After more than two years of work, the Commission Storage of High-level Radioactive Waste handed over its final report today. The Commission’s statutory task was to define criteria, processes and decision bases for a new site selection process, to evaluate the Site Selection Act (StandAG) and to make proposals for public participation and transparency. The Commission’s basis for work was the cross-party consensus on relaunching the site selection process, as a result of which exploration of the Gorleben site was terminated before its technical conclusion in order to achieve broader social acceptance for the disposal of high active waste.
The Commission has created an extensive basis for the ensuing legislation by recommending the disposal route of deep geological repositories and the technical and scientific decision criteria for a science-based selection process. Dr. Ralf Güldner, President of the German Atomic Forum, said: “In addition to route and criteria, the Commission has also developed a comprehensive and extremely ambitious participation process which is intended to give citizens, particularly those in affected areas, far-reaching opportunities for involvement. This is the basis which is supposed to take account of the changed social participation requirement of modern industrial societies. At the same time, however, a consistent and targeted approach is required to arrive at a solution to this long-disputed issue.”
Güldner went on to say: “Despite some controversy, a substantial report has been prepared.” Nevertheless, the Commission was unable to fulfil all hopes for a consensus. On this Güldner said: “In some parts of the Commission, there was an unfortunate tendency to focus on the past. At times, old controversies appeared more important than the conclusions deemed necessary to shape the future. This put a strain on the work and contributed to the fact that a scientific basis was not consistently used for all issues.”
An example of this can be seen in the specification, albeit it temporary, of a uniform maximum limit temperature for casks in the final repository which the Commission has made contrary to present scientific findings. This specification does not contribute to differentiating between sites and stands in opposition to exclusively safety-related optimization of the final repository system. Another example is the newly introduced assessment criterion for the overburden above the isolating rock zone which is over-emphasized in its current form without a safety advantage since the evaluation of any potential relevance to safety is already included in another assessment criterion.
Overall a feasible but very challenging process for arriving at a solution is defined with the proposals of the heterogeneously composed Commission. Güldner concluded: “Legislative implementation of the Commission’s recommendations are now on the horizon with the aim of achieving the disposal of high active waste in Germany for future generations. The complex and lengthy process will require a constructive, targeted approach from all those involved in which optimization steps must actively be sought during the process so that it does not become a never-ending story.”