Contract awarded for planning of Asse II facilities

11 January 2022

Germany's Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal (BGE) has awarded a contract for planning the design and licensing of a waste treatment plant and an interim storage facility at the former Asse II salt mine in the district of Wolfenb├╝ttel, Lower Saxony. The winning consortium has until the end of 2023 to submit the plans.

The Asse II mine site (Image: BGE)

The contract calls for above-ground systems to be designed in such a way that around 100,000 cubic metres of recovered low and medium-level radioactive waste can be handled. In the course of the accident-proof and transport-friendly conditioning of the radioactive waste, the total volume to be temporarily stored is estimated at around 200,000 cubic metres. The interim storage facility must be designed for these volumes.

BGE said the contract provides for the creation of the basic assessment, preliminary, draft and approval planning for the waste treatment plant and the interim storage facility. This also includes interiors, outdoor facilities, engineering structures and traffic facilities including structural planning and technical equipment for buffering, characterisation, conditioning and interim storage for the radioactive waste to be retrieved from the Asse II mine. Only waste from the Asse II mine will be treated and temporarily stored at the site.

Under the contract, awarded on 20 December, the winning consortium - comprising Uniper Anlagenservice GmbH, Uniper Technologies GmbH and Brenk Systemplanung GmbH - will develop "a technically and economically professional planning" for the construction and operation of the necessary systems, "taking into account all legal and operational requirements."

BGE said a large part of the planning services must be provided regardless of the planned location.

"BGE is consistently pushing ahead with planning without creating irrevocable facts," said BGE Chairman Stefan Studt. "That's how we agreed on it at the end of last year in the so-called lighting process."

The suggestion of a site close to Asse for a waste treatment plant and interim storage facility has been discussed intensively in the region. In February 2021, the Asse-2 support group, the Federal Environment Ministry and the Lower Saxony Environment Ministry agreed to review the location decision. The Federal Environment Ministry commissioned four experts to carry out the review. On 18 October, they published their report.

The report is currently being examined by all parties involved. BGE is currently re-examining the reasoning behind selecting the location for the waste treatment plant and the interim storage facility. At the same time, it was agreed in February last year that the current planning would not be interrupted in order not to risk a delay in the planned start of retrieval in 2033.

Between 1967 and 1978, thousands of barrels of mostly low-level radioactive waste were emplaced at the Asse II mine on behalf of the federal government. However, the facility has proven unstable and retrieval of the waste has been legally mandated since 2013.

BGE - a federally owned company within the remit of the Federal Environment Ministry - took over responsibility as operator of the Asse II mine and the Konrad and Morsleben repositories from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection in April 2017. It is also tasked with searching for a repository site to dispose of the high-level radioactive waste generated in Germany on the basis of the Site Selection Act that came into force in May 2017.

BGE presented its plan for retrieving the waste from Asse II in April 2020.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News