Government and States Agree on How to Proceed With Nuclear Location Search Act

The search for a permanent nuclear waste disposal site starts again, but shall not exclude the salt dome in Gorleben, Lower Saxony. This is the result of a meeting of the federal government, the federal states and the political parties yesterday. They agreed to submit a bill concerning a “Location Search Act” (Standortsuchgesetz) for a permanent nuclear waste disposal site as soon as possible to parliament. The bill shall be adopted before the summer break, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) said.

Following a recent proposal by Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier (Christian Democratic Union – CDU) and the recently elected State Premier of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (Social Democrats), and the new State Environment Minister, Stefan Wenzel (Alliance ’90/The Greens) the investigations in the salt dome in Gorleben, Lower Saxony, will be stopped for the time being.

A new committee shall be set up, which shall put forward a proposal for choosing a suitable permanent waste disposal site by the end of 2015, including safety requirements as well as exclusion criteria and minimum requirements relating to the properties of the rocks of the possible sites. The committee’s 24 members shall be pluralistic and have members from the Federation and the Länder.

The decisions about the individual steps in the selection process shall be taken by Parliament. This includes as a final step the decision about the locations, which shall be further investigated as possible permanent waste disposal sites. Legal protection against the decision on the sites to be investigated shall be granted.

The parties agreed to stop transports of spent nuclear fuel to the existing interim storage site in Gorleben. Over the next weeks the possibilities for storage of spent nuclear fuel currently stored abroad in other interim storage sites shall be investigated.

Key points of the bill shall include:

1. Basic Principles:

  • The search for safe storage of highly radioactive waste shall be carried out based on a national consensus
  • A solution shall be found within the period of one generation
  • Nuclear waste generated in Germany shall be disposed of according to the principle of national responsibility
  • The decision on a location shall be scientifically-based, striving  for the greatest possible safety
  • An open, transparent process that involves the citizens in all steps to be taken is a prerequisite for a decision that receives broad acclaim
  • All important decisions shall be taken by Parliament and the Federal Council

2. Main Provisions

  • The search for a new location shall be carried out according to the principle of a “white map” („weiße Landkarte“, meaning that a nationwide search is carried out)
  • No location, e.g. Gorleben, is excluded
  • The search shall be carried out in a democratic, transparent step-by-step procedure that is based on scientifically justified criteria

3. Steps to be taken

  • Evaluation phase in which the underlying legal regime shall be reviewed and the basic criteria be established
  • Choice of possible locations, above ground and underground investigations, comparison of locations and proposal for possible site, determination of site by federal law
  • A subsequent plan determination procedure shall provide for a review of the safety at the chosen location
  • Construction of the permanent nuclear waste disposal site following a judicial review

4. Parties to the Process

  • Government/States Committee consisting of 24 members
  • Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS)
  • A new regulatory authority
  • An advisory committee consisting of members of the general public (Gesellschaftliches Begleitgremium)

Given the process and the criteria described above, it looks like it might be a while until we know where the waste shall be deposited permanently.

Source: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

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