Waste Management

Germany / Search Formally Begins For Permanent Radwaste Repository Site

By David Dalton
28 September 2020

90 potential areas for facility named in 444-page document
Search Formally Begins For Permanent Radwaste Repository Site
The former iron ore mine at Konrad, where a new disposal facility for low- and intermediate-level waste is being constructed. Photo courtesy BGE.
Germany has formally launched its search for a permanent high-level nuclear waste repository site, publishing a 444-page list of locations to be assessed by 2031 with operation of the facility from 2050.

BGE, the nation’s radioactive waste management organisation, named 90 areas around the country as possible candidates for a repository. It said in a report that the planned facility would hold high-level waste currently in interim storage at nuclear plants.

Germany, which is planning to close all commercial nuclear plants by 2022, is seeking a safe place to store 1,900 containers of high-level waste. The containers make up only 5% of the country’s radwaste but 99% of its radioactivity, according to BGE chairman Stefan Studt.

“Germany’s geology is so favourable, from north to south and east to west, that we can say with conviction that it will be possible to find the one site with the best possible security for the final storage of highly radioactive waste,” Mr Studt said.

No location was predetermined, Mr Studt said. “Any region in today’s list would take a long, long time to become the actual final space.”

Regions in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, as well as Lower Saxony and states in eastern Germany, are among the potential waste disposal sites. The locations suggested “favourable geological conditions for the safe disposal of radioactive waste”, BGE said. The sites will now be vetted to account for other factors, including population density.

Germany does not have an operating radioactive waste disposal facility. The Morsleben disposal facility in central Germany has stopped receiving waste and is being closed.

The Asse II mine, in Lower Saxony, is a former salt mine where 126,000 barrels of radioactive material are stored after being placed there between 1967 and 1978.

A new disposal facility for low- and intermediate-level waste is under construction at the site of a former iron ore mine at Konrad, also in Lower Saxony, about 25 km from Asse II.

The Gorleben salt mine in Lower Saxony has been under investigation as a potential final repository site but is not on the list published today.

BGE managing director Steffen Kanitz said Gorleben was found not to have a “favourable overall geological situation”, partly due to the risk of erosion.

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