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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Radioactive Waste Management

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Radioactive waste has been created in significant quantities in the UK since the 1940's. The UK has significant holdings of long-lived radioactive waste that will remain potentially hazardous for many thousands of years. Previous attempts to provide a long-term waste management facility for these wastes have ended in failure, most recently in 1997. The waste is currently being stored at 34 locations around the UK awaiting a long-term waste management facility.

We believe that radioactive waste management is an ethical issue - the waste exists and must be dealt with irrespective of any future decisions on nuclear power. We think that responsibility rests with this generation, now, to take the steps necessary for creating the framework in which a publicly acceptable way forward is found. The purpose, scope and arrangements for radioactive waste management must be, and be seen to be, legitimate and those responsible for radioactive waste management must be accountable to society as a whole. We believe that transparency must underpin everything that happens.

The most recent attempt to implement a deep geological repository to manage intermediate- and low-level wastes ended with a refusal in 1997 from the Secretary of State for the Environment to allow the construction of an underground Rock Characterisation Facility (RCF) close to the Sellafield works. That ended the previous site selection exercise that led to Sellafield and Government will not begin to consider a new site selection process again until 2007/08, after deciding which option (or combination of options) to use for the long-term management of waste. The current draft shortlist, subject to consultation by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) is surface, or sub-surface stores, or a deep geological repository system with or without a period of retrievable underground storage. The decision to focus the investigations at Sellafield in 1991 followed a detailed decision-making process that started by considering which areas in Great Britain could potentially be used to site a deep geological repository (over 30% of the landmass) and sieving down from 537 sites sequentially to 204, 165, and on down to a short-list of 10 (+ 2 generic off-shore) sites that were evaluated in a multi-attribute decision analysis (MADA). The way evaluation criteria were used to assess the sites was never discussed with stakeholders and was conducted in secret.

The sites considered in the site selection process, other than Dounreay and Sellafield, have never been published in line with Government policy to keep the information confidential to prevent blight affecting any of the areas that had been considered as having possible sites. There have been several requests for the lists of the sites over the years which have been refused in line with Government policy. On 1 January 2005 the Freedom of Information Act came into force; along with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, it puts greater emphasis on openness, transparency and the publication of information. In light of these developments, the Government has changed its previous policy and, in conjunction with Nirex, has decided that the process of site selection and the names of all of the sites considered should be published.