Two new consultations have been launched by the government to find a site to develop a geological disposal facility (GDF) to store nuclear radioactive waste.

Copeland has previously put itself forward as a host community for GDF, but the process came to an abrupt halt in January 2013 when Cumbria County Council voted not to proceed.

Speaking today, the government's energy minister, Richard Harrington, announced that interested communities can have say in the proposals – with planning consent only given to sites which have local support.

Both consultations will run for 12 weeks.

Mr Harrington said: "We owe it to future generations to take action now to find a suitable permanent site for the safe disposal of our radioactive waste. And it is right that local communities have a say. Planning consent will only be given to sites which have local support.

"As the government set out in our Industrial Strategy, the nuclear sector has a key role to play in increasing productivity and driving clean growth. Nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix, providing low carbon power now and into the future."

Ann McCall, Radioactive Waste Management’s GDF siting and engagement director, said: "Geological disposal will provide a safe, secure and long-term solution to managing the UK’s radioactive waste, and RWM welcomes the public consultations launched today which place communities at the heart of the process."

The government say the GDF is the safest and most secure way to permanently dispose of higher activity radioactive waste.

It involves placing this waste at least 200 metres underground in a highly engineered facility made up of multiple layers of materials such as steel, rock and clay to provide protection while some of the waste remains radioactive - ensuring that no harmful quantities of radioactivity ever reach the surface.

The construction of a GDF, the government say, would also support a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK, by providing a safe and secure way to dispose of the waste they produce.

It would create up to 2,000 well-paid, skilled jobs and bring at least £8 billion to the UK economy over the lifetime of the facility, the government added.

Professor Iain Stewart, director of the Sustainable Earth Institute, Plymouth University, said: "A geological disposal facility is widely accepted as the only realistic way to dispose of higher activity nuclear waste for the long-term.

"Geological disposal facilities are already being developed in Finland, Sweden, France, and Canada.

"The first consultation, Working with communities sets out how the project developer will engage with people in areas that may be interested in hosting a disposal facility to seek their views and the second, on the proposed National Policy Statement, will create a rigorous planning process.

Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM) will deliver geological disposal on behalf of the government."

According to RWM – which is part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority – GDF will help keep nuclear clean-up costs down. GDF, which is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, has a lifetime cost of £12bn to £20bn over 150 years.

More than 70,000 packages of waste are in above ground stores waiting for GDF.