Germany seeks talks with Switzerland over controversial nuclear waste site | TBEN | 12.09.2022


The German government said Monday it would not send nuclear waste to a planned Swiss repository near the border with Germany, and was seeking talks on the matter.

Berlin, which had already criticized Switzerland’s proposal to build a nuclear waste repository so close to the border, said Germany was examining the plans in detail.

What has Germany said on the matter?

The German Ministry of the Environment has warned that the location of the nuclear repository “would put a heavy burden on communities on the German side”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany should discuss the decision “through the usual channels” with all those responsible in the Swiss government.

Swiss authorities announced on Saturday that they had selected the location, which is in the north of the country.

Compensation for the affected regions has yet to be decided, but Swiss authorities have indicated they are open to payments.

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Nuclear power has long been a very sensitive issue in Germany, and the country will shut down all its nuclear plants by the end of this year.

A ministry spokesman said Germany was “examining very carefully” Switzerland’s decision to build the nuclear waste repository so close to the border.

The Swiss warehouse at Nördlich Lägern, some 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) north of Zurich, is said to have surface structures within 2 kilometers of the German border, according to a statement from the German Environment Ministry.

It is clear, however, that the underground storage facility would not cross over into German territory. The ministry said Germany would not use the Swiss site itself.

“Germany has decided to build its own final repository for its nuclear waste and not to share it with European partners. We are responsible for our own waste,” said a spokesman.

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German communities nearby have expressed skepticism about the location of the waste site in Nördlich Lägern, which was initially shelved as a second choice in 2015.

Those communities near the border are particularly concerned about the issue of safe drinking water supply.

Why was the site chosen?

After a 14-year evaluation process, the Swiss Nuclear Waste Authority Nagra said the type of clay found in the area offered the largest geological barrier, the best rock stability and a high degree of flexibility compared to the other two shortlisted sites.

“Geology has spoken,” Nagra chief executive Matthias Braun said at a news conference Monday.

“The core of the deep shop is this gray and inconspicuous stone… here time practically stands still,” he said.

Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, industry and research could be buried there – hundreds of meters underground.

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Switzerland, which is also planning an eventual nuclear phase-out, still has four operational nuclear power plants that could run into the 2040s.

Currently, waste is stored in an interim facility about 15 kilometers south of the German border municipality of Waldshut-Tiengen.

The Swiss authorities have yet to give their final decision on the planning permission and construction of the facility would not start until 2031 at the earliest and become operational in 2050 at the earliest.

The Swiss government would have to approve the plan, with parliament also giving its approval. The issue could also potentially be submitted to a national referendum in the context of Swiss direct democracy.

rc/wd (TBEN, dpa, Reuters)

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