On 24 March 2013 the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and the State of Lower Saxony have presented a joint proposal with the aim to submit a “Location Search Act” (Standortsuchgesetz). The bill shall provide a basis to identify a permanent nuclear waste disposal site in Germany.
BMU is lead by the Conservative CDU politician Peter Altmaier, while the State of Lower Saxony since the recent election is being ruled by a Social Democrat/Green Party coalition.
Finding a permanent nuclear waste disposal site is still a pressing issue in Germany despite the fact that the country decided in 2011 to phase out nuclear power until 2022. For a long time a site in Gorleben, Lower Saxony, had been investigated, despite heavy protest. In 2000 a moratorium was issued. In 2010 the previous Conservative/Liberal government announced to resume the exploration of the salt dome in Gorleben. The state election in Lower Saxony in January 2013 resulted in a narrow victory of the Social Democrats and Alliance ’90/The Greens.
Following talks in Berlin, Environment Minister Altmaier, the new State Premier of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (Social Democrats), and the new State Environment Minister, Stefan Wenzel (Alliance ’90/The Greens) proposed the following:
- Upon the adoption of the Location Search Act (Standortsuchgesetz or Endlagersuchgesetz) transports of spent nuclear fuel to the existing interim storage site in Gorleben will stop. Planned transports will be directed to other interim storage facilities.
- Provisions on the implementation of a joint commission of the German Federation and the federal states on the storage of highly radioactive waste shall be incorporated in the bill. The commission shall be in charge of debating and answering the basic issues concerning the permanent storage of highly radioactive waste.
- Upon completion of the tasks of the joint commission, the bill on the Location Search Act shall be reevaluated and amended by Parliament and the Federal Council if necessary. Only then further procedures shall be taken with the exception of issues concerning the organisation of the authority and its operationality.
- The final decision about the location of the permanent nuclear waste disposal site will be taken by Parliament. All prior decisions shall be made based on a decision by Parliament by a simple decision (einfacher Beschluss) of the regulatory authority. The final vote by Parliament will not replace an orderly permitting respectively plan determination procedure, thus ensuring that legal action can properly be taken and that the costs have to be borne by the party responsible.
- Exclusion criteria and minimum requirements relating to the properties of the rocks (of the possible sites) shall be decided based on the recommendation of the joint commission when amending the bill on the Location Search Act.
- An early expropriation shall not be possible and third parties shall not be mandated with tasks of public authority (hoheitliche Beleihung) during the search for a permanent nuclear waste disposal site and the permitting respective plan determination procedure.
- The bill will be amended so as to confer competences of the federal states only when the final decision of Parliament about the permanent nuclear waste disposal site takes effect.
- The ongoing talks between the German Federation and the federal states about the Location Search Act shall be concluded shortly. The bill shall be submitted to Parliament and be adopted by Parliament and the Federal Council before the summer break. The final consent of the State of Lower Saxony shall be subject to the incorporation of the above provisions and the annex into the bill and mutual agreement about the appointment of the members of the joint commission.
Further talks on the Location Search Act shall take place in Berlin on 8 April 2013.
Source: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
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