Actors and tasks in relation to the Morsleben repository

Article 73(1) of the Basic Law gives the federal government exclusive legislative power with respect to the disposal of radioactive substances. The responsibilities for the final disposal of radioactive waste are regulated in the Atomic Energy Act (AtG). Section 9a(3) of the Act assigns the task of constructing repositories for radioactive waste to the Federal Republic of Germany.

The federal government has delegated this task and the associated sovereign powers to the BGE but continues to play a supervisory role.

Among others, the following actors are involved in the decommissioning of the Morsleben repository:

Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV)

The Federal Environment Ministry (BMUV) is a partner in the BGE and is tasked with the technical and legal supervision of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE, which was known as the Federal Office for Nuclear Disposal, BfE, until 31 December 2019). The BMUV is the supervisory authority for corresponding activities on the part of the federal states. In order to obtain technical advice in relation to the Morsleben repository, it consulted the German Commission on Radiological Protection in 2010 and the Nuclear Waste Management Commission (ESK) in 2011, both of which are expert bodies that provide advice to the Federal Environment Ministry.

Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE)

Like the BGE, the BASE was founded as part of the reorganisation of final disposal activities in Germany. Working on behalf of the federal government, it is the regulatory and supervisory authority for the final disposal of radioactive waste and therefore also the supervisor of the Morsleben repository under nuclear law. Applications from the BGE that do not imply significant changes in the permanent operating licence are processed by the BASE, which is the licensing authority for all newly submitted repository projects in Germany.

Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung mbH (BGE)

The BGE is a federally owned company that the Repository Site Selection Act (StandAG) tasks with searching for, constructing and operating a repository for high-level radioactive waste materials. Since April 2017, it has also been the operator of the Asse II mine and the Konrad and Morsleben repositories.

In the procedure that is currently underway in relation to the decommissioning of the Morsleben repository, the BGE is assuming the role of applicant. As part of this role, the BGE must demonstrate to the licensing authority that the measures proposed in the “Decommissioning Plan” are technically feasible. It must also optimise these measures and demonstrate that the decommissioning process in line with the state of the art of science and technology will meet the safety objectives. If, at the end of the decommissioning licensing procedure, a planning approval decision has been issued, it is the responsibility of the BGE to implement this decision. Should the BGE – as the applicant – disagree with the outcome of the procedure, it has the right to file a complaint against it.

Saxony-Anhalt Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Energy (MULE)

The state environment ministry is the competent licensing and planning authority and must decide on the decommissioning concept submitted by the BGE. To this end, it can consult experts with regard to the technical assessment of the submitted documents. As the licensing authority, the state environment ministry is also responsible for carrying out the legally stipulated public participation process (publishing documents, receiving objections, and holding a public hearing). Following careful examination of the planning documents and the objections, it is the responsibility of the state environment ministry to reach a planning decision. Possible outcomes include the granting of a licence with or without conditions, as well as the rejection of the plans.  

Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Geology and Mining (LAGB)

The LAGB reports to the Saxony-Anhalt Ministry of Economy, Science and Digitalisation and is responsible for licensing and supervisory matters in accordance with the Federal Mining Act (BBergG). It is intended to ensure the safety of mining operations and to avert dangers that can arise from mining activities. In 2003, for example, it ordered comprehensive measures to secure the mine cavities in the central section of the Morsleben repository.

General public and others

As well as individuals, the broader definition of the general public also includes, for example, the surrounding municipalities, environmental associations, and citizens’ initiatives, all of which have a legitimate interest in the work of the BGE.

The general public has specific rights as part of the decommissioning procedure under nuclear law: for example, the decommissioning plan had to be made available for public inspection, and objections could be raised. Once the licensing authority has reached a planning decision, affected individuals or groups have the opportunity to submit a complaint against this decision.

In summer 1994, an environmental organisation organised a blockade of the repository to protest against the resumption of radioactive waste emplacement.