The International Atomic Energy Agency assesses Germany’s radioactive waste management.

The International Atomic Energy Agency assesses Germany’s radioactive waste management.

The Konrad minesite – a former iron ore mine – is currently being converted into a repository for low- and intermediate-level waste (Image: BGE)

Germany made positive changes to its radioactive waste management program following recommendations from the 2019 IAEA ARTEMIS review. The team noted a majority of the initial recommendations and suggestions had been addressed and advised Germany to apply them consistently across future activities related to the cost assessment of the RFWM program.

The ARTEMIS follow-up mission was carried out at the request of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety & Consumer Protection (BMUV) to review the implementation of findings identified during the initial ARTEMIS mission in 2019. It was hosted by Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit gGmbH (GRS), a Germany-based professional organization specializing in nuclear safety, which is based in Cologne.

The follow-up mission focused on the management and implementation of the RWM program. This includes covering national policy and strategy for the management of radioactive waste, applying selection criteria in the identification of a site for disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste, and cost assessments for the RWM program. The follow-up mission also reviewed the national plan and cost estimates for retrieving waste from ASSE II’s former salt mine.

One example of this, as Patrice François, Senior Expert in Radioactive Waste Management & Decommissioning at the Institute for Radiological Protection & Nuclear Safety in France said: “Germany has shown its dedication to meeting the findings from ARTEMIS 2019 and has shown a strong commitment to transparency of communications with regards to improving standards of safety in implementing its national program on radioactive waste management.”

The Federal Government of Germany has shut down the country’s power plants that use nuclear power in an effort to establish a safeguard for their future energy supply. The three-remaining operational NPPs were planned to be shut down by the end of 2022, but due to the current energy crisis these reactors, with a total net capacity of 4000 MWe, will remain in operation until 15 April 2023. With 33 reactors across Germany, including the three currently in operation and six, permanently withdrawn from operation, significant amounts of radioactive waste are generated by decommissioning activities. To provide for its safe management, this material will need to be stored until it can be disposed of safely.

Germany does not currently have a high-level radioactive waste dumping facility. The Morsleben dumping site ceased accepting waste and is shutting down. A new disposal site for low-level and intermediate-level waste is being constructed at the former iron ore mine Konrad. Germany is currently searching for a potential dumping site for its high-level radioactive waste.

This mission included interviews and discussions with representatives of BMU, GRS, the Federal Office for Nuclear Waste Management (BASE), the Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Management (BGE), the Company for Storage (BGZ) as well attending a site visit to the Biblis NPP, a pressurized water reactor in the permanent shutdown in order to observe the status of dismantling and radioactive waste management there.

Using their experience in both international and domestic food, the team has found that Germany has successfully taken many of the recommended actions from the 2019 mission. Out of the three recommendations and 12 suggestions identified in the initial mission, two recommendations and two suggestions require further development, including:

  • The Cost Report will be updated to consider the cost of the national waste management program according to a consistent approach across all activities. This will include retrieving wastes from the Asse II mine.
  • The Risk and Uncertainty Element in the costing assessment for all public sector elements of the radioactive waste and spent fuel management program needs to be analyzed.
  • The geosphere requirements for non-heat-generating waste can differ from those for high-level waste. The best way to take them into account is to use the disposal facility siting criteria in this study.
  • By making more use of the radioactive waste inventory, we can monitor changes in inventory over time to demonstrate how efforts to minimize waste are working.

Gerrit Niehaus, Director General for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Safety of BMUV said: “We are happy that we were able to demonstrate progress in 2019. Most of the findings from this year have been resolved, with no new ones being identified. If any outstanding findings arise in the future, they will be used to guide our work towards further improving the safe management of radioactive waste in Germany as well as our national program.”

The final report will be complete in about two months and given to the Government once it is finished.

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