Swiss radwaste consultation opens

19 June 2012

Switzerland's federal government has launched a three-month long public consultation on the country's proposed program for the final disposal of its nuclear waste.

 Grimsel (Nagra)_200
Nagra's underground laboratory is accessed from the Grimsel Pass (Image: Nagra)

The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) has given interested parties until 28 September to express their views on a set of eight documents detailing the proposed procedures for deep geological disposal. At the top of the list is national radioactive waste disposal cooperative Nagra's full report on the waste program, followed by position papers from the SFOE, Swiss federal nuclear safety inspectorate ENSI and the Swiss nuclear safety commission KNS, as well as background and summary papers.

Nagra submitted its program to SFOE in October 2008, along with proposals on suitable sites for deep geological repositories. The Swiss authorities deemed that research into potential repository sites should take priority and decided to delay the start of the public consultation period for such research to take place. With the results of the first stage of the siting studies now available, the SFOE has moved forward to the public examination of Nagra's management program.

Nagra's program focuses on the procedures for implementing a deep geological disposal option. Although it considers issues of repository size, design, research and development and costs, it does not include the actual selection of a repository site. That is part of a separate ongoing three-stage process.

The first stage of the three-stage site selection process for deep geological repositories was completed in November 2011, when the Federal Council agreed to incorporate six siting regions proposed by Nagra into the Sectoral Plan for Deep Geological Repositories. The second stage, which involves more detailed investigations of the six siting regions of Südranden, Zürich Nordost, North of Lägern, Jura Ost, Jura-Südfuss and Wellenberg, is now under way and is scheduled to take four years to complete.

The results of the public consultation phases will be presented to the Swiss Federal Council for approval in 2013, after which a report on the program will be submitted to the national parliament. SFOE and ENSI have recommended that Nagra files a subsequent repository program report in 2016, along with new studies on costs and management including the costs of the possible recovery of waste from a deep repository.

Up until 2006, much of Switzerland's used nuclear fuel was sent overseas for reprocessing. High level waste, and used fuel from 2006 onwards, is mostly stored at a central interim storage at Wurenlingen. Nagra has been operating an underground research laboratory for a high-level waste repository at Grimsel since 1983.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News