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Communities offered £1m a year to host nuclear waste dump via The Guardian

New search for communities willing to host underground site for thousands of years

Local communities around England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be offered £1m a year to volunteer to host an underground nuclear waste disposal facility for thousands of years, as part of a rebooted government programme.

The financial incentive is one way the government hopes to encourage communities to host the £12bn facility, after previous efforts failed in 2013 when Cumbria county council rejected the project.

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This time, interested communities that explore hosting the facility will also receive £1m a year, which officials say could be spent on developing skills locally or apprenticeships. The payments, which could rise to £2.5m annually as a community considers whether to proceed, are expected to last for around five years.

The geological disposal facility (GDF) is seen by experts as the best long-term solution to storing the estimated 750,000 cubic metres of waste generated by half a century of nuclear power and defence, which would fill three quarters of Wembley Stadium.

It also includes the radioactive material created by potentially five new plants that the government expects to be built, including Hinkley Point C, which EDF Energy is constructing in Somerset.

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But Greenpeace criticised the payments, calling them bribes, and said new nuclear power plants should not go ahead without a long-term solution in place for their waste.

Doug Parr, the group’s chief scientist, said: “Having failed to find a council willing to have nuclear waste stored under their land, ministers are resorting to the tactics from the fracking playbook – bribing communities and bypassing local authorities.”

Cumbria county council also immediately appeared to rule out the area, saying its geology was not suitable. “Ultimately the argument will be around safety and my personal view remains that on geological and hydrological grounds, West Cumbria would not be a suitable location for a GDF,” said council leader Stewart Young.

Nuclear waste is currently stored at about 30 sites, but predominantly at ground level at Sellafield in Cumbria. The GDF project is expected to cost £12bn, spread over a century.

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