This case study was presented by Mr Detlef Appel (PanGeo, member of AKEnd), Mr Helmut Röthemeyer (Federal Office for Radiation Protection, BfS, and member of AkEnd), Reverend Eckhardt Kruse (Protestant Church of Lüchow-Dannenberg), Mr Albert Lennartz (WIBERA), Mrs Christine Mussel (University of Kassel).
Gorleben was introduced after the early steps of the German selection process when in 1973-75 the search for a host site for a National Waste Management Center started. Three salt domes were considered in Lower Saxony, but not Gorleben. Following local opposition on the three sites the Minister-President of Lower Saxony suggested Gorleben as an alternative site. In spite of Gartow local community’s opposition and of the organisation of a Citizens’ Action Committee (Bürgerinitiative) that proposal was accepted by the Federal Government. Under the 1976 Atomic Energy Act, the federal administration BfS is responsible for the application and operation of waste management.
As early as 1977 the County Council (“Kreistag”) requested that a commission with members of the local communities, representatives of the county and the state and federal government should follow up the activities regarding waste management in Gorleben. From 1978 to 1991 this Gorleben Commission met with the citizen initiative, land owners, the applicants, politicians and administrators on State, Federal and European Level and experts at various nuclear facilities. During these years the involvement of the Lüchow-Dannenberg Church has been constant to raise and discuss ethical issues as well as to play a role of local mediation between the various involved actors.
In 1979 the State Government organized a hearing as a result of which the Minister-President of Lower Saxony concluded that Gorleben should not become a waste management center but investigation for its feasibility as a repository site should be started. While above ground and then underground investigations were carried out, meetings were held to try to address the dissent. In the meantime a license was granted for a central interim storage facility for spent fuel and vitrified reprocessing waste, and a Pilot Conditioning Plant for spent fuel was built on the site. Gorleben became a focus point for demonstrations against nuclear waste management and more widely nuclear energy policy, particularly when reprocessed waste was being delivered.
In 2000 the “June Agreement” between the nuclear utility companies and the Federal Government to phase out nuclear energy stated that all exploration in Gorleben to study the feasibility of the salt dome repository should stop. During this moratorium, waste is to be stored on site while new directions are sought to manage waste on the long term. In this perspective the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) set up a Committee, AkEnd to develop a new siting procedure. The Committee’s mandate is to develop a procedure for the selection of a repository site for the disposal of all kinds of radioactive wastes in Germany, ready for operation in 2030. The principal objective of the procedure is to identify potential disposal sites in a comprehensible and reliable way and with well founded criteria and broad public participation. It is not the task of the Committee to carry out the procedure and to select or evaluate further sites, nor to apply the selection criteria to the existing disposal projects. The Committee comprises 15 members of widely different views on nuclear energy in general and nuclear waste management in particular.
Regarding the structure of the selection procedure the Committee has defined the following basic requirements:
o A clear and transparent structure is needed in order that progress, fairness and objectivity of the selection procedure can be easily followed and respective decisions are understood in the general public.
o Evaluation basis and criteria associated with the selection procedure must be fixed beforehand to avoid decisions which the public may perceive as not sufficiently justified or even arbitrary.
Akend has divided the "way to the repository" into three phases. The present phase aims at specifying the criteria and procedure by AkEnd. This encompasses dialogue with experts, environmentalists and other stakeholders. During phase 2 the proposals of the AkEnd group will be discussed nationwide. The completed and possibly modified master plan will then be implemented in phase 3 by a high ranking institutional body. Afterwards the site selection process actually unfolds. In the different phases the involvement of stakeholders is a key element which is expected to strengthen the reliability of the whole process. The siting process includes several steps from national screening to site characterization. Beside geoscientific and social-scientific criteria, one important dimension is that the site selection process should include regional development considerations. The facility has to fit into the future prospects of the region and this needs to be carefully built in and investigated throughout the third phase.
Last update - February 2005
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