Detailed plans for the creation of a low level radioactive waste disposal site in west Cumbria have been submitted to planners.
Endecom UK Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of recycling and resource management company SITA UK, handed the application to Cumbria County Council on Friday, following extensive public engagement, including public exhibitions, presentations, leaflets and posters.
The company has already secured agreement, subject to planning approval being granted, on the purchase of the 173-acre Keekle Head site, which is located one mile east of Pica and five miles north east from Whitehaven.
Despite its similar name, it is not located close to Keekle Village.
Endecom proposes to establish a purpose-built and expertly engineered disposal facility on the derelict former coal quarry for the safe and secure storage of low and very low level radioactive waste.
The material will be made up of primarily construction and demolition waste, which will mostly result from the decommissioning of Sellafield.
The proposals include early restoration of large parts of the site to a high standard, including re-instating the River Keekle near its original course, before constructing the disposal facility just to the south of the Pica to Dean Cross Road – see artist’s impression.
Endecom Development Manager Phil Holland said: "Our proposals for the Keekle Head site have now been submitted following almost two years of extensive research, planning, discussion and consultation.
"We believe these plans are in line with Government and National Decommissioning Authority policy for the safe disposal of low level waste, and we feel the geological conditions of the site, along with its location just 17 miles from Sellafield, make it ideal for purpose-built disposal facilities.
"It will be the first of its kind in the UK and we are therefore delighted to have enlisted the support of leading French radioactive waste management experts ANDRA, which operates a similar low level waste facility in Morvilliers and which has offered to provide design and peer review to our plans. Having operated its facility very successfully in recent years, it is well-placed to provide international experience and expertise to the Keekle Head team."
If given the go-ahead, the site would be operated to the highest European standards and best practise, ensuring no detrimental impact to health, the environment or the community. It would also be regularly monitored by the Environment Agency.
The disposal site would be filled, a section at a time, under an engineered and highly durable canopy, which would only be removed and taken to the next section once a landfilled area was capped and sealed. The operation would be carried out under cover to ensure as little impact on the environment as possible.
If the plans proceed, up to 12 lorry loads a day will travel to the disposal facility along the A595 and new Distington by-pass, before turning off up the former coal haulage route, past the Distington Hall Crematorium to the Keekle Head site.
If approved, the operating hours for the centre are likely to be between 7.30am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Weekend working would only take place on rare occasions, for example during periods of restoration, construction and maintenance.
And, as far as possible, all labour and materials required for the site would be sourced locally.
Mr Holland added: "When we first started to develop the plans for the Keekle Head site, our aim was to be open, honest and transparent throughout, and to share as much information with the community as possible. As a result, we have been very heartened by the response we have received as many people view these plans as we do – as an opportunity to restore the neglected site and boost the local economy."