Swiss propose nuclear waste storage site near German border

Sep 11, 2022, 1:31 PM | Updated: Sep 12, 2022, 1:33 am

BERLIN (AP) — Switzerland’s nuclear waste authority has proposed building the country’s permanent waste storage site close to the border with Germany, a decision viewed warily by its northern neighbor.

The choice of the Noerdlich Laegern site ends a 14-year search for a preferred location, itself preceded by previous failed attempts. The head of waste authority Nagra, Matthias Braun, said on Monday that “the geology has spoken” and “Noerdlich Laegern is the best location with the biggest safety reserves.”

Two other locations had been under consideration for a site that is meant to be the permanent home for all Switzerland’s nuclear waste, which is currently kept at temporary storage facilities.

A thick level of opalinus clay, which is “very dense” and “binds radioactive material almost like a magnet,” is key to the choice of the site, Braun told reporters in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Nagra’s choice is only the start of a long process. It’s expected to be years before the government can sign off on the site, which would still need approval from parliament and possibly face a referendum. Construction could start in 2045, with the first waste being stored around 30 years from now.

The site is very close to the border with Germany, which is at best ambivalent toward nuclear power. The last three German nuclear power plants are due to shut at the end of this year, though the government wants to keep the option of reactivating two of them in case of an energy shortage in the following months.

A deputy German environment minister, Christian Kuehn, told news agency dpa after news of the choice first emerged over the weekend that the site would put “a great strain” on nearby areas. The mayor of the nearby German town of Hohentengen, Martin Benz, made clear that he wants information on possible accident scenarios and plans to deal with them.

Germany hasn’t yet chosen a permanent storage site for its own nuclear waste and isn’t expected to until 2031. A new search for a storage site, which authorities hope to start using in 2050, was launched two years ago.

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