German reprocessing waste storage plan proposed

23 June 2015

A proposal for the storage of waste generated from the reprocessing of German used nuclear fuel in France and the UK has been announced by the country's environment minister. The operators of Germany's nuclear power plants have welcomed the proposal.

German utilities are obliged to take back the wastes resulting from the reprocessing of their used nuclear fuel at Areva's La Hague plant in France and at Sellafield in the UK.

Under the plan proposed by the federal environment minister Barbara Hendricks on 19 June, 26 waste storage containers will be held at four interim storage sites across the country. The ministry proposes that five containers are kept at an on-site interim storage facility at the Philippsburg nuclear power plant for storing vitrified intermediate-level waste from reprocessing at La Hague. A total of 21 containers are to be held at interim storage facilities at the Biblis, Brokdorf and Isar nuclear power plants for storing vitrified high-level waste from reprocessing at Sellafield.

Hendricks said these sites had been selected as they are "best placed from technical, legal and procedural aspects as well as from a political perspective."

She said, "My concept is to serve the nuclear companies as a guideline on how to fulfil their legal obligations to take back and store vitrified radioactive waste from foreign reprocessing." She added, "It is now up to the utilities to make decisions concerning the submission of specific locations."

The environment ministry noted that the approval process for the collection, transportation and storage of such waste is not covered by the state but by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).

According to the reprocessing contracts signed between German utilities and the foreign reprocessing companies, the first container of waste from France is scheduled to be shipped in 2017, with the other four following between 2018 and 2020. The timetable for shipments of waste from the UK has yet to be determined.

The German utilities - EnBW, EOn, RWE and Vattenfall - welcomed the ministry's proposal and said they will now examine it in detail "with location, economic efficiency and inter-site aspects".

In a statement, EOn said: "The four companies expressly declare their readiness to implement common solutions that can be legally approved, are economical and acceptable under corporate law and are legally secure."

The federal government, through the BfS, is responsible for building and operating final repositories for high-level waste, but progress on this has been hindered by opposition from Länder governments.

In 2013 the federal environment ministry announced that the government and all 24 states had finally reached agreement on drafting a repository law, and that the power utilities should spend €2 billion ($2.2 billion) to find and develop a new repository.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News