites
All Nirex Sites

Stage removed from

1st Stage

The deep geology was considered unlikely to meet the identified geological requirements, or the site had an environmental status that would be likely to rule out development.

2nd Stage

The site was not in public ownership, and the private owner was not known or not thought likely to make it available.

3rd Stage

The site was too small to accommodate the development of an underground repository.

4th Stage

A more detailed evaluation of the deep geology than conducted at Stage 1 indicated that the geological and hydrogeological characteristics might be less favourable than for the remaining sites.

5th Stage

'The site was outside the best 3 or 4 in each hydrogeological category when evaluated against a range of criteria, covering radiological safety, geology, socio-economic and environmental issues, repository design concepts and transport.

6th Stage

The site was not the most promising to be carried forward into a manageable shortlist (of nine) for more detailed multi-attribute decision analysis.

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Available Documents

pdf Review of 1987-1991 Site Selection for an ILW/LLW Repository (638K)
Document Date: 2005

pdf Description of Sites NC/88/40 (638K)
Document Date: 1988


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Home > Document Library > Old List of Potential Repository Sites > Historic list of possible locations for a radioactive waste repository  

Historic list of possible locations for a radioactive waste repository

On 10 June 2005, Nirex published an historic short-list of sites, compiled during the 1980s as possible locations for a radioactive waste repository.

Nirex was a United Kingdom body set up in 1982 by the UK nuclear industry to examine safe, environmental and economic aspects of deep geological disposal of intermediate-level and low-level radioactive waste. Originally known as the Nuclear Industry Radioactive Waste Executive, it became the limited company United Kingdom Nirex Limited in 1985. The ownership of Nirex was transferred from the nuclear industry to the UK Government departments DEFRA and DTI in April 2005, and then to the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in November 2006. Nirex's staff and functions were integrated into the NDA in April 2007, at which point Nirex ceased trading as a separate entity. Nirex's role continues through the activities of the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate of the NDA.

The programme of which the historic short-list of sites was part was eventually abandoned in 1997, but the list of sites had not been previously published prior to 2005. This historic list will not form the starting point of any future site selection process.

At the same time in 2005, Nirex published details of the site selection process that led to the old short-list, including the names of those sites that were considered at earlier stages of the process and subsequently ruled out. The list was made public following agreement between Nirex, Government and the Devolved Administrations following changes to Freedom of Information provisions that came into effect earlier in 2005.

Commenting on the release of the list in 2005, Nirex Managing Director Chris Murray said:

"Radioactive waste exists and needs to be dealt with whether or not there is any programme of new build in the UK. Dealing with the waste is as much an ethical and social issue as a scientific and technical one. This is the key lesson we have learned from the past. Openness and transparency must underpin everything that is done in this area. We hope that the publication of the list, following consultation with our stakeholders, will help to move the debate away from past attempts to tackle this issue and on to the new process, led by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), in which we would encourage everyone to get involved. Many things have changed since this old list was drawn up, but what has not changed is that the waste still exists and needs to be dealt with in a safe, environmentally sound and publicly acceptable way for the long-term. Responsibility lies with this generation to ensure this is done".

In 1997 the Secretary of State for the Environment refused to allow the construction of an underground Rock Characterisation Facility (RCF) at a site chosen close to the Sellafield works to implement a deep geological repository to manage intermediate and low-level wastes. This led to the Initiation of the Government's "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely" programme, and the decision to set up the independent Comittee of Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) to provide a recommendation on the best option or combination of options for managing the UK's higher activity radioactive waste in the long term.

The historic list of short-listed sites, (not in ranked order) is:

  • Bradwell, Essex
  • Potton Island, Essex
  • Dounreay, Caithness, Scotland
  • Altnabreac, Caithness, Scotland
  • Fuday, Western Isles, Scotland
  • Sandray, Western Isles, Scotland
  • Killingholme, South Humberside
  • Offshore - East (serviced by Redcar Port)
  • Offshore - West (serviced by Hunterston Port)
  • Sellafield, Cumbria (two locations)
  • Stanford, Norfolk