In 2008, the UK Government launched a search for an engineered, underground site that will be the final home for the country's higher activity radioactive wastes. The Government is inviting communities across the country to talk to them about potentially hosting this site that will ultimately be called a 'Geological Disposal Facility'.
This approach was set out in the White Paper 'Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS): A Framework for Geological Disposal'.
In this, the Government said three things:
About seventy percent of the country’s radioactive waste is already at Sellafield, and because of this, Allerdale Borough Council, Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council started talking to the Government about the search for a site.
This is because, wherever a site is chosen, the waste will have to be transported from Sellafield and is likely to affect local people: they should therefore be involved from the start. At this stage the Cumbrian Councils only committed to talking to the Government - participating communities can withdraw from the process at any time up until the point where construction could start.
To ensure that a wide range of community interests were involved in discussions, the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership was set up by the Councils.
The Partnership itself was not taking any decisions. Its role was an advisory one of fact-finding and research gathering. The Partnership met roughly every six weeks for more than three years to look at the issues that would be involved in West Cumbria taking part in the search for somewhere to put a repository for higher activity radioactive waste.
A public consultation ran from 21st November 2011 to 23rd March 2012 to get public and stakeholder views before the Partnership sent its Final Report to the Councils. You can find out more about this in the Public involvement section.