Navigation and service

Interim storage facilities for nuclear fuels: Checkpoint security

The Federal Environment Ministry informs

The Federal Environment Ministry is responsible for the determination of the general safety requirements.

With regard to the licensing of interim storage facilities for nuclear fuels, the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE) as the competent licensing authority examines whether the requirements are complied with by measures taken by the operators of the interim storage facilities.

The Federal Environment Ministry provides information about

  • fundamentals of security,
  • the functionality of the integrated security and protection concept,
  • the load assumptions, and
  • the protection goals

on its website (in German only).

The term security comprises the necessary protection against disruptive actions or other intervention of third parties (SEWD) for all nuclear facilities and installations. This also includes acts motivated by terrorism.

Foundations of protection against disruptive actions and other interference by third parties

The Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE) is responsible for licensing the storage of nuclear fuels in interim storage facilities. It has to examine whether the legal requirements for granting a nuclear licence pursuant to § 6 AtG are fulfilled. Pursuant to § 6 para. 2 no. 4 AtG, this includes the examination of whether the required protection against SEWD (such as criminal actions, terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage) is guaranteed.

Like in general (technical) plant security, the key factor here is the best possible prevention against damage and risks. A licence is only granted when danger and risks as a result of SEWD may be considered to be practically ruled out according to the state of the art of science and technology.

Several particularities mark the topic of SEWD, however:

Integrated security and protection concept

The protection of the population against crime and terrorism is among the key federal tasks, in particular of the police. If individual private organisations operate facilities or perform actions and if said actions or facilities may be damaging in case of criminal or terrorist acts, the state can call these private organisations to account to help the state fulfil its duty. For the interim storage of nuclear fuels this has been set out in § 6 para. 2 no. 4 AtG (protection of SEWD).

The objective of the regulation – practically ruling out danger and risks according to the state of the art of science and technology - is thus achieved by the synergy of all measures taken by the state and the respective private organisations. Therefore this is called an “Integrated security and protection concept”.

The examination by the BfE in the scope of the licensing procedure only comprises the part of the measures the respective private applicant is responsible for. Once the applicant has complied with the requirements, the prerequisite is given for granting the storage licence pursuant to § 6 AtG.

Act controlled by will

In terms of assessing the prevention against damage and risks, it is of special importance how probable the occurrence of a damaging event is. In the case of SEWD, it is not possible to take the measures used in the area of technical plant security, since SEWD events are not about probabilities of failure of technical components, which can be forecast objectively - i.e. they can be determined on a scientific or engineering basis; they are rather about probabilities with regard to the realisation of events controlled by will: Whether an SEWD event occurs largely depends on the subjective considerations and decisions of the party having caused the problem.

Instead of the objectively determined probability of failure, the responsible state and federal state security authorities therefore determine with a specified procedure what events have to be expected from what interferer (crime scenarios). Various aspects are included in this assessment, which is subject to ongoing examination: e.g. the expected motivation of potential perpetrators, expected size of the crime group, suicide readiness of perpetrators, possible armament (can the weapons be reached objectively, are they available), possible general helps. On the basis of this assessment, concrete specifications are derived and laid down by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) in the so-called SEWD Guidelines. Their main content must not be made public, so that no clues will be given to potential perpetrators. The BfE has to apply these Guidelines in its licensing procedure but does not establish them.

Protection goals

Pursuant to the SEWD Guidelines of the BMUB, it has to be examined in the scope of the licensing procedure whether the required protection is ensured when the crime scenarios are executed. In concrete terms, that means that the following must be prevented for these crime scenarios:

  • Theft of the nuclear fuels to be stored
  • A considerable release of nuclear fuels. Based on the SEWD calculation basis, the resulting radiation exposure to persons of all age groups at the nearest residential area and/or workplace must not exceed 100 millisievert effective dose.

Targeted air crash

As a consequence of the events of 11 September 2001 it can no longer be ruled out that also an interim storage facility in Germany may become the aim of a targeted attack with a wide-bodied aircraft. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s (BMI) assessment, a deliberately caused air crash on a nuclear facility is not probable. With regard to the procedure for up-dating the crime scenarios, the responsible state and federal state security authorities decided that the deliberate crash of an aircraft on a nuclear facility is not a crime scenario one has to expect. At the same time they have determined that it cannot be ruled out generally. In the aftermath of 11 September 2001, the BfS - as at that time competent licensing authority - brought attention to this changed security situation in the licensing procedures for interim storage facilities.

As the responsible licensing authority since 30 July 2016, the BfE therefore tests the effects of a targeted crashing of a wide-body aircraft. This had been done previously by the BfS as an enhancement to the test scenarios set out in the SEWD Guidelines, which are to be carried out by the BfE as part of the interim storage procedures. Accordingly, such an event must not lead to the resulting radiation exposure exceeding 100 millisievert effective dose at the place of the nearest residential area and/or workplace.

State of 2017.02.07

© Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management