Navigation and service

Licensing of interim storage facilities

If one intends to store nuclear fuels outside a nuclear power plant in an interim storage facility, this requires a licence granted by the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE). The BfE examines whether the necessary safety for the storage according to the state of the art of science and technology is ensured. The owner of the radioactive material or, respectively, the operator of the interim storage facility as licence holder has the responsibility that all necessary licences are available at any time.

Tasks of the applicant

In order to get a licence for an interim storage facility, the applicant needs to declare the following:

  • Which nuclear fuels (type and volume) are to be stored in which containers?
  • For how long are the nuclear fuels to be stored in the facility?
  • How is the storage facility to be designed?
  • How is the storage facility to be equipped technically?
  • Who carries out the storage?
  • What safeguards are planned?

Examination by the BfE

According 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. It has taken over this task from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) that had been responsible until then. In the licensing procedure the BfE examines

  • The safety of the storage according to the state of the art of science and technology,
  • The protection from disruptive actions or other third-party intervention (SEWD),
  • The reliability of the applicant and of the persons responsible for the management and supervision of the storage,
  • The expertise of the persons responsible for the management and supervision of the storage and
  • The necessary financial security (liability insurance).

Participation of the public

Participation of the public is regulated in the provisions of the Law on the Environmental Impact Assessment (UVPG) and the Ordinance concerning Procedures according to Atomic Energy Act (AtVfV).. According to these provisions, public participation is required if the application according to § 6 Atomic Energy Act is classified to require EIA and thus an environmental impact assessment must be carried out. Generally, that applies to all new applications. For all modification applications filed later on, the duty to carry out an EIA and thus the participation of the public needs to be examined in individual cases.

Participation of the public is done according to the provisions of the AtVfV and comprises the following steps:

  • Announcement of the project in the "Bundesanzeiger" and in local daily newspapers
  • Public display of the documents relating to the project through the BfE: During the period of display of two months affected citizens can raise objections on this basis and submit them to the BfE.
  • Hearing: The objections are included in the licensing procedure and are discussed with the objectors in a hearing.

Participation of authorities

Already during the licensing procedure, which runs over several years in most cases, the BfE collaborates with the relevant Länder authorities, in particular the nuclear regulatory authorities, safety and building authorities. If necessary, the BfE requests information and the authorities can ask questions and promote their interests at any time.

Once the BfE has completed its checks of content with a positive result, the licence draft goes through a formal participatory procedure with the authorities. The procedure starts with the BfE submitting the draft licence for consideration to its supervisory authority, the Federal Environment Ministry, The draft serves as a basis for a statement by the responsible Länder authorities. Possible objections or modifications are examined by the BfE.

Following the participation of the authorities, the applicant has the right to be heard: Before the licence is granted, the applicant gets the opportunity to make a statement on the draft licence.

Granting the licence

The decision for the storage is a so-called conditional decision (conditional administrative measure). That means the licence must be granted when the licensing requirements are met. Thus, the licensing authority does not have any discretionary power in terms of its licence decision.

Modification of an existing licence

Each licence for an interim storage facility exactly states

  • The licensed volume and composition of the nuclear fuels,
  • The type of the storage container used, and
  • The technical equipment of the storage facility.

The operator has to file an application to the BfE for each essential modification. This may become necessary if the operator wants to

  • Store nuclear fuels with a different composition stored up to now,
  • Use storage containers of a different/more modern design,
  • Modify the technical equipment of the storage facility or
  • Make modifications to the storage facility.

In the scope of a modification licence, all components of the storage facility the modifications applied for refer to are examined according to the effective regulations.

Besides, it is determined in a pre-examination whether the modification of the storage licence is so serious that it requires a new environmental impact assessment. The findings of the prior review is published on the BfE website (temporarily also on the BfS website) and in the local daily newspapers at the respective interim storage facility location. Should an environmental impact assessment become necessary, the public is involved once again.

Also in the case of modification licences the applicant is entitled to a licence upon compliance with all licensing requirements. In this case, the BfE as licensing authority does not have any margin of discretion.

Supervision of interim storage facilities under nuclear legislation

Supervision of interim storage facilities under nuclear legislation is with the competent federal state authority. The supervisory authorities of the federal states monitor whether the requirements for the previously granted licences continue to be fulfilled. Upon detection of deviations from the licences, they have the power to issue direct orders to the interim storage facility operators.

With the approval of the respective supervisory authority, the interim storage facility operators can carry out minimal modifications of a storage facility. This concerns in particular the editorial adaptation of licensing documents to e.g. state-of-the-art technical standards.

Further licences

The BfS and BfE licences concern the storage of nuclear fuels and the associated handling of the nuclear fuels within the storage facility. Additionally, as for any other building, the operator needs to have a construction licence to build an interim storage facility. The applicant needs to apply for this licence at the competent building authority.

An additional construction licence may be necessary for constructional modifications for which the BfE grants a nuclear modification licence. It is the responsibility of the operator as the licence holder that all necessary licences are available.

State of 2017.03.06

© Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management