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What are interim storage facilities?

  • Until it will be taken to a repository, radioactive waste from the operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants is to be stored for a limited period of time in special facilities.
  • Interim storage makes it possible to let the heat-generating waste decay, i.e. the residual radiation intensity and decay heat is reduced.
  • Pursuant to § 6 Atomic Energy Act, the BfE is the competent licensing authority for the storage of nuclear fuels in central and decentralised interim storage facilities.
  • Supervision of the licensed facilities is with the respective competent federal state authority.

Up until now there has been no operable, licensed radioactive waste repository available in Germany. Until it will be taken to a repository, radioactive waste from the operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants is therefore to be stored for a limited period of time in special facilities.

Interim storage makes it possible to let the heat-generating waste decay, i.e. the residual radiation intensity and decay heat is reduced. Thus, a simplified processing and possibly clearance of the substance is enabled and the need for repository volume is reduced.

Competence of the BfE for the storage of nuclear fuels in central and decentralised interim storage facilities

Pursuant to § 6 Atomic Energy Act, since 30. July 2016 the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE) is the competent licensing authority for the storage of nuclear fuels in central and decentralised interim storage facilities. It took on the tasks from the until then competent Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). Supervision of the licensed facilities is with the respective competent federal state authority.

Central interim storage facilities

In the central interim storage facilities, both spent fuel elements from the former operation of the nuclear power plants and from research reactors and high-level radioactive waste to be returned from reprocessing are stored intermediately in special transport and storage casks. These interim storage facilities were already licensed and constructed before 2002. In the case of a central interim storage facility (such as Ahaus and Gorleben), shipment of the transport and storage casks generally takes place along public transport routes.

Decentralised interim storage facilities

For some years, spent fuel elements having arisen during the remaining operating times of the nuclear power plants, have been stored dry in special transport and storage casks immediately at the NPP sites in so-called decentralised interim storage facilities. According to the cost-by-cause principle, the interim storage facilities need to be constructed and operated by the nuclear power plant operators.

As opposed to a central interim storage facility, this would only require shipment along public routes when the transport and storage casks will be shipped to a repository.

Competences of the federal state authorities as to the storage of other radioactive materials

Furthermore, radioactive waste is stored in the following facilities, which were licensed by the respective federal state authorities:

State of 2016.09.20

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