Site selection procedure
Since 2013, the map of Germany has been blank again. With the passing of the first Site Selection Act (StandAG), the search for a site for a repository for high-level radioactive waste was sent back to square one. Following the amendment of the Site Selection Act in 2017, the Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal (BGE) has been tasked with finding a site by 2031 that offers the greatest possible safety for the containment of high-level radioactive waste.
In summer 2017, the BGE began the process of searching for a site by making several requests for data to the federal and state authorities. On 28 September 2020 the BGe submited the Sub-areas Intermin Report. This will be followed by the first step of public participation, which is the responsibility of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management, or the BASE for short (until 31 December 2019, the BASE was known as the Federal Office for Nuclear Disposal, BfE). In turn, the BGE provides transparent information on an ongoing basis about the measures it undertakes as part of the site selection procedure.
Phase 1 – Selection of possible siting regions
In the first step, unsuitable areas are ruled out. If one of the six exclusion criteria in the Site Selection Act is met, a region or location is no longer considered as a potential site for a repository. All minimum requirements must be met in order to verify the fundamental suitability of the subsurface geology. The geoscientific consideration criteria are then applied in order to weigh up particularly suitable sub-areas relative to less suitable sub-areas.
After the Sub-areas Interim Report is published, representative preliminary safety analyses will be compiled for the potential sub-areas. Based on these findings, and on the findings of a renewed application of the geoscientific consideration criteria and of the first application of the theoretical planning consideration criteria, the BGE makes proposals as to which siting regions should undergo surface exploration.
The BGE conveys these proposals, along with the corresponding exploration programmes, to the BASE. The German Bundestag and the Bundesrat decide which siting regions will undergo surface exploration.
Phase 2 – Surface exploration
The BGE undertakes surface exploration of the siting regions selected by federal law in accordance with the site-specific exploration programmes. Based on the exploratory findings, the BGE conducts further-developed preliminary safety analyses and applies the various requirements and criteria. The BGE prepares socio-economic potential analyses for the siting regions. The work of the BGE feeds into reasoned proposals regarding the sites to undergo underground exploration.
The BASE reviews the proposals and defines exploration programmes and examination criteria accordingly. It is then once again up to the Bundestag and the Bundesrat to decide which sites will undergo underground exploration. At this point, a judicial review can also be brought before the Federal Administrative Court.
Phase 3 – Underground exploration
The BGE conducts underground exploration of the sites and compiles comprehensive preliminary safety analyses. In this phase, the requirements and criteria are also applied in accordance with the Site Selection Act. The BGE conveys the findings to the BASE, which then initiates an environmental impact assessment.
Conclusion – Site proposal and decision
Based on the available findings, the BASE proposes the site for a repository for, in particular, heat-generating radioactive waste. Once again, the decision regarding the site is made by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.