|The German government demands that nuclear waste is stored safely
underground in salt formations, clay layers or granite for a million of years from the
year 2035 on. The casks with nuclear waste have to be intact for 500 years. Moreover the
government demands that data on this waste are kept safe for at least 500 years. On these
demands the Ministry of Environment held a conference in Berlin from 30 October to 1
November that was attended by 300 participants.
Minister of Environment Sigmar Gabriel opened the conference. He stated that the high radioactive waste is about 10% of the total amount of radioactive waste, but 99% of the total radioactivity, that will be accumulated at the year 2040. A total of about 24,000 m3 of high active waste has to be put in a storage place from not later than 2035, because from then the licenses for temporary storage at the nuclear power stations expires.
Since 1977 research takes place in and around the salt formation at Gorleben. The choice for Gorleben remains an enigma, relevant data are not made public, stated Anselm Tiggemann who has investigated this matter. In 1976 the federal government named as potential repository sites the salt formations of Wahn, Lutterloh and Lichtenhorst (all of them in Northern Germany). In 1977 the government of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) chose for Gorleben. Gabriel remarked on this saying that the other three were judged safer,
Untill 2000, in Gorleben around 1.4 billion euros has been spent for research and construction of part of the the pit dug specifically for the purpose of the storage of the waste. In 2000 the government decided to install a moratorium on further research in Gorleben of a minimum of three years and a maximum of ten years. Meanwhile alternatives should be investigated. But almost nothing has been done in search of an alternative. Proponents of nuclear energy want to go on with Gorleben. Gabriel on this: Suppose that I want to continue with Gorleben as the sole disposal site. What in case the judge forbids the storage? Then there is no underground storage in 2035. The temporary storage sites are then final storage sites, though they are not designed for that. Therefore the minister wants to investigate more locations and then to chose the best one out of these. The choice for Gorleben has been made without involving the community, Gabriel said. The experiences with the salt formation at Asse at which casks with low radioactive waste have been leaking, show that there havent been made adequate safety analyses, he said, That has to be changed now and done better.
Walter Hohlefelder from the German Atomic Forum wants to lift the moratorium on Gorleben immediately. He is convinced the salt formation meets the requirements that have been made in the past and that the nuclear waste has to be stored there. He admitted that he was amazed about the choice of Gorleben at the time: Gorleben is situated near the border with the former East Germany (GDR). In our circles there was a fear that the GDR should tap that nuclear waste and take it away. Now the GDR no longer exists we found we have to go on with Gorleben. Only if Gorleben appeared to be not safe, we have to choose another location. Alternative locations are known, but we dont want to charge these regions with a discussion on nuclear waste, Hohlefelder said accompanied by a loud yelling boo from the public.
The available alternatives were made clear by Volkmar Bräuer of the Federal Office for
Geology and Raw Material (Bundesanstalt für Geowisenschaften und Rohstoffe - BGR): in
south Germany there are ten regions with granite; in north Germany there has been done
25,000 drillings in clay at which they found clay that is at least as good as they have
found in the French place Bure that is on the list for storing nuclear waste. In north
Germany there are at least five salt formations five salt formations considered suitable
by Bräuer. Besides the earlier named formations Wahn, Lutterloh and Lichtenhorst, he
named Zwischenahn and Waddekath. Wolfram König of the Federal Bureau for Radiation
Protection (BFS, (http://www.bfs.de/en/bfs) stressed that in the case of Gorleben the
population was kept out of it. The decisions were taken on the basis of the Mine Law.
According to this law only people that have interests in mining can ligitate -and there
are only a few people that have such interests.
Hans Riotte of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in Paris stated that the NEA generally assumes an irreversible decision process: because participants learn from each other, they will also start to trust each other. The procedures have to be transparent and the criteria have to be clear. The different parties, among which the local groups, have to get time and opportunity to build knowledge, therefore need also to have the financial possibility for this, Riotte said.
Hans Wanner of the Head Department Safety Nuclear Facilities (www.hsk.ch) in Switzerland added his country did start a transparent and open process in 2006. First: in three stages a number of locations are chosen, which are then reduced to two locations and finally one location remains. At each stage the parliament decides and (if 50.000 Swiss demand it) there can be held a referendum.
Gordon MacKerron of the University of Sussex explained that in Great-Britain several disposal plans were met by resistance from the population and were halted. Therefore, in 1997, the authorities decided to involve the public. Scientific organizations didnt agree with that, because in their vision the science was not taken serious with that. In 2007 the government started with a new round of discussions. The decision at the beginning of 2008 to build new nuclear power plants made the situation confusing. Because it really is different to talk about present nuclear waste (legacy waste) that you have to store anyway, or about new nuclear waste that possibly dont have to be produced, MacKerron stated.
Ortwin Renn of the University of Stuttgart has done much research on the acceptance of
risks. There will be resistance at each possible storage location, no matter if the
authorities invent new procedures, he said. Environmental organizations will
prevent storage as long as there are plans to build more nuclear power stations. And these
plan continue to exist, so now we have the same arguments for already 30 years over and
Armin Grunwald of the Research Center Karlsruhe continued on the subject: How do we give that responsibility shape and contents? In the current situation there is a hardening of conflicts on nuclear energy and nuclear waste. We have to take a step back, to try to relax those positions. Only then an honest debate can be possible.
After his introduction Grunwald chaired a working group on ethical questions. Wichert
von Holten, clergyman in the Gorleben-region, posted the question: how we can be
responsible for storage during one million years? How can the situation in Gorleben
improve? In his view, every nuclear waste transport to the above-ground interim storage in
Gorleben means more pressure on the decision to go ahead with the underground
final-disposal site in Gorleben too, no matter what.
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On November 8, more than 16 000 people demonstrated against the Castor transport in Gorleben, marching through the town and eventually settling just outside of it, near to the gates of the "Zwischenlager" - the temporary nuclear waste disposal site. The protesters were accompanied by at least 400 tractors - a powerful testament to the sense of solidarity that exists around the issue of nuclear power and nuclear waste in this region. The days after the protesters succeeded in several blockades. Transport of the waste from La Hague (France) by train to Danneberg and then by lorry to Gorleben, was delayed 20 hours due to blockades. It was the largest anti-nuclear protest in Germany since 2001. The phase out of nuclear power will become one of the most important issues in the general elections next year.
Bearbeitet am: 12.11.2008/ad
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