Reprocessing SNF and related HLW

Germany currently operates a once-through fuel cycle. Although initial intentions were for a closed fuel cycle, strong public opposition and eco­nomic concerns led to the abandonment of plans for a reprocessing facility in the Bavarian town of Wackersdorf in 1988. Until 1994 utilities were obliged to reprocess SNF in order to recover usable materials for recycling into new fuel assemblies. However, because Germany never fully developed the capability, most of the reprocessing of SNF was contracted to facilities in France and the United Kingdom. Only a small amount of fuel was reprocessed in Germany at the Karlsruhe reprocessing plant (Wiederauf — arbeitungsanlage Karlsruhe, WAK). Between the commissioning of the WAK in 1971 and its shut-down in 1990, about 200 tonnes of irradiated fuel were reprocessed at the facility (EWN Gruppe, 2010). Federal policies began to change between 1994 and 1998 when both reprocessing and direct disposal were equally acceptable to the government. As part of the agree­ment negotiated between the SPD-Green coalition federal government and the nuclear utilities, it was agreed in 2001 that SNF would be disposed of directly and foreign shipments for reprocessing SNF would no longer be allowed after mid-2005 (subsequently codified into the AtG §9a).

As of 31 December 2010, 97 casks of type CASTOR® HAW 20/28 CG or similar with vitrified HLW were being stored at the interim storage facility for heat-generating waste at Gorleben. An additional 33 casks of vitrified HLW will be shipped from France and the United Kingdom associated with reprocessing of German SNF (BfS, 2011c). Eleven of the casks were returned from the French reprocessing facility in La Hague by the end of 2011 and 21 will be returned from the reprocessing facility at Sellafield in the United Kingdom by the end of 2017. By contractual accord, LLW and ILW gener­ated as a by-product of reprocessing will remain at the foreign facilities. As an offset, approximately 5% additional canisters with vitrified HLW are included in the waste being returned to Germany for final disposal. Addi­tionally, by the end of 2024, the final shipment of approximately 150 CASTOR®-type casks containing high-pressure compacted waste will be returned to Germany from La Hague.

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