Issue No.13 Summer
(July 2006)


ENS News

Auf Wiedersehen Peter

Nuclear Enery: too little too late?

ENS Events

RRFM 2006

TopSeal 2006

TopFuel 2006

ENC 2007

Pime 2007

Member Societies & Corporate Members

Petten research reactor converts to using low-enriched fuel

Neutron Kinetics of the Chernobyl Accident

Nuclear Option in Countries with Small and Medium Electricity Grids

Introduction to the Slovak Nuclear Society

Elections for the new Council of the Israel Nuclear Society

YGN Report

International Youth Nuclear Congress 2006

European Institutions

MEP Forum discusses economics of nuclear energy

MEPs’ fact-finding mission to Gorleben

ITRE Committee votes on amended Euratom FP7 budget

ENS World News

International Nuclear Societies Council - INSC

ENS Members

Links to ENS Member Societies

Links to ENS Corporate Members

Editorial staff
TopSeal 2006

TopSeal 2006

17.9. - 20.9.2006 Olkiluoto, Finland
TopFuel 2006

TopFuel 2006

22 - 26 October 2006 in Salamanca

ENC 2007

ENC 2007
16 - 19 September 2007 in Brussels


















































MEPs’ fact-finding mission to Gorleben

On 8 June 2006, a cross-party group of 12 MEPs and two MEP assistants, accompanied by senior officials of the Regional Government of Lower Saxony, nuclear industry representatives and a 7-strong party from FORATOM, visited the GNS (Gesellschaft für Nuklear Service) facilities at Gorleben, Germany.

Visit in Gorleben
from left to right: Dr. R. Linkohr (TREN), E. Herczog (MEP), A. Vidal-Quadras (MEP), P. Uhlmann (E.ON), C. Eberl (Staatssekretär)

The Competence Centre for Nuclear Waste Disposal facilities at Gorleben (the site was selected by Germany’s Federal Government from among 26 proposed locations) is one of four GNS sites in Europe – the others being at Plzen (Czech Republic) and Creys-Malville and Maubeuge (both in France). GNS is a joint venture involving four shareholding companies that participate financially in the enterprise: E-ON (48%); RWE (28%), SNE (Süwestdeutsche Nuklear-Entsorgungsgesellschaft mbH -18.5%) and Vattenfall (5.5%). GNS has four subsidiary companies that it partially or totally owns: BLG (Brennelementlager Gorleben GmbH) and BLZ (Brennelement Zwischenlager Ahaus) are specialised in the storage of spent fuel rods and high-active waste and have operations in Gorleben and Ahaus respectively; WTI (Wissenschaftlich Technische Ingeieurberatung GmbH) that provides technical expertise and consultancy services in the field of engineering and DBE (Deutsche Gesellschaft zum Bau und Betrieb von Endlagern für Abfallstoffe), which is specialised in the construction of storage facilities for radioactive waste and is the major partner in the salt mine operations.

Historical overview

Before visiting the facilities, the visitors were given a detailed overview of the history of spent fuel and radioactive waste management in Germany and of the Gorleben project. The political developments – at local, regional, national and international levels - that have shaped Gorleben’s history since it was first developed were of particular

A. Vidal-Quadras (MEP)
A. Vidal-Quadras (MEP)

interest to the MEPs and their assistants. In Germany, although the nuclear industry is responsible for the transport, interim storage, reprocessing and preparation for final disposal of spent nuclear fuels, it is the Federal Government that is responsible for the exploration, construction and operation of a final repository. However, it is the German nuclear industry that has to finance the exploration, construction and operation part of the equation.

The Gorleben facilities were originally intended to house a reprocessing site for spent nuclear fuel, an interim storage facility, a pilot conditioning plant and a site for a final repository for radioactive waste – in the Gorleben salt dome. However, in 1979, the plans to build the reprocessing plant at Gorleben were shelved for political reasons. A project to build a reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf (Bavaria) was also abandoned and all spent fuel produced in Germany was to be sent to La Hague (France) and Sellafield (UK).

Red-green coalition imposes moratorium

Chancellor Schroeder’s “red-green” coalition came to power in 1998. The new, essentially anti-nuclear government replaced the concept of a centralised interim storage facility with that of decentralised interim storage units at every nuclear power plant. This was done in order to avoid the problem of transporting spent nuclear fuel within Germany, which had become a much publicised cause célèbre among green activists bent on stoking up anti-nuclear public opinion. Instead, all high active waste from the reprocessing plants abroad was to be shipped to Gorleben.

In 2000, the German Government then suspended all the exploratory work going on into a deep geological final repository at the Gorleben salt dome, declaring a moratorium for a period of between 3 and 10 years (it is due to continue to 2010). The objective of the moratorium was to give all parties the chance to “clarify open questions” regarding a final repository. Although all those questions had been answered by the end of 2005, and the viability of a final repository 800m below ground in the Gorleben had been proven beyond all reasonable doubt, the moratorium has remained in place – for ostensibly political reasons. In fact a detailed assessment of the facilities, which was confirmed by the Federal Government, found absolutely no grounds whatsoever to suggest that Gorleben is not an ideal location. Consequently, the consensus view is that is no need to search for an alternative site somewhere else in Germany.

Staatssekretär Eberl
Staatssekretär C. Eberl

Experimental work goes ahead

In spite of the moratorium, experimental work into conditioning and interim storage stills continues at Gorleben, albeit it on a smaller scale than before. There are already around 68 special casks (called CASTOR containers) containing vitrified high active radioactive waste housed in the transport container area of the GNS interim storage facilities and another shipment is due to be stored there later in the year. Each cask satisfies the strict safety standards imposed by IAEA and controlled by EURATOM. There is room for a great deal more containers before the maximum capacity of 420 is reached.

Further experiments and geological work is still being carried in Gorleben by DBE in the miles of underground galleries in the salt dome. This work has further confirmed that salt is an ideal repository medium for spent fuel and vitrified high active waste.

As far as the separate issue of reprocessing is concerned, since the German Nuclear Power Act (“Atomgesetz”) came into effect in July 2005, it has been banned at all German power plants and spent fuel now has to be directly disposed of in a final repository after being stored in the interim storage facility and conditioned.

Visit and Workshop

After arriving at Gorleben the visitors listened to introductory remarks from Prof. Dr. Hartkopf, a member of the Managing Board of EnBW; Dr. Hans-Heinrich Sander, Environment Minister in the Regional Government of Lower Saxony; Dr. Peter Haug, Director General of FORATOM and Dr. Kleeman of BFS (Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection).

The tour of the facilities proper began with a visit to the pilot conditioning plant and the interim storage facilities for spent fuel and high-active waste, as well as for low and medium active waste.

After the tour was over, participants took part in a Workshop entitled Waste Management at Gorleben, Myth and Reality, which was organised by FORATOM. During the Workshop participants, especially the MEPs present, gave their views on some of the important political issues at stake. Ute Blohm-Hieber (Head of Unit, Nuclear Energy, DG TREN, European Commission) and Simon Webster (Head of Unit, Nuclear Fission and Radiation Protection, DG Science and Research, European Commission) then gave presentations on EU nuclear energy and research policy. Dr. Bruno Thomauske, Managing Director of Vatenfall Europe Nuclear Energy then exposed some of the myths surrounding Gorleben and gave an update of the current state of affairs. Finally, Dr. Christian Eberl, Secretary of State at the Environment Ministry of the Regional Government of Lower Saxony gave a political appraisal from a Regional Government perspective.

After the Workshop, a lively dinner debate followed during which MEPs from all sides of the political spectrum – including a Green Party MEP – questioned the speakers and exchanged views with the other participants.

from left to right: Dr. P. Haug (Foratom), K.-D. Grill ex MdB, Dr. M. Flachsbarth MdB
Ute Blohm-Hieber,
Ute Blohm-Hieber,

Raising awareness, applying political pressure

The objective of this fact-finding mission was to sensitise European politicians to the state-of-the-art work that GNS is carrying out at Gorleben and to the effective solutions that it offers with regard to the conditioning, interim storage and long-term geological storage of high active waste and spent fuel. Hopefully, visits of this kind will help raise awareness among national and European politicians of the assets of the Gorleben facility. Hopefully, they will help to accelerate the whole nuclear debate in Germany and publicise the economic, social and environmental aspects of the work that is being carried out at Gorleben. Above all, they can help put pressure on the Federal Government in Germany to lift the current moratorium on the Gorleben operations and to kick start Germany’s dormant radioactive waste management and storage programme. Time will tell.

One fact that was obvious was that Gorleben could quite easily be made “fully operational” and that assuming that exploration was resumed quickly, final storage in the salt dome could be a reality by 2025.

Home l Top l Disclaimer l Copyright l Webmaster