The Nuclear Industry Association is seeking views on plans for a £15bn waste repository, signalling an escalation in efforts to tackle the problem of radioactive refuse in advance of the planned £40bn new-build programme

The influential trade body this week started interviewing utilities, scientists and consultants on the best way to deliver the underground storage facility, which is likely to be built near Sellafield in Cumbria.

Mark Higson, chief executive of the government’s Office for Nuclear Development, is said to be pressing for urgent progress on the facility.

About a third of the £15bn price tag is expected to go on construction, which is unlikely to start for 20 years. The short-term spend is estimated at £20m per year for consultants.

The Nuclear Industry Association said it had not decided how it would use the research but industry sources said it would feed into official nuclear waste strategy, due out in the autumn.