Germany updates waste disposal plans

17 August 2015

The German government has adopted a draft national radioactive waste disposal programme proposed by the environment ministry.

Under the European Union's Waste Directive of 2011, Germany was required to submit such a plan to the European Commission by 23 August. The programme proposes two locations for the final disposal of radioactive waste - the former iron ore mine Konrad in Salzgitter for low- and intermediate-level waste (LLW and ILW) and another undetermined site for high-level waste (HLW).

Because the programme does not allow for any extension to the Konrad repository, as previously proposed, the second location will need to accommodate all radioactive waste produced up to 2022, when Germany's last nuclear plant is scheduled to close. The ministry said the programme offers a "comprehensive approach to responsible and safe disposal of all radioactive waste."

The federal environment ministry has compiled a list of all types of radioactive waste that need disposal, including HLW such as used nuclear fuel and wastes from reprocessing German used fuel abroad, as well as LLW and ILW of all kinds. The ministry assumes all the radioactive waste that will be generated in Germany by 2080.

The ministry's inventory includes 10,500t of used fuel from nuclear plants, which could be stored in about 1100 containers. A further 300 containers of HLW and ILW are expected from the reprocessing of used fuel, as well as 500 containers of used fuel from research and demonstration reactors. In addition, some 600,000 cubic metres of LLW and ILW will need disposal, including waste from the operation and decommissioning of nuclear plants as well as from industry, medicine and research.

Some 200,000 cubic metres of mostly LLW removed from the Asse radioactive waste disposal facility, a salt dome which has proven unstable, will also need disposal, as well as some 100,000 cubic metres of waste from uranium enrichment operations at Urenco's plant at Gronau.

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