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The Asse nuclear waste interim storage facility continues to cause controversy. Germany, By David Sadler  May 4, 2023

What to do with thousands of barrels of nuclear waste as long as there is no repository? This question concerns the federal government and the residents of Asse. The former mine is dilapidated and needs to be cleared. Environment Minister Lemke got an idea on site.

In the dispute over the Asse site in Lower Saxony as an interim storage facility for nuclear waste, the fronts remain hardened. The former salt dome is dilapidated and should be cleared in about ten years. Around 126,000 barrels of low- and medium-level radioactive nuclear waste are currently stored there. As long as there is no repository in Germany, they have to be stored temporarily. The plans of the responsible Federal Agency for Disposal (BGE) to look for a site near the Asse are met with resistance.

When Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke visited the site, several citizens’ initiatives called for the Green politician to give her authority. Lemke must instruct the BGE as the operator to finally arrange for the site comparison for an interim storage facility requested by environmental groups and residents, explained the Asse II coordination group. For years, the BGE has acted against the interests of people and the environment in the area around the dilapidated salt dome.

BGE wants intermediate transports avoid

“We say that the interim storage facility has to be close to where we collect and treat the waste,” replied BGE Managing Director Stefan Studt. It is important to avoid intermediate transports. From the point of view of the operating company, the location is suitable and, above all, can be approved, which Studt described as a “relevant standard”.

Lemke: conditions “absolutely unacceptable”

Environment Minister Lemke does not see a quick solution either. “I don’t have an alternative interim storage facility in my luggage,” she told the representatives of the citizens’ initiatives. But you have to ensure that this nuclear waste is taken out and stored as responsibly as possible – until it can go to a repository. “We will certainly continue this discussion,” she said. The nuclear waste in the former Asse mine was stored under conditions that were “absolutely unacceptable”.

Therefore, the German Bundestag decided to salvage the radioactive waste from the Asse as quickly as possible. A retrieval of the waste is planned and should start around 2033. The plan has long been the subject of strong criticism in the affected region and recently even led to a critical monitoring process ended became.

A challenge arises with the search for safe disposal of the nuclear waste.Problems due to the lack of a repository

“I’m really happy that we shut down the last three nuclear power plants in Germany on April 15 and were thus able to prevent even more highly radioactive waste from accumulating,” said the Greens politician. “I can tell you that this is not a matter of course, but that it has kept me busy in recent months.” In some cases, continued operation was demanded with great carelessness and the problems with the non-existent repository were completely ignored.

There is currently more than 120,000 cubic meters of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste in interim storage facilities throughout Germany. The garbage is, for example, parts of plants that have been contaminated, protective clothing, tools and equipment from nuclear power plants. According to the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE), this only accounts for one percent of the activity, but accounts for 95 percent of the total volume of radioactive waste.

In an even slower scenario, a repository could even not be found until 2068.billion cost after nuclear phase-out

Then there are the costs: A commission has estimated the total costs for decommissioning and dismantling of the reactors as well as the transport and storage of the waste at 48.8 billion euros. As a result, a fund was set up into which the operators of the nuclear power plants had to pay. The interim and final storage is to be paid for with this amount – however, it is still uncertain whether the sum will be sufficient.

Critics and some experts see the camps as a security risk. With the former iron ore mine Schacht Konrad in Salzgitter, a repository for low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste has been identified, which is scheduled to go into operation in 2027. The search for a repository for high-level radioactive waste has so far been unsuccessful.

May 7, 2023 - Posted by | Germany, wastes

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