How delicate the phase is in which the search for a repository is currently can be seen again in Gorleben – and just as much as how contentious the process remains. Only a few weeks ago, when the Federal Agency for Final Storage (BGE) submitted its first interim report, the site fell out of the proceedings.
The relief from environmental associations and anti-nuclear power initiatives was great. But probably not with Wolfram König, the President of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (Base). In the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” he had said that it was problematic that Gorleben had fallen out of the proceedings in the first step, even before the public took part.
The reply from the Greens was prompt. “I do not hope that the President of Base did not understand the procedure for which he is in charge. The search for a repository follows scientific criteria and not the guideline ‘What burdens and what relieves the process’ “, said the Greens MP Sylvia Kotting-Uhl. After the application of the first geological weighing criteria, the Gorleben salt dome proved to be less suitable than others and was correctly excluded from the further search for a location, according to the chairwoman of the Environment Committee in the Bundestag.
The BGE did not want to comment on the statements of the head of the Federal Office on Thursday. She is probably relying on her evidence for the end of Gorleben, which she will explain on Saturday.
From the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) it was said: “The entire site selection process runs according to strict rules and criteria – as stipulated by law in a broad, cross-party consensus. Everyone is bound by it. ”The sub-areas submitted by the BGE in the first step, which are considered for the further search, also contain the statement that Gorleben is not suitable for this further search, according to a spokesman for the BMU. The base organizes the public participation and the framework for the sub-area conference. “It has to guarantee a neutral framework in which all opinions and critical comments have their say.”
Another flank of the search for a repository: Bavaria
Besides Gorleben, the search for a repository already has a few flanks. One is in Bavaria. How much the grassroots attitude towards nuclear power influences those in power could be observed last week in Lower Bavaria. The Prime Minister, Markus Söder, had come. Actually, it should be about the 50th anniversary of the Bavarian Forest National Park and a cross-border national park.
But where even district administrators from his own party and mayors reject a nuclear waste repository in the region, Söder cannot ignore the topic. “This is one of the top issues and that is why we should discuss the question in the whole region and also on the Czech side: is this the right place for a repository,” said the CSU boss in Neuschönau. He would rather create one of the largest forest national parks in Europe.
How broad the resistance is in the regions remains to be seen. At the end of September, the BGE submitted its first interim report on the search for a location for the highly radioactive waste. 1900 Castor containers are supposed to go underground. From a geological point of view, more than half of the federal territory is currently considered. At the weekend, the results of the report will be discussed for the first time with a broader public, representatives from politics and science, municipalities and social groups at the specialist conference. It is not far off that there will be critical requests to speak there too.
BGE receives many inquiries from affected regions
In addition to mayors and district administrators from Bavaria, a possible disposal was also rejected by politicians in Saxony. For example with the district administrators from Bautzen, Görlitz and North Saxony, all of them CDU politicians, who consider a repository in the region unsuitable simply because of the structural change and the phase-out of coal. “You can’t just look at it geologically,” said Bautzen District Administrator Michael Harig. There are regions in which established people’s parties also have to fight back stronger populists. Some district administrators in Saxony anticipate that the population could organize broadly against the search for a repository.
For the BGE, the past few weeks were used for evaluation. Since the publication of the interim report two weeks ago, around 200 to 250 written and telephone inquiries have been received from the regions, mostly from representatives of cities and municipalities. The question was asked why so many areas with clay rock formations were included on the BGE maps, why Gorleben was taken out of the process as a salt dome. Some actors reacted with surprise that their region was geologically suitable for a repository. Questions about participation are now on the agenda for many.
For the first time, specialist conference discusses results extensively
The start of the specialist conference sub-areas on October 17 and 18 is organized by the Federal Atomic Energy Agency. Due to the pandemic, the event in Kassel is taking place as a digital conference, only a few actors in the search for a repository are on site. The results of the interim report are to be discussed at three subsequent meetings until the end of June next year. There was also criticism of this form.
The Federation for Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) recently warned that the search would fail and called for more transparency and participation for people. The search for a nuclear waste storage facility for at least a million years could not be crammed through within six months by means of a few specialist conferences, according to BUND chairman Olaf Bandt.
Around 650 people had registered by Tuesday, as the base announced on Tuesday. Almost half of them are citizens, 22 percent belong to local authorities, the rest are representatives of social organizations and scientists. Each participant has the opportunity to ask questions, write down comments or provide feedback via an online tool. These could also take part in votes or opinions. “Live connections are also planned. A moderator will lead through the event, ”said a spokeswoman on request.
The type of participation was criticized a few days before the conference, for example from citizens’ groups and the left in the Bundestag. “The responsible federal authorities risk the failure of the new nuclear waste repository search before it even started,” commented Left MP Hubertus Zdebel in a press release on Thursday “, Says Zdebel.