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Key data on the search process

The Site Selection Act defines the individual steps of the search and selection process aimed at the safe storage of the high-level radioactive waste. This process is supposed to be transparent, based on scientific insights and free of preconceived opinions as to its outcome. The objective is to find a repository site that will offer the best possible safety for one million years.

Role of the BfE

The Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE) will play a key role in this process: The BfE will control the search for a repository site on behalf of the federal government and will organise the participation by the public.

Multistep procedure involving the public and the legislator

The selection of the repository site consists of several steps including the involvement of the public at the regional and national level. The Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung (BGE) is the project developer. The BGE will apply a multistep procedure for the development of proposals with respect to sub-areas, regions and sites as well as site-specific exploratory programmes and test criteria.

The BfE will assess the proposals submitted by the BGE, organise the participation of the public and forward its results to the Federal Ministry for the Environment. At the end of each step, the Bundestag and Bundesrat will decide on the areas to be further explored.

The geological conditions will be assessed with the help of surface and subsurface explorations, which will gradually reduce the number of potential sites.
At the end of the site selection procedure, the BfE will make a proposal for a repository site. This proposal will be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of the Environment. The Bundestag and Bundesrat will decide on the bill defining the repository site.

The individual steps

  • Determination of sub-areas (§ 13 StandAG),
  • Determination of regions for surface exploration (§ 14 StandAG),
  • Decision on surface exploration and exploratory programmes (§ 15 StandAG),
  • Surface exploration and proposal for subsurface exploration (§ 16 StandAG),
  • Decision on subsurface exploration and exploratory programmes (§ 17 StandAG),
  • Subsurface exploration (§ 18 StandAG),
  • Final comparison of sites and proposal of a site (§ 19 StandAG),
  • Decision for a site (§ 20 StandAG).

Securing potential sites

The BfE assesses, in cooperation with the relevant state authorities, if mining projects e.g. for the use of geothermal energy or for raw material extraction have to be rejected or approved.
The aim is to conserve areas that might be considered as the best possible site for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and to protect them from changes affecting their eligibility as a repository site. To this end, the legislator defined regulations with the aim of securing potential sites in § 21 of the Site Selection Act.

Changes to the Act based on recommendations by the Repository Commission

In 2013, the Site Selection Act was passed by the German Bundestag with a large political majority. It was the first time that the search for a repository in Germany was supported by a transparent process, based on scientific insights and free of preconceived opinions as to its outcome. The Commission for "Storage of High-level Radioactive Waste Materials" subsequently discussed the fundamental issues with respect to the search process. These included the science-based criteria governing the search process. In June 2016, the Commission published its final report. Based on the Commission’s recommendations, some changes were made to the Site Selection Act. They were approved by the Bundestag and Bundesrat and came into effect on 16 May 2017.

State of 2017.07.04

© Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management