Since no final storage facility for radioactive waste is currently available in Germany, radioactive waste has to be safely stored on an interim basis. Radioactive waste from the operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants, research reactors and other nuclear research institutions are therefore to be stored temporarily until they can be moved to a final storage facility.
One well-known means of classifying radioactive materials refers to their activity:
- Low-level radioactive materials
- Medium-level radioactive materials and
- Highly radioactive materials
In accordance with the aim of subsequent final storage, radioactive waste in Germany is also divided into the following two groups:
- Waste with negligible heat generation which is to be stored in the Konrad repository
- Heat-generating radioactive waste and irradiated nuclear fuel elements for which a final storage location has not been selected yet.
Different interim storage facilities were set up in accordance with these classifications and approved. EWN Group operates interim storage facilities for low and medium-level radioactive materials at the Lubmin, Karlsruhe and Jülich sites and also interim storage facilities for highly radioactive materials in Lubmin und Jülich.
In accordance with Section 6 of the Atomic Energy Act, the Federal Ministry for Nuclear Disposal Safety (BfE) is the competent approving authority for the storage of nuclear fuels and waste containing nuclear fuels in central and decentralised interim storage facilities for heat-generating radioactive waste. The respective competent regional authority is responsible for monitoring the approved facilities.
The approval and supervisory authorities for interim storage facilities for radioactive waste with negligible heat generation are the competent authorities of the region in which the storage facility is located. These interim storage facilities have approval to handle other radioactive materials in accordance with the Radiation Protection Ordinance (StrlSchV).
Special Requirements for the Interim Storage of Radioactive Materials
State Storage of Nuclear Fuel
The storage of nuclear fuel is subject to strict safety requirements. Nuclear fuel may only be stored if storage approval in accordance with Section 6 of the Atomic Energy Act is granted or if it is deployed in plants approved under Section 7 of the Atomic Energy Act such as a nuclear power plant. In situations in which such approvals are not given, the state ensures safe storage of these materials to protect the public. This can occur if, for example, nuclear fuel is found or seized during border checks. The competent authority for state storage in accordance with Section 5 of the Atomic Energy Act is the Federal Ministry for Nuclear Disposal Safety (BfE). Storage space has been leased in the Interim Storage Facility North in Lubmin in order to be ready for an emergency. Smaller amounts of nuclear fuels can be stored there. This is a precautionary measure to protect the public.
Federal State Collecting Depots
Federal state collecting depots for radioactive waste are interim storage facilities for (low-level) radioactive waste which are maintained by the federal states. For radioactive waste from medicine, industry and research, the law has imposed an obligation on the federal states to set up collection points for the interim storage of radioactive waste which accumulates in their region.
The collecting depots for the federal states of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Brandenburg are located in the Interim Storage Facility North in Lubmin; North Rhine-Westphalia’s collecting depot is in the interim storage facility in Jülich and Baden-Wuerttemberg’s collecting depot is located in the interim storage facility in Karlsruhe.