Disposal - where?

The question where radioactive waste will be disposed of will be answered conclusively in the coming years.

The selection process for 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 process is divided into three stages and is led by the federal authorities.

Potential geological siting regions that are suitable for the construction of safe repositories were identified in Stage 1 (2008 – 2011). Stage 2 of the process is currently underway with the objective of concretising the repository projects in the six potential siting regions and comparing the regions with one another. The decisive criterion is safety.

Stage 2 is also focused around the key element of regional participation, which allows 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. At the beginning of 2015, and based on the results of the comparison, 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.

Following a review of the documentation on the siting proposals submitted by Nagra, ENSI communicated its recommendations to the Federal Council in December 2016: the three siting regions Jura Ost, Nördlich Lägern and Zürich Nordost should be investigated further in Stage 3. The regions Jura-Südfuss, Südranden and Wellenberg will remain in reserve. A phase of public consultation will be followed by the decision of the Federal Council on Stage 2; this is expected for the end of 2018. Stage 3 can then begin.

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 (2030) and is then subject to an optional national referendum (potentially in 2031).