Radioactive waste (RAW) management strategies: history and developments

Germany is a contracting party to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive

Table 14.1 I nventory of heat-generating radioactive waste

Waste form

Quantity (in Mg heavy metal or m3)

Estimated total SNF after phase-out is

11,100 Mg


SNF in reprocessing by AREVA at La

5,379 Mg


In reprocessing by BNGS at Sellafield

851 Mg

Various German and foreign locationsa

440 Mg

Unconditioned waste (recyclable and raw

3 m3


Intermediate level wastesb

1,251 m3

Conditioned waste

674 m3

a I ncludes SNF, as of December 2010 located at: Reprocessing Plant Karlsruhe (WAK); Eurochemie in Mol, Belgium; Central Holding Storage for SNF (CLAB) in Sweden; Reprocessing and storage facilities in the former USSR; and at NPP Paks in Hungary.

b Includes unused fuel from the thorium high temperature reactor (THTR). Source: BfS (2011c).

Waste Management. Waste management legislation in Germany is based on European law, German federal law, and regional state laws. In accord­ance with the AtG, waste producers are committed to avoid or reduce the generation of radioactive waste to the greatest extent possible. Ownership of the waste is retained by the producer until such time as it has been accepted for final disposal in an approved geological repository (AtG §9a).

As previously discussed, all radioactive waste in Germany, subject to the controls of the AtG will, in accordance with federal policy, be disposed of in a suitable deep geological repository. The specific requirements that a repository must meet are determined based on the heat-generating capacity of the waste destined for disposal and the isolation requirements associated with the waste. These requirements are specified in the site licensing docu­ments as required by the pertinent German laws. Pending disposal, waste related to power generation is managed in secure on-site or near-site interim storage facilities at the expense of the waste producer. For all other wastes, particularly those originating from radioisotope applications in industry, universities and medicine, the Federal States are responsible for construct­ing and operating regional interim storage facilities (AtG §9a(3)).

Germany was one of the first nations to initiate serious efforts in develop­ing strategies and techniques for deep geological disposal of RAW. The German government policy on deep geological disposal for all radioactive wastes can be traced back to 1960 when the former German Atomic Com­mission unilaterally rejected the idea of surface disposal for these wastes. In 1967, Germany initiated a pilot test-bed geological disposal facility for low and intermediate level wastes (LLW and ILW) at the former Asse salt mine. The facility was the first attempt at developing a prototype repository for the storage of nuclear wastes by any nation (Fisher, 1978). In 1971, the former GDR (East Germany) began disposing of LLW and ILW wastes in the rock salt mine Bartensleben near Morsleben, Saxony-Anhalt. Waste storage practices at Asse ceased in 1978, while waste disposal practices at Morsleben continued uninterrupted until 1991 and again from 1994 until 1998. Currently the only facility licensed in accordance with the AtG for the disposal of negligible heat-generating wastes in Germany is being con­structed in the former iron-ore mine at Konrad.

With respect to the geological disposal of heat-generating wastes, i. e., HLW and SNF, Germany was one of the first nations to initiate serious efforts in developing a permanent deep geological repository for heat­generating wastes, and by 1977 had selected the salt dome at Gorleben for investigation regarding the suitability of the formation for hosting a poten­tial repository for HLW and SNF.

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