Work begins to secure low-level nuclear waste vaults in Cumbria

The Low Level Waste Repository in Cumbria, managed by Nuclear Waste Services (NWS), has initiated the final capping of full trenches and vaults, marking a crucial step toward their permanent closure. Disposal activities at the site began in 1959, evolving over the decades to safely manage low-level nuclear waste in specially designed metal containers within highly engineered concrete vaults. As part of a long-term program, the Southern Trench Cap Interim Membrane (STIM) project is underway, involving the installation of a new membrane over selected trenches to provide extended protection for up to 100 years. NWS is actively engaging with the local community, implementing strategies to mitigate potential environmental impacts, and ensuring a considerate approach to their mission.

The UK government acknowledges the significance of nuclear power for the low-carbon energy mix, with nuclear waste management becoming an integral part of future energy supply plans. The Low Level Waste Repository in Cumbria serves as the primary facility for the disposal of low-level waste, licensed for nuclear activities, ensuring the safe and environmentally compliant management of waste materials. Over the last decade, a sustainable approach to handling low-level and intermediate-level waste has been adopted, prioritising alternatives such as re-use, recycling, and specialised landfill, with disposal at the repository considered a last resort. Looking ahead, NWS is actively preparing for the next phase of the project, engaging with the supply chain and planning for the installation of an additional membrane under the interim trench cap, scheduled to commence in late 2024.