U.K. Lake District Is Potential Nuclear Waste Dump, Study Says

England’s largest national park has the potential to host a nuclear waste dump, according to a study for the government that aims to rule out possible sites.

Land under the towns of Keswick, Cockermouth and the Wast Water lake in England’s Lake District National Park wasn’t ruled out by the British Geological Survey study, which was designed to eliminate areas of western Cumbria county from the running to host a nuclear waste depository. The document was posted today on the website of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

“It’s hard to imagine a more tragic legacy to Britain’s nuclear folly than vats of lethal nuclear waste being stored around Keswick or Scafell Pike,” said Ben Ayliffe, energy campaigner at the environmental group Greenpeace, which opposes nuclear power. Scafell Pike is England’s highest point, 978 meters (3,210 feet) above sea level.

The U.K. plans to have an underground storage facility for radioactive waste open by 2040. Today’s study, which was not based on field analysis, is part of the search for a suitable site. The energy department said in a statement that the screening doesn’t show where an eventual facility will be located.

“The geological disposal facility site selection process is based on voluntarism and partnership and these results do not present any reason why West Cumbria cannot continue to consider whether or not to participate in that process,” Energy Minister Charles Hendry said in an e-mailed statement.

More Studies

Further studies will be used to look at more specific geological issues as well as taking into account above-ground criteria and the support from local people, the department said.

It will cost 64 billion pounds ($102 billion) to clean up 21 nuclear sites in the U.K., according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which is responsible for cleaning up the nation’s civil nuclear sites. Some of those were built in the 1940s with few plans for how to deal with radioactive waste once plants were past their useful life.

The U.K. is planning to allow a new generation of nuclear power plants to be built as part of efforts to cut energy from fossil fuels. While the government has said it won’t directly subsidize the technology, it has pledged to remove regulatory barriers. Electricite de France SA and Centrica Plc plan to invest 20 billion pounds to build four new reactors in Britain.

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