The Act Modernising the Repository Site Selection Act and other Legislation, which governs the selection process for a repository for heat-generating nuclear waste, entered into force on 20 July 2017. The new legislation stipulates how the recommendations made by the Commission on the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Waste (in German) are to be implemented. In doing so, it also implements a provision of the 2013 version of the Repository Site Selection Act, which had stipulated a revision of its own provisions in the light of the results of the work of the Commission on the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Waste.

The Repository Site Selection Act lays down the criteria that will exclude a site from being selected, minimum requirements for a site to be considered, and the criteria to be used when weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of different sites. Similarly, the Act also sets out the requirements in terms of organisational structures, the selection procedure and the ways in which alternative options must be considered and the public involved in the process. Furthermore, the legislation provides for a transparent procedure.

The aim of the open-ended site selection procedure under this Act is to conduct a science-based, transparent procedure without any advance stipulations (starting from a “blank map”) to find a site for a final repository, in particular for highly radioactive waste, which offers the best possible safety and security for a period of a million years. The process is to be completed by 2031. Regarding the site selection procedure, the Act stipulates the following:

  • The waste is to be stored within the territory of the Federal Republic and in a deep geological formation. This could be in rock salt, clay or crystalline rock.
  • The mine within which the repository is situated is to be sealed off permanently, but in a way that allows for the waste to be recovered during the entire operational stage and at any time during the 500 years following the sealing of the site.
  • A comparative procedure is to be used to single out the site that will be the most secure for a duration of one million years.
  • The selection process is to be designed as an inclusive, science-based, transparent and learning procedure that has built-in loops to ensure that decisons are called into question.
  • There are detailed provisions regulating the structure of the relevant bodies to ensure that the general public can participate in the process at the regional and national levels.

The OECD/NEA and the IAEA have confirmed that today’s state of the art already already allows for highly radioactive, heat-generating waste to be stored safely in deep geological formations.

Studies to assess the advantages and disadvantages of the various possible types of host rock (rock salt, clay, crystalline rock), of different repository designs and of different containers are being conducted as part of the dedicated research receiving funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and by the research institutions attached to the Ministry (Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (in German) and Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (in German)). Reports can be found on the websites of the Project Management Agency in Karlsruhe (in German), the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources and of the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing.

Germany has officially approved Schacht Konrad (in German) as a final repository for low and intermediate level radioactive waste. Since 2007, this former mine is being transformed into a final repository where operations are due to start in 2027.

Ownership of the former final repository for low and intermediate level waste from the GDR in Morsleben (ERAM) (in German) transferred to the Federation when Germany reunified. The placement of radioactive waste in storage there ceased in 1998. Stabilisation measures have been carried out since 2003. The final repository is to be closed down and securely sealed for the long term.