An expert report has expressed the view that a storage facility for Germany’s nuclear waste may not be finalised until the next century.

For the past two years, a commission of scientists, industry leaders and civil society representatives have debated the question of where Germany should store waste from its soon-to-be-retired nuclear reactors.
Nuclear waste sign
AFP reports that the commission had hoped to reach a decision on the final site of the highly radioactive spent fuel from the country’s power plants by 2031, with the facility itself slated to open in 2050.

However that possibility has been described by commission president Michael Mueller as “ambitious.”

Gorleben, in the northern state of Lower Saxony, had been under discussion as a likely site, despite opposition from environmentalists and locals, but other sites are also being looked at.

The costs of storing the waste and safely dismantling the reactors is a very substantial financial risk for the country’s four biggest power suppliers, RWE, Vattenfall, EON and EnBW.

The 32-member commission was established in May 2014 with the mandate to define a new site selection procedure for the repository. It was asked to develop the criteria, processes and decision bases to evaluate the site selection law and to make proposals for public participation and transparency.

According to the commission’s final report, the site with “the best safety” is to be determined in a three-phase process and defined by federal law. The site selection should be accompanied by extensive public participation with bodies at regional, inter-regional and national level. The repository could be located in salt, clay or crystalline.

Currently, German radioactive waste is placed in interim storage, with used fuel mostly stored at reactor sites. Most German used fuel is reprocessed overseas.

World Nuclear News reports Ralf Güldner, president of industry group the German Atomic Forum (Deutsches Atomforum, DAtF), as saying, “In addition to the process and criteria, the commission has also developed a comprehensive and extremely ambitious involvement process that should give citizens, particularly in affected regions, far-reaching opportunities for participation.” He added, “A consistent and targeted approach is needed to arrive at a solution to this long-disputed issue.”

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