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Storage capacities for radioactive residues and waste from decommissioning projects

When nuclear facilities are decommissioned and dismantled, radioactive residues and waste accrue whose storage is already taken into account when decommissioning is being planned.

Before the radioactive waste accruing in the process of dismantling can be taken to a repository for low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste, it needs to be treated, packaged in a way that is suitable for disposal (conditioned) and then stored in an interim storage facility. Providing sufficient storage areas for the accruing residues and waste optimises the dismantling process inside the nuclear facility to be decommissioned.

Experiences in decommissioning gained so far in Germany show that the decommissioning and dismantling of nuclear power plants do not depend on when the Konrad repository is taken into operation. For example, for the Stade NPP, which has been under decommissioning since 2005, a new interim storage facility has been built especially for waste from decommissioning. For the Würgassen NPP, which has been under decommissioning since 1997, available space has been used for the interim storage of decommissioning waste. The same applies to available storage facilities. Both decommissioning projects are already well advanced.

Types of storage facilities

Depending on their purpose of use and time of storage, the following storage facility types are distinguished:

  • Interim storage facility:

    In an interim storage facility, waste packages that have been packaged in a manner that is suitable for disposal (conditioned) are stored intermediately until they can be taken to a repository that is ready to accept the waste.

  • Buffer storage facility:

    A buffer storage facility is positioned between two successive processing stages and has the task to ensure maximum smooth workflow.

  • Decay storage facility:

    The decay storage facility serves to reduce the activity due to radioactive decay. In this storage facility, residues (also large components) are stored until they can be cleared (= released from the scope of the Atomic Energy Act) or processed further. Decay storage is used e.g. for dissected metal scrap but also for non-dissected large components such as reactor pressure vessel or steam generator.

  • Transport preparation storage facility:

    In the transport preparation storage facility residues or waste that have been packaged in a way that they are suitable for transportation are stored until they can be delivered to external facilities.

Provision of storage capacities

For eight German nuclear power plants the authorisation for power operation expired on 6 August 2011; this is followed by a post-operational phase of several years.

Several options to provide the necessary storage capacities plant-specifically are addressed in the applications for decommissioning and dismantling these nuclear power plants that have been submitted to the competent federal state authorities so far.

  • Existing internal or external storage facilities should be used,
  • rooms and facility areas inside the nuclear power plant should be used as storage facilities, or
  • new interim on-site storage facilities should be built.

Why sufficient storage capacities are necessary

In the past, storage capacities were created for the residues and waste from decommissioning projects. Corresponding storage capacities are necessary, irrespective of an existing repository. They will continue to be necessary, also after the Konrad repository has been taken into operation. That is due to the fact that the waste needs to be processed, packaged and initially stored intermediately in situ. Besides, the future Konrad repository can only accept a limited volume of low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste per year. Moreover, the waste has to be taken to the Konrad repository according to a schedule that has been co-ordinated with all waste producers.

Furthermore, providing sufficient storage capacities for the residues and waste optimises the dismantling process inside the nuclear facility to be decommissioned. Thus plant components in the nuclear power plant units can be dismantled irrespective of whether stored residues and large components are dissected and further processed later on.

State of 2017.07.06

© Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management