Waste disposal strategies

While many countries have opted for near-surface or surface disposal for LLW and ILW, Germany has pursued deep geological disposal for all RAW subject to the controls of the AtG. Additionally, it has been German federal policy since the early 1960s that deep geological disposal offers the best possible isolation of the wastes. Deep geological disposal is seen as particu­larly beneficial over surface or near-surface disposal with respect to the avoidance of inadvertent human intrusion. To this end, even wastes with no or only negligible heat-generating capacity are, and will continue to be, disposed of in deep geological repositories.

Approximately 98.5% by volume of the nuclear waste generated in Germany is classified as waste with negligible heat-generating capacity. Because Germany has selected deep geological disposal for these wastes, it is necessary that sufficient underground volumes are located and that the costs associated with deep disposal are manageable without adversely affecting safety. The conversion of existing underground mines, assuming the facility can be determined to provide adequate isolation and safety, offers an alternative to the development of new purpose-built facilities for disposal of these wastes. As a result, Germany pursues two separate strate­gies for radioactive wastes disposal. For wastes with negligible heat­generating capacity (i. e., short-lived LLW and ILW), former mines, which have been extensively studied and retrofitted, are used for disposal pur­poses. However, before an existing mine can be used for geological disposal purposes, the facility must be thoroughly evaluated and appropriately designed to provide engineering alternatives where the original purpose of a mining facility may diverge from the safety and isolation requirements of a repository. For heat-generating waste, only a purpose-built facility in pre­viously undisturbed geological formations is seen as appropriate.

Currently, Germany operates an underground exploratory facility in the Gorleben salt dome. The exploratory facility is specifically tasked with studying the suitability of the Gorleben salt dome as a potential repository host formation for heat-generating wastes. However, the site has not yet been selected as a potential repository and a final decision on the site ’s suitability will depend on the results of additional investigations and posi­tive findings from future safety assessments.

Germany currently has three existing facilities which are classified as geological repositories for the disposal of nuclear wastes with negligible heat-generating capacity: Asse, Morsleben and Konrad. Asse and Morsle — ben will both undergo closure as repositories in accordance with the AtG, but only Konrad was licensed for disposal under the AtG.

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