Britain is again hunting for a suitable site to store its highly radioactive nuclear waste after a previous attempt was blocked by residents. Rural areas could be given cash if they house the underground facility.
In 2012, musician Geoff Betsworth and fellow residents of a small town in northwest England got wind of a plan by local authorities to build an 11.5-square-kilometer (4.5 square-mile) nuclear storage facility deep underground, near their homes.
Two town councils had expressed interest in hosting the geological disposal facility (GDF, or underground repository) in the nearby Solway Plain, nestled between the Lake District national park and waters that lead to the Irish Sea.
The councils planned this “without any knowledge of the residents,” Betsworth told DW, adding that locals were livid to discover that once it was complete, the GDF would store most of Britain’s high-level radioactive waste — that is, the most hazardous type.
“It seemed to be very underhand, and that’s what really fired people up to do something about it,” said Betsworth.
After the British government failed to convince residents in Cumbria, it has restarted its search to find a suitable underground site.
And this time, local communities across England and Wales are being offered large cash incentives — as high as 2.5 million pounds (€2.9 billion or $3.5 million) per year — to house the facility.
Confidential plans leaked
As one of the least-populated regions of the United Kingdom, Cumbria was one of the first to be considered. The region is no stranger to the industry, having been home to the world’s first industrial-scale nuclear power station on a site known as Sellafield.
Now decommissioned, around 80 percent of Britain’s nuclear waste is currently stored above ground at the former atomic facility.
As several academics were drafted in to back up government assurances that the storage facility was safe, residents brought in their own experts, who told them that the area was probably not best-suited to the project.