Communities interested in finding out more about hosting an underground disposal facility for radioactive waste were invited today to open no-commitment discussions with the Government.

A geological disposal facility will provide a permanent solution for our higher activity radioactive waste. Some of this waste is currently in storage but most will only become waste over the next century as nuclear facilities are decommissioned. It is likely to take several decades before any such facility is operational, but it will provide a lasting and sustainable solution.

The invitation was part of the Government’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper published today, and follows a consultation in June 2007 about how a community voluntarism and partnership approach to siting a facility could work. This followed from the recommendations of the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) who carried out extensive expert, public and stakeholder consultation on the best long term management option for protecting the public and the environment.

Hilary Benn said: “The issue of how we manage higher activity radioactive waste in the long term has been considered by successive Governments. Geological disposal is the internationally preferred approach for managing such waste and is being adopted in many countries including Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the United States and Sweden. “The Government, along with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, will be looking to sit down and discuss, with any community that feels it has an interest, both the technical aspects of the safe implementation of a geological disposal facility and the wider social, economic and environment issues involved. Ultimately for the process to succeed a mutually acceptable agreement will need to be reached. These discussions will be exploratory and without any commitment to actually hosting a facility.

“Construction and operation of a geological disposal facility will be a multi-billion pound high technology project that will provide skilled employment for hundreds of people over many decades. It will contribute greatly to the local economy and wider socio-economic framework.”