Underground disposal of nuclear waste job creation

Disposal of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste in an underground engineered facility will generate an average of 550 jobs over its 140 year lifespan, according to a study published by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

The highest employment rate during the £12 billion project will be generated during the construction and early operations stage when workforce numbers will rise to more than 1,000 staff most of whom will be directly employed at the site.

Steve Reece, Disposal Facility Development Manager from NDA said:

“The manpower requirements will be discussed with local communities who express an interest in hosting such a facility. This could include training, development and education investment to ensure that local people have the necessary skills required by the project.”It will be some years before a geological disposal facility comes to fruition. The Government is leading on the site selection process which is based on the internationally accepted approach of voluntarism and partnership with local communities. This is to be achieved through the process set out in its Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) White Paper which was published in 2008.  

Once a site has been selected implementation of the facility which could be between 200 and 1,000 metres underground will be staged.  The initial work to investigate the potential geology at selected candidate site(s) will require an average of around 440 staff. This work could take about 10 years to complete. Once the geology is deemed suitable and following planning and other approvals, the construction of the surface and underground facilities up to the first waste disposal (about 15 years) will require an average of around 840 staff and the next 100 years of operation will require an average of around 560 staff. The closure phase which will take about 10 years will require an average of around 190 staff.  The study also shows that over 90% of the jobs being generated will be for a period of more than four years.

Steve Reece said:

“The study shows a geological disposal facility for higher activity radioactive waste will provide a local community with significant social and economic benefits over a long period of time from the employment it generates. As well as considering the overall number of jobs to be created we have also considered the skill levels required and these range from semi-skilled – NVQ/SNVQ entry level to post-graduate. The majority of these jobs will require skilled people.”The manpower numbers revealed in the study were produced using benchmarking against other similar programmes around the world, including Sweden and Finland; through analysing typical underground construction activities such as sinking shafts and tunnelling and using references from the construction industry.   

Full report:

Geological Disposal – Development of manpower and skills data May 2011 


Geological Disposal -Development of manpower and skills data summary 

The study assumes the facility could be built in a hard rock environment and is based on the disposal of the baseline inventory of waste set out in the Government’s MRWS White Paper. The eventual site could be in a different rock formation and the amount of waste to be disposed of could change. Both of these factors would have an impact on the manpower levels. As the site selection process proceeds these factors will be taken into account.