Research

Research and development are important components for the successful implementation of the search for a repository site and the development of repository concepts for heat-generating high-level radioactive waste. The search for a suitable repository site in Germany is legally regulated by the Repository Site Selection Act (StandAG). For the implementation of the site selection procedure, we, as the project sponsor, identify relevant research and development needs and compile them in a research agenda. The agenda is divided into the following five research fields:

  • Radiotoxic and chemotoxic behaviour of radioactive waste and its evolution
  • Geoscientific questions
  • Repository concept
  • Preliminary safety investigations
  • Social sciences

The prioritisation of research and development needs results from the degree of urgency (i.e. the point at which the respective results are needed in the multi-phase site selection procedure) as well as their importance for the procedure.

Research co-operations and projects of the Site Selection Division of the BGE (last revised: June 2020)

The Site Selection Division of the Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung mbH (BGE) initiates, supports, and carries out research projects and studies. The division exchanges information on the state and application of knowledge and technology in national and international cooperation projects. Furthermore, the site selection division participates in national and international research projects.

 

EURAD is the European Union’s joint research programme on radioactive waste management and disposal. This is a Co-Funding European Joint Programme (EJP) under Horizon2020 (H2020-Euratom-1.2). The projects are financed by the participating partner organisations with a share of EU funding. More information on EURAD can be found here (external link).

The overall objectives of the joint research programme are:

  • to assist Member States in the development and application of their national research and development programmes for the safe management of different types of radioactive waste
  • to develop and consolidate knowledge regarding the safe operation of radioactive waste repositories
  • to improve the transfer of knowledge between participating organisations and Member States.

Each EU Member State can send one project promoter (Waste Management Organisation – WMO), one expert organisation (Technical Support Organisation – TSO) and one or two Research Entities (RE) as programme partners. With a mandate from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the BGE participates as the German waste management organisation in four EURAD projects.

  • UMAN (Uncertainty Management multi-actor network) is a strategic study on the management of uncertainties in the disposal and management of radioactive waste. The aim of UMAN is to promote the understanding of different views and preferences on risks and how to deal with uncertainties among the various stakeholders (WMO, TSO, RE) together with representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs). In the framework of the study, the project partners and citizens’ representatives share their assessments and experiences through questionnaires, workshops, and forums. Finally, the results of the study should help to ensure the appropriate and comprehensible handling of uncertainties.
  • The SoK (State of Knowledge) project is part of the EURAD Knowledge Management Programme. The aim is to pool existing global expertise in the field of radioactive waste disposal and management and make it available to the various national disposal programmes.
  • GAS (Mechanistic understanding of gas transport in clay materials) aims to develop scientific methods for a better understanding of radionuclide transport via the gas phase in clay (geological barrier) and bentonite (geotechnical barrier) in order to assess the impact of gas transport on the safety of the barrier system.
  • HITEC (Influence of temperature on clay-based material behaviour) is concerned with the development of scientific methods to better understand the influence of elevated temperature conditions on clay (geological barrier) and bentonite (geotechnical barrier). The focus is on the modelling of coupled thermal, hydraulic, and mechanical (THM) processes in order to assess how temperature increases affect the integrity of the barrier system.

The IGD-TP is a research co-operation of European project promoters to promote the implementation of the national disposal programmes for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste. The board was established in November 2009 on the initiative of the European Commission and European project promoters. The BGE has been a full member of the steering group since October 2019 and is involved in joint projects (e.g. on the effects of climate change). More information on the activities of the IGD-TP can be found here (external link).

 

In 1992, the international research collaboration consisting of organisations from the area of nuclear waste management (e.g. project promoters, regulatory authorities, research, and modelling teams) was started. The aim of DECOVALEX is to jointly address challenges related to coupled THM and THMC processes (modelling of coupled thermal, hydraulic, mechanical and chemical processes) in order to provide support for the development of numerical simulators for THM and THMC processes in geological systems, to investigate and implement suitable algorithms for THM and THMC modelling, to compare model calculations with results from field and laboratory tests, and to develop new experiments to support code and model development. More information on DECOVALEX can be found here (external link).

The BGE and the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology are participating in a long-term test of an emplacement route in the Mont Terri Rock Laboratory in Switzerland. The aim is the integrity assessment of the composite of geotechnical and geological barrier.

  • Salt Club: Further development and exchange of scientific information on rock salt as host rock formation for deep geological repositories for high-level radioactive waste.
  • Clay Club: Characterisation, understanding, and description of the suitability of clay rocks as host rock for a repository for high-level radioactive waste.
  • Crystalline Club: Dealing with questions concerning crystalline rocks as host rock for a repository for high-level radioactive waste.

The eighth International Clay Conference is organised by ANDRA and was scheduled to take place in Nancy, France, from 8 to 11 June 2020. However, because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the eighth International Clay Conference will take place in Nancy, France, from 14 to 17 June 2021. More information on the Clay Conference can be found here (external link).

During the conference, scientific findings (e.g. results from laboratory experiments and in situ tests in underground laboratories) on the use of clay as a geotechnical and geological barrier in the repository will be presented and discussed. The BGE is represented in the “Scientific Committee” of the Clay Conference 2021.

The 2022/2023 Clay Conference will be hosted by the BGE and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and will take place in the Hanover area.

In accordance with the StandAG, the host rocks rock salt, clay rock, and crystalline rock are considered for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Germany. The Mont Terri Rock Laboratory in Switzerland is located in Opalinus clay (Lower Middle Jurassic), which is also designated as a potential host rock formation in Germany. The BGE became an official partner in the Mont Terri project in July 2020. The high number of experiments in the rock laboratory offers the possibility of a good transferability of the results obtained to the Opalinus clay available in Germany. More information on the Mont Terri Rock Laboratory can be found here (external link).