COMMUNITIES in Wales are being given the opportunity to volunteer to have radioactive waste buried underneath them in exchange for up to £2.5 million a year.

But no community will be forced to host a geological disposal facility, or GDF, – which will see 650,000 cubic metres of waste, enough to fill about half of Cardiff's Principality Stadium, buried up to 1,000 metres underground over a 150-year period – without local support.

The programme is seeking to identify a single appropriate site in Wales, England or Northern Ireland to be used as a geological disposal facility for all radioactive waste from the three countries. Scotland is developing its own arrangements.

The waste, about 95 per cent of which is in England, will mostly consist of sludge and reactor parts, along with components of x-ray machines and other radioactive machinery, all of which will be safely packaged before being buried.

About three per cent is created by the defence sector, including weapons and reactors.

Consultations between Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and any communities coming forward to express interest will last around 20 years, with the community being handed £1 million a year in investment for taking part, rising to £2.5 million a year once boreholes are drilled to investigate the geology of the proposed site.

This money will not have to be repaid if the community withdraws from talks or the site is found to be unsuitable and a local referendum on a final decision is likely to be held before the project is given the final sign-off.

Any negotiations involving landowners must be made public, meaning such a facility cannot be sited in a community without people in the area being made aware of the plan. And the Welsh Government has made it clear no community will be forced to host the site, saying if no communities in Wales come forward the facility will not be located in Wales. The UK Government has not made a similar commitment regarding England.

Existing mines are reportedly not considered suitable.

Today the Welsh Government launched a consultation on how consultations with communities will be carried out.

Wales' energy, planning and rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths said: "Although the Welsh Government supports geological disposal, this does not necessarily mean a GDF will be built in Wales or that the Welsh Government will seek to have a GDF built in Wales. The Welsh Government has not considered or identified any potential sites or communities for a GDF in Wales.

"Our policy is very clear, a GDF can only be sited in Wales if a community voluntarily comes forward to host it.

"The Welsh Government strongly supports this voluntarist approach whereby a potential host community would seek discussions with RWM about hosting a GDF."

The Welsh Government has estimated around 1,000 new jobs will be created during the construction of the facility, along with 550 once it is complete, of which about 75 per cent will be highly skilled managerial, technical or scientific roles.

Studies have shown burying packaged radioactive waste is the safest way of permanently disposing of such material. Similar projects are currently being developed in Finland, Sweden, France and Canada.

Take part in the consultation, which will run until Friday, April 20, at