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Germany still struggling with legacy of old nuclear wastes

Sticker Shock: The Soaring Costs Of Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown, Yale Environment 360 25 JUL 2016: REPORT“……….Radioactive water was first detected leaking at Asse II in 2008, and the German Bundestag passed a law five years later that mandated removal of the waste. Above ground, the complex is just a few fenced-in buildings amid forests and farms. Underground, passageways have closed or collapsed. One main elevator shaft going down into the mine can be used for transporting large machinery, such as front loaders, some of which has to be welded together in underground workshops. As for the areas with actual waste, workers have spent years drilling into just one of 13 chambers to test for gas and radioactivity.

“No one goes in,” said Stelljes. “We haven’t even developed the machines we would need for moving the waste.”

Asse was intended as a secret stopgap solution when West Germany first starting shipping nuclear waste there in 1967. The problem is, no one seems to have come up with anything better since. Germany still doesn’t have a permanent nuclear waste storage facility. One other underground site, Morsleben — a salt mine used as a nuclear dump by the former East German government — is slated for a cleanup expected to cost at least $1.6 billion.

wastes-Gorleben-salt-mine

A former iron mine, Konrad, is being converted into a site to store low- and medium-level waste; it is expected to be completed in 2022. Low- and medium-level waste account for 90 percent of Germany’s total nuclear waste, but just 0.1 percent of the total radioactivity of the nation’s waste.

The most dangerous and controversial waste is heavy-metal-laden, heat-producing waste from spent fuel rods. Germany expects the total of that high-level waste to take up 28,100 cubic meters (1 million cubic feet) — a fraction of the volume of low- and medium-level waste the country must eventually store. Preliminary plans from Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection call for a high-level waste repository to be built by 2050, with storage complete by 2130, and final sealing of the repository as late as 2170.

“No one has a finished concept [for storage of high-level waste], so no one can give us a finished budget,” Haverkamp said. “I won’t give an estimate anymore, but the numbers are in the billions. How many? No one knows. That’s the problem in Germany, you have to reserve a certain amount of money, but how much?” ….   http://e360.yale.edu/feature/soaring_cost_german_nuclear_shutdown/3019/

July 28, 2016 - Posted by | Germany, wastes

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