Disposal – where?

The question where radioactive waste will be disposed of will be answered conclusively in the coming years. Stage 3 of the site selection process is currently underway.

The selection of one to two sites for deep geological repositories is conducted in accordance with the conceptual part of the Sectoral Plan for Deep Geological Repositories, which was implemented by the Federal Council in April 2008. The site selection process is divided into three stages and is led by the federal authorities (SFOE webpage on the sectoral plan for deep geological repositories).

Potential geological siting regions suitable for the construction of safe repositories were identified in Stage 1 (2008 – 2011) of the site selection process. Also Stage 2 of the process (2008 – 2018) is completed. Its objective was to concretise the repository projects in the six potential siting regions, to compare the regions with one another and thus further narrow down the search. The decisive criterion is safety.

Stage 2 was also focused around the key element of regional participation, which allowed representatives from the siting regions to bring their wishes and concerns into the process. Based on the input provided by the regional conferences, Nagra had identified at least one siting area for the surface facility of a potential repository in each of the six siting regions by the end of May 2014.

The safety-based comparison of the geological siting regions in Stage 2 was carried out according to the requirements specified by the Federal Government. Based on the results of the comparison, at the beginning of 2015, Nagra proposed the siting regions Jura Ost and Zürich Nordost for further investigation in Stage 3. Both regions are suitable for a high-level waste (HLW) repository and a low- and intermediate-level waste (L/ILW) repository, as well as for a combined repository for the two waste types.

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) reviewed the proposal and concluded that Nördlich Lägern should also be examined in more depth. On 21st November 2018, following a phase of public consultation on Stage 2, the Federal Council decided that all three regions should be further investigated (see DETEC media release, in German).

Stage 3 is currently underway. Nagra is investigating the siting regions Jura Ost, Nördlich Lägern and Zürich Nordost in detail. Supported by continuing broad collaboration with the siting regions and Cantons, Nagra also has the task of optimising the design of the surface infrastructure and identifying areas for the auxiliary access facilities. By around 2022, and underpinned by the results of the geoscientific investigations, Nagra will announce the siting regions for which it will prepare general licence applications for a HLW and a L/ILW repository or for a combined repository. Nagra will then prepare the general licence applications and expects to submit them by 2024.

The process is expected to end in 2029 with the final decision of the Federal Council and the granting of the general licences for the repositories. The decision of the Federal Council has to be approved by Parliament (around 2030) and is then subject to an optional national referendum (potentially in 2031).

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