A struggle over trust

Written by  Martin Arnold

When a site has finally been chosen as a repository for nuclear waste, the population has to be won over. This is a difficult task.



In Switzerland, Nagra (National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste) is responsible for the final disposal of nuclear waste, but the process of selecting a site is led by the Federal Office of Energy (FOE). The Swiss Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) is the supervisory authority and is assisted by the Expert Group on Nuclear Waste Disposal (EGT, the successor of the Commission for Nuclear Waste Disposal or KNE). The Federal Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) issues an independent second-opinion and states its position on the ENSI report. All of this is laid down in the Swiss radiation protection legislation. Nagra was founded in 1972 by the Swiss Confederation and the operators of the nuclear power plants, which turn are owned to a large extent by the cantons. An important element of its work is the demonstration of disposal feasibility, i.e. being able to demonstrate the feasibility of radioactive waste disposal. In 2006, the Federal Council, i.e., the Swiss government, accepted the demonstration of the feasibility of the Opalinus Clay Project. In 2008, the Federal Council established new rules for the site selection process for deep geological repositories, and that same year Nagra proposed to the federal authorities six siting regions for a deep geological repository for low- and intermediate-level waste. The choice was narrowed down to two siting regions at the end of January 2015, and it is now very likely that a high-level waste repository will be built in the Jura Ost (in the Aargau Jura mountains) or Zürcher Nordost (a region in the north of the canton of Zurich) siting regions. Whether low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste will be stored at the same location is still an open issue. Further in-depth studies are now continuing until 2020. Afterwards, Nagra will prepare the general licence applications, which are the basis for a deep repository. According to the current timeline, a deep repository for high-level waste would then go into operation in 2060. Prior to that, Nagra will build a rock laboratory at the site to operate and test the concept of retrievability. As a first step in building a deep repository, a pilot facility will be built where the development of the deep repository can be monitored up until it is finally closed. The possibility of retrieving the stored containers back to the Earth's surface (retrievability) has become a central component of disposal concepts in a number of countries.

Read more:

Jürg Rasi, Farmer, Switzerland: "No trust."

Käthi Furrer, co-president of KLAR! Switzerland: "Our opposition is forcing to truly find the best solutions"


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