Criteria Proposals Group

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In October 2006 the UK Government produced its response [1] to a report and recommendations from the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). [2] CoRWM had recommended that “geological disposal” was currently the best way of dealing with the UK’s (existing) higher level nuclear wastes, and that this should be implemented by developing a partnership arrangement, linked to ‘benefit packages’, with local municipalities as a means of finding a site. In its response, the Government announced its intention to explore this partnership or ‘voluntarist’ approach.

After a consultation [3] and the publication of a White Paper [4] on the framework for implementing “geological disposal”, the Government issued an invitation to communities to express an interest in taking part in the process of finding a site. So, one of the first steps was the identification of criteria that would enable those parts of the UK which are unsuitable for a nuclear waste dump to be eliminated, or screened out, from further consideration.

The Government will ask the British Geological Survey [5] to apply these criteria to any areas which make an initial expression of interest so that places which are obviously unsuitable can be eliminated thus avoiding unnecessary work.

Criteria Proposals Group

Two expert groups were established in 2007 on the basis of recommendations from the Royal Society, the Geological Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and DEFRA’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir Howard Dalton.

The Criteria Proposals Group (CPG) was set up to come up with criteria for "screening-out" areas unlikely to be suitable for geological disposal. A Criteria Review Panel (CRP) was also established to peer review the proposed criteria and ensure they are workable.

The CPG was asked to propose criteria for the initial sub-surface screening of areas or sites which are suggested as potential sites. The issue of rising sea levels as a result of global warming was highlighted by the Government as relevant. CPG weren’t expected to look at surface criteria such as socio-economic impacts or transport links – the Government said it expected these criteria to be covered through the processes by which communities decide whether or not to volunteer, and also in the safety case and environmental impact assessments that will be required. [6]

The two groups were asked to produce a draft report which could then be discussed at a workshop held in Reading on 14th May 2007. A joint CPG/CRP report was then produced. [7] The draft criteria were then put into the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS): A framework for implementing geological disposal consultation document published in June 2007. [8]

After the MRWS consultation closed, the Chairs of the two groups (CRP & CRP) Professor Peter Styles and Professor Howard Wheater, were asked to review their advice in light of the responses. They concluded that the criteria they recommended should stand. [9] So the criteria used in the consultation document are the same as used in the final White Paper. [10]

Criteria to exclude as little as possible

CoRWM was told by geologists during its work that around 30% of the UK possessed geology suitable for deep disposal [11] Therefore, some surprise was expressed when the CPG/CRP report ruled out virtually no geological formation or sub-surface conditions. The work carried out by the CPG only identified a few non-negotiable features, which would rule out an area, such as fossil fuel deposits or the presence of aquifers. The need to match up a willing community with suitable geology now appears to mean that we have moved from looking for 'ideal geology' to simply 'adequate geology'. [12] This appears to confirm the worst fears of David Smythe, Professor of geophysics at Glasgow University, that Ministers are moving towards choosing a site on the basis of popular consent rather than scientific evidence. [13]

Criteria Proposals Group (CPG)

Chair: Professor Peter Styles Professor of Applied and Environmental Geophysics, Keele University; Former President of the Geological Society

Members Professor Neil Chapman University of Sheffield; geologist in private consultancy;

Dr Adrian Bath Hydrogeologist in private consultancy, formerly of the British Geological Survey

Professor Rae Mackay Chair in Hydrogeology, University of Birmingham; formerly of Macdonald and Partners, Consulting Civil Engineers

Professor Rob Knipe Structural geologist, University of Leeds

Dr Richard P Shaw British Geological Survey

Professor Lynda Warren Former Professor of Environmental Law, University of Wales Aberystwyth; member of CoRWM

Professor John Hudson Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College;

Dr Alan Hooper Head of Science, UK Nirex Ltd

Criteria Review Panel (CRP)

Chair: Professor Howard Wheater Professor of Hydrology, Imperial College London

Members Professor Steve Sparks Director of the Centre for Environmental and Geophysical Flows, University of Bristol;

Professor John Mather Lyell Professor of Geology, Royal Holloway College (Retired)

Dr John Andersson Private consultant in Sweden; advisor to the Swedish Nuclear Waste Disposal organization (SKB) on scientific selection criteria

Dr Malcolm Wakerley Research Manager, RAS Division, Defra

Dr Andy Baker Head of the Nuclear Waste Assessment Team, Environment Agency


  1. Response to the report and recommendations from the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, DEFRA et al, October 2006.
  2. Managing our Radioactive Waste Safely: CoRWM's recommendations to Government, CoRWM, July 2006.
  3. Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal, Consultation, DEFRA, 25th June 2007.
  4. Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal, DEFRA, BERR, Devolved Administrations for Wales and Northern Ireland, June 2008.
  5. British Geological Survey website accessed September 2008.
  6. Criteria Proposals Group (CPG) and Criteria Review Panel (CRP): Terms of Reference.
  7. Minutes of CPG and CRP meetings are available on the Defra website
  8. Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal, Consultation, DEFRA, 25th June 2007.
  9. Joint statement by Professor Peter Styles and Professor Howard Wheater. Initial screening out of areas unlikely to be suitable for the geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.
  10. Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal, DEFRA, BERR, Devolved Administrations for Wales and Northern Ireland, June 2008.
  11. A note by the British Geological Survey and Nirex on the suitability of UK geology for siting a repository for radioactive waste. UK Nirex Ltd and British Geological Survey, March 2006.
  12. Personal Communication with former CoRWM member.
  13. Terry Macalister, Sellafield 'not fit' for nuclear waste disposal', Guardian 2 November, 2007.