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The Draft National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Infrastructure was published on 25 January 2018. It formed part of a public consultation on the construction of facilities to dispose of higher activity radioactive waste. Geological disposal refers to the planned removal of solid radioactive waste into a network of vaults and tunnels deep under the ground or seabed. The proposed network is termed a geological disposal facility (GDF) and would be situated at a depth of 200 to 1,000 metres. The infrastructure required for such a project refers not only to the facility itself, but also to borehole drilling investigations necessary to characterise the geology at a particular location in order to ascertain its suitability as a potential site for a GDF. In a press release announcing the consultation, the Government linked the construction of a GDF to its industrial strategy, claiming that it “will create up to 2,000 well-paid, skilled jobs and bring at least £8 billion to the UK economy over the lifetime of the facility”. 

The draft national policy statement (NPS) concerns the overarching process of considering applications for development consent for the construction of geological disposal facilities. Identifying a particular site in which to construct such a facility is subject to a separate process. This was the subject of a consultation, Working With Communities: Implementing Geological Disposal, which ran concurrently with the NPS consultation. Development consent for radioactive waste management facilities is a devolved issue, therefore the draft NPS relates to England only. However, according to the NPS, as a national policy the Government has a “strong preference” to manage the disposal of the UK’s inventory of radioactive waste in one geological disposal facility. If this is deemed impossible “it cannot be ruled out that more than one such facility” may be required.

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