09.02.2005

Salt deposit ?not safe? as nuclear dump, says German ministry

By Diet Simon

The German nuclear safety ministry says there?s not enough cover over a
salt dome to keep it safe as a waste dump for a million years.

An exploratory mine has been driven into the salt deposit at Gorleben, a village in northern Germany, to test whether it could safely hold highly radioactive waste for that length of time.

The trials were suspended years ago over scientists? safety concerns, but the Conservatives expected to win power in a September 18 election brush those concerns aside and insist on Gorleben being made the national dump.

The environment and reactor safety ministry in Berlin, controlled by The Greens, has written to the committee for nuclear installations, civil and disaster protection of the local county that there is no ?dense overburden? on the salt deposit that could act as a second geological barrier for long-term protection against the possible release into the environment of highly radioactive atomic waste from a ?final repository?.

?The seal rock does indeed have a small barrier effect,? says the communication from the ministry, which came to public notice in an open session of the committee of the county of Lüchow-Dannenberg on 7 July.

The local opponents of the dump argue in a media release that the ministry thereby confirms the findings of sample drillings done in 1983 that were already then undisputed among scientists ? that the structure of the overburden cannot fulfil a barrier function.

Only the Gorleben salt dome itself, the ministry cites the drill findings, has ?large, undisturbed salt sections that could fulfil the barrier function demanded?.

The opponents also point out that there has been no examination of whether salt could at all be a suitable repository for nuclear waste. The ministry said such tests, though requested, were not carried out because of cost considerations.

The present government has launched a search for alternative waste sites, but hasn?t ruled Gorleben out. The opponents allege that the Red-Green coalition has not been serious about the search. And it should have filled in the Gorleben mine and other underground dumps long ago.

Francis Althoff, spokesman for the Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Lüchow-Dannenberg, says ?the senseless waste of money for the ?exploration? of the Gorleben salt dome, that has already devoured 1.5 billion euros, has to be stopped immediately and permanently.?

It had been scientifically proven for decades that Gorleben is not suitable to keep people and the environment safe from the highly radioactive waste. The working group set up to examine possible sites says 50,000 generations would be in danger from irradiation.

  • We won?t put up with the radiating waste simply being scratched into the salt and forgotten about,? says Althoff. He criticises opposition leader Angela Merkel?s recruiting to her team of top advisers the Siemens CEO, Heinrich von Pierer, whom he lambastes as ?a nuclear fanatic who wants to keep flawed nuclear power stations running for another 60 years?.
  • The population, a majority of whom reject the use of atomic energy, should wake up fast and think hard about how to vote.
  • Worldwide there is no safe ?final repository?, no real ?disposal? of atomic waste is possible.
  • The Gorleben soap bubble has burst at last. The only consequence can be to stop the further production of waste by shutting down nuclear plants.?

Two Hanover-based geologists and former members of the working party for investigating possible sites, Jürgen Kreusch, 53, and Detlef Appel, 62, will be addressing a public meeting in Dannenberg, near Gorleben, next Tuesday.

Kreusch, a specialist in hydrogeology, has written: ?Since the overburden is practically useless as an effective barrier against the diffusion of long-life radio nuclides, the salt dome alone would have to carry the entire long-term ?safety burden?. That is not acceptable for a final repository. The lacking insulation capability of the overburden cannot be compensated for by the salt dome.?

A 2003 paper by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, ?The Distribution of Fresh Water and Saline Water in the Cover Rock above the Gorleben Salt Dome?, states: ?Nuclide transport in the salt water can be predicted on the basis of the present fresh water/salt water distribution.?

http://www.bgr.de/b1hydro/index.html?/b1hydro/fachbeitraege/c200301/suesssalz.htm

Contact: Francis Althoff 05843 986789

Bearbeitet am: 30.08.2005/ad


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