German anti-nuclear positions on temporary storage of nuclear waste

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In November 2018 German anti-nuclear groups launched a detailed paper on positions and demands in connection with the temporary storage of nuclear waste in Germany. 76 NGOs, initiatives and groups signed and support these positions which shall be basis for anti-nuclear approaches in the struggles about repositories, atomic transports and new nuclear waste management facilities. Over two years a working group of the half-yearly Nuclear Waste Conference of the German anti-nuclear movement discussed and developed these positions.

Preliminary remark

The positions paper "temporary storage of nuclear waste" has been developed as part of the Nuclear Waste Conference, a regularly held nationwide meeting of initiatives, environmental organizations and critical scientists. The paper is not a pleading for a permanent surficial storage of high level radioactive waste. However, until the end of the surficial storage the wastes have to be kept as safe as possible. In Germany every day nuclear waste is produced in the still operating nuclear power plants (NPP), research reactors, in the uranium enrichment facility Gronau and in the fuel elements factory Lingen. It is absolutely essential to immediately stop this production of nuclear waste by abandoning these atomic facilities.

Since the ruling to lawfully end the usage of atomic energy for electricity generation by 31 December 2022 and the enacting of the of the site selection bill the responsible side speaks about a "new start" in the nuclear waste policy and about the responsibility for the atomic waste the society has to accept. At the same time the operators of NPPs, who had taken in high profits over decades, were in 2016/2017 released from their financial responsibility for a safe storage of radioactive waste. Besides, the state is supposed to take over responsibility for the temporary storage.

The Nuclear Waste Conference strongly criticized the release of the enterprises from liability. The companies and the state, that itself produced highly problematic waste in the research centers, are obligated to make sure that a safe storage of the nuclear waste takes place. It is not the society's or the anti-nuclear movement's task to accept threats and to present turnkey solutions. As in the past decades, we understand it to be our task to ruthlessly point out current and future risks and to demand solutions from the responsible entities.

Point of departure

Currently more than 1,000 Castor containers with high level radioactive waste are stored in the central interim storage facilities in Ahaus, Gorleben and Lubmin as well as in the decentralized storage facilities in Jülich and at 12 NPP sites. The interim storage facilities in Lubmin and Jülich are operated by the state-owned company Entsorgungswerk für Nuklearanlagen (EWN). Ahaus and Gorleben are since 1 August 2017 owned by the new created state-owned company Bundesgesellschaft für Zwischenlagerung (BGZ). By 1 January 2019 the storage facilities at the NPP sites were transfered to BGZ, too.

In Gorleben and Lubmin no additional emplacement is planned. In Ahaus the emplacement of fuel elements from research reactors in Berlin, Mainz and Garching as well as from the abandoned test and power reactor (AVR) in Jülich are intended. Furthermore, in Ahaus the storage of hig—pressure compacted radioactive waste in transport and storage containers of new building type from reprocessing in La Hague has been applied for. To avoid further Castor transports to the Gorleben interim storage facility the interim storage facilities in Ohu, Philippsburg, Biblis and Brokdorf are supposed to accept additional waste from reprocessing in Sellafield and La Hague.

Besides, about one third of the totally expected spent fuel elements (in tons heavy metal - THM[1]) is stored in the spent fuel pools or they will only be produced by the continued operation of the nuclear power plants until 31 December 2022.

The license for the interim storage facilities are limited to 40 years respectively. The Gorleben interim storage facility the license ends on 31 December 2034, the Ahaus interim storage facility ends on 31 December 2036 and the Lubmin interim storage facility ends on 31 October 2039. The licenses of the storage facilities at the NPP sites end between 2042 and 2047. Furthermore also the storage container license ends after 40 years. Even by 2047 according to most confident projections no deep geological repository will be operational yet.

1. Cease muddling through - long-term interim storage as a fact

Since the beginning of the usage of nuclear energy operators and state refuse to consider the safe long-term storage of spent fuel and radioactive waste a problem and to conceptually address it. Instead a muddling through from one temporary solution to the next temporary solution takes place, paired with untenable promises to the local population. After the 1979 decision against a reprocessing facility in Gorleben central interim storage facilities in Ahaus and Gorleben were supposed to serve as a "temporary solution". Due to the problems related to the enforcement of the Castor transports to the central interim storage facilities in Ahaus and particularly Gorleben in the beginning of the new millennium at the NPP sites twelve additional interim storage facilities were constructed with the promise to "store only fuel elements of the respective nuclear power plant for a maximum of 40 years". Correspondingly the examinations and proofs of safety of containers and storage at all sites only considered a period of 40 years. This has been regulated accordingly in the Atomic Energy Act.

For a long time it is clear that the burial of high level radioactive waste in deep geological repositories or other feasible alternatives even according to the most ambitious timetable won't be started when the interim storage licenses will be expired, not to mention to be completed. Thus, it is already now foreseeable that the concept of the interim storage of high level radioactive waste in Germany, that had been designed for 40 years, failed. New concepts for a long-term interim storage are desperately necessary to be implemented yet during the new licensing of the storage site in Lubmin and by the end of the licenses of the interim storage facilities in Gorleben (2034) and Ahaus (2036).

But the Federal Government wants to sit the problem out. According to the National Program (NaPro) the "technical requirements for an extended storage" at the existing interim storage facilities is to be examined. After the decision for a site for the deep geological repository the party responsible hopes they would manage to overcome the time with a central receiving store at the then determined site. In fact already now in the first phase of the search for a site delays appear during the collection of geological data.

A central receiving store at a site before a legally binding decision on the deep geological repository would cement this site prematurely, respectively in case of a failure of the project would lead to scores of transports to another site.

Within the framework of the research platform ENTRIA interim storage concepts of other countries were examined and also the long-term storage of high level radioactive waste was considered. Both the structure, the storage concept and the storage containers can safety-related be designed better than what is the case in Germany at the moment.

Our demands:

  • A preferable high safety level of the storage of radioactive waste must not be prevented with the predication that the temporally gap between the end of the licenses and the burial of containers in a deep geological repository would be so small that it could be bypassed easily with the existing infrastructure.
  • No construction of a receiving store that would be bigger than a buffer storage, particularly not premature at a site for a deep geological repository that is not licensed yet, like designated by the National Program.
  • The Federal Government has promptly to propound a sustainable concept for a preferable safe fairly long-term interim storage of the high level radioactive wastes.
  • In such concept the international experiences and results of the ENTRIA research has to be considered. Additional research has to be funded. Moreover, challenges for the fairly long-term interim storage far in excess of the so far considered periods are among others the preservation of know-how, safeguarding the documentation, disposability of replacement parts, etc.
  • Such a concept also needs to take account of the high safety risks posed by atomic transports with high level radioactive waste not only due to terror danger.
  • All proofs of safety for new licenses should correspond to a range of 100 years.
  • The further procedures concerning the new construction of the interim storage facility Zwischenlager Nord in Lubmin has to be part of this concept. It doesn't make sense only for a few years to license here a new construction according to old standards.

2. Safety deficiencies at the existing interim storage facilities

Basis for the safety concept of the above-ground dry storage in Germany is the safety of the transport and storage container. Those shall guarantee a sufficient protection against accidents and against all external impacts. The storage buildings of the central interim storage facilities in Ahaus, Gorleben, Lubmin, the cask storage facility in Jülich and the Southern German interim storage facilities based on the WTI concept (WTI = Wissenschaftlich-technische Ingenieurberatung; scientific technical engineer counseling) shall only complicate external access. They don't provide additional barrier, for instance in case of an plane crash. The walls based on the WTI concept hold a thickness of about 85 cm, the ceilings show some 55 cm. The walls of the central interim storage facilities in Ahaus und Gorleben even only provide a thickness of 50 cm in the lower and 20 cm in the upper area, their ceilings show 20 cm. The buildings of the Northern German interim storage facilities based on the STEAG concept are supposed to provide a certain protection effect by thicker walls of 1,20 m and ceilings of 1,30 m.For comparison: The Dutch interim storage concept implements wall thicknesses of 1,70 m.

(...) - to be continued (in translation process). see the original complete document in German in the meantime!

Initiatives, NGOs, groups etc. (not individuals) can still join the positions paper by signing (email to info AT atommuellkonferenz DOT de[2] - please also provide your homepage link if applicable).

The following NGOs, initiatives and groups signed and support these positions and demands:

  1. AAA – Aachener Aktionsbündnis gegen Atomenergie
  2. Aarhus Konvention Initiative
  3. AG AtomErbe Neckarwestheim
  4. Aktionsbündnis CASTOR-Widerstand Neckarwestheim
  5. Aktionsbündnis Energiewende Heilbronn
  6. Aktionsbündnis „Stop Westcastor“ Jülich
  7. AK.W. Ende Bergstraße
  8. Anti-Atom-AG im Verband der Motorradclubs Kuhle Wampe
  9. Anti-Atom-Berlin
  10. AntiAtomBonn
  11. Antiatom-Bündnis Niederrhein
  12. Anti-Atom-Bündnis Schaumburg
  13. Anti-Atom-Gruppe Freiburg
  14. Antiatomgruppe Osnabrück
  15. Anti-Atom-Initiative-Göttingen
  16. Anti-Atom-Initiative Karlsruhe
  17. Anti-Atom-Netz Trier
  18. Anti_Atom_Plenum Köln
  19. Anti-Atom-Plenum-Weserbergland
  20. AntiAtom-Rheinberg
  21. Arbeitsgemeinschaft Schacht KONRAD e.V.
  22. Arbeitskreis gegen Atomanlagen Frankfurt am Main
  23. Arbeitskreis Umwelt (AKU) Gronau
  24. Arbeitskreis Umwelt (AKU) Schüttorf
  25. attac-Gruppe „Atomianer“
  26. „Atomerbe Biblis“ „Umgang mit den atomaren Altlasten“ e.V.
  27. atomkraftENDE.darmstadt
  28. .ausgestrahlt – gemeinsam gegen atomenergie
  29. BAAK Bayernallianz für Atomausstieg und Klimaschutz
  30. Bendorfer Umweltinitiative e.V.
  31. BI AntiAtom Ludwigsburg
  32. BI Kein Endlager im Fichtelgebirge
  33. BI Kiel gegen Atomanlagen
  35. BI WAA NAA BI gegen atomare Anlagen Weiden-Neustadt/WN
  36. BüfA Regensburg n.e.V. Bündnis für Atomausstieg und erneuerbare Energien
  37. BüfA Landshut – Bündnis für Atomausstieg
  38. Bundesverband Bürgerinitiativen Umweltschutz (BBU) e.V.
  39. Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND)
  40. BUND Kreisgruppe Steinfurt
  41. BUND Landesverband Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
  42. BUND Naturschutz in Bayern e.V. (BUND Bayern)
  43. Bündnis für sichere Verwahrung von Atommüll Baden-Württemberg
  44. Bündnis gegen Castorexporte
  45. BUND-Regionalgruppe Münster
  46. BürgerAktionSichereAsse (BASA)
  47. Bürger gegen Atomreaktor Garching
  48. Bürgerinitiative Cattenom-Non-Merci
  49. Bürgerinitiative „Kein Atommüll in Ahaus“ e.V.
  50. Bürgerinitiativen gegen das AKW Mülheim-Kärlich
  51. Bürgerinitiative Strahlenschutz Braunschweig e.V.
  52. Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Lüchow-Dannenberg e.V.
  53. ByeByeBiblis – Energiewende in der Region e.V.
  54. Elternverein Restrisiko Emsland
  55. FORUM Gemeinsam gegen das Zwischenlager und für eine verantwortbare Energiepolitik e.V.
  56. Gesellschaft für Strahlenschutz e.V.
  57. Göttinger Arbeitskreis gegen Atomenergie
  58. Holon-Institut
  59. Initiative AtomErbe Obrigheim
  60. Initiative „Brokdorf-akut“
  61. Internationale Ärzte für die Verhütung des Atomkrieges / Ärzte in sozialer Verantwortung e.V. (IPPNW)
  62. Karlsruher Bündnis gegen neue Generationen von Atomreaktoren
  63. KLAR! e.V., Kein Leben mit atomaren Risiken!
  64. Klimaforum Detmold
  65. Landesarbeitskreis Atom des BUND NRW
  66. Lüneburger Aktionsbündnis gegen Atom
  67. Mütter gegen Atomkraft e.V.
  68. NaturFreunde Deutschlands
  69. Regionalkonferenz AKW Grohnde abschalten
  70. Robin Wood e.V.
  71. Schweinfurter Aktionsbündnis gegen Atomkraft (SWAB)
  72. Sofa (Sofortiger Atomausstieg) Münster
  73. Stop Tihange Deutschland e.V.
  74. Strahlentelex
  75. Umweltgruppe Wiedensahl
  76. Umweltinstitut München e.V.

  1. tons heavy metal: Especially for spent fuel the unit "tons heavy metal (t HM)" is used. Metals of the cladding, spacers, etc. are not included to the calculation.
  2. For protection against automatic email address robots searching for addresses to send spam to them this email address has been made unreadable for them. To get a correct mail address you have to displace "AT" by the @-symbol and "DOT" by the dot-character (".").