Germany: experience of radioactive waste (RAW) management and contaminated site clean-up

G. H. NIEDER-WESTERMANN and W. BOLLINGERFEHR, DBE Technology GmbH, Germany

DOI: 10.1533/9780857097446.2.462

Abstract: The Federal Republic of Germany has committed to the complete phase out of nuclear energy production by 2022. Considerable effort has been expended on developing deep geological repositories for radioactive waste (RAW) associated with energy production and industry. Three such repositories, Asse, Morsleben and Konrad for wastes with negligible heat generation exist in Germany. Asse and Morsleben are both being closed in accordance with the German Atomic Energy Act, while Konrad has been licensed to receive waste and is currently being constructed. An exploratory facility for the deep geologic disposal of heat generating radioactive wastes is located at Gorleben, Lower Saxony. Related repository design studies continue to progress and specialized full-scale waste handling and emplacement equipment has been designed and tested.

Key words: nuclear energy phase-out, German Atomic Energy Act, waste canisters, interim storage, deep geological repositories.

14.1 Introduction

Germany is the fifth largest economy in the world and the largest within the European Union (US CIA, 2011). Germany is also the largest generator of electrical energy in the European Union. In 2010 electrical energy gen­eration was 622.5 TWh, of which 22.5%, or 140.6 TWh, was produced from nuclear power generation (AGEB, 2010), approximately 57.6% from fossil fuels sources, 15.9% from renewables, and 4% from other sources (AGEB, 2010, 2011; ENS, 2011). Prior to the Daiichi Power Plant nuclear incident in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011, Germany operated 17 nuclear power plants (NPPs) with a total net capacity of 20.49 GW (ENS, 2011); six are boiling water reactors (BWRs) and eleven are pressurized water reactors (PWRs). In response to the incident in Fukushima and in the face of an increased anti-nuclear atmosphere in German society, the federal govern­ment immediately ordered the removal of 8 NPPs from service in response to the unfolding crisis and committed to a phase-out of nuclear energy by 2022. As a direct consequence, the actual contribution of nuclear energy to

Germany’s electrical power generation is currently 11%. Prior to the Fuku — shima incident, Germany had planned on extending the life of the NPPs by an average of 12 years to 2036.

German nuclear energy production peaked in 2001 at 171.3 TWh with 19 nuclear power plants in operation at the time. Since then two power plants, Stade and Obrigheim, have been shut down and are currently being decom­missioned. Seventeen further power and prototype reactors have either been shut down and are in the process of decommissioning or have been completely decommissioned (BfS, 2011a). The decommissioned plants include all of the Soviet designed VVER (water-water energetic reactor) constructed and operated by the former German Democratic Republic (GDR); the two prototype thorium high-temperature reactors; the proto­type fast breeder SNR-300 nuclear reactor near Kalkar, Germany; as well as several BWRs and PWRs. The locations of Germany’s key nuclear sites are shown in Fig. 14.1.

In addition to nuclear reactors used for power generation, a total of 37 research reactors have been constructed and operated in Germany. The majority of the former research reactors operated at very low to low power generation levels (i. e., in the range of 1.0 x 10-7 to 1.0 MW). Of the remaining eight research reactors, five also operate at these very low levels. Germany also maintains three nuclear fuel cycle facilities, while 11 further facilities are either in decommissioning or have been com­pletely decommissioned (BfS, 2011a, 2011b). Since the end of the Second World War Germany has refrained from developing nuclear military capabilities.

Since 2002 the German federal government has been officially committed to a phase-out of nuclear electric power generation. Although the opera­tional lifespan of Germany’ s NPPs was initially extended by the current government, the events at the NPPs in Fukushima, Japan, have resulted in a change of course by the federal government and the phase out has been expedited. Germany will now complete its phase out from nuclear energy production by 2022.

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