Nagra facing exciting times

Lino Guzzella has been Nagra’s President of the Board of Directors since early July. We spoke to him about his motivation, nuclear energy and successful collaboration.

Mr. Guzzella, what motivated you to take on the office of President of the Board of Directors?
I have been interested in technology, and particularly in energy issues, since I was young. I am familiar with some of areas of Nagra's work, but many represent new territory for me. Helping to ensure that the deep geological disposal project reaches its goals is therefore a great motivation for me, especially as Nagra is facing exciting times ahead. Under the lead of the new CEO Matthias Braun, we will make a proposal next year for the site of the deep geological repository. A general licence application will then be submitted in 2024. Being able to follow the progress of the application as it passes through the executive and legislative channels of the government and ultimately to the sovereign body of our democracy – the Swiss people – is very interesting.

Before taking on the role of President, you were a member of Nagra's Board of Directors for six months. What surprised you most during that time?
I would say I was impressed rather than surprised. Firstly, I was impressed – and still am – by the high technical quality of Nagra's work in the fields of geology and modelling of dynamic processes in the underground environment. Secondly, the quality of Nagra's publications have made a strong impression on me, both the materials aimed at the general public and those aimed at the technical community. And thirdly, I was extremely pleased with the friendly and open welcome I received from all Nagra staff.

In her farewell speech at the last Nagra AGM, your predecessor Corina Eichenberger said that she was handing over to you "a Nagra on course". Do you share this assessment?
Absolutely. The project is well underway, and we are in the final spurt of the search for a site. Over the last few decades, Nagra has laid down the theoretical and experimental basis required for this. Corina Eichenberger and the outgoing CEO Thomas Ernst have done an outstanding job in recent years, for which I am very grateful.

In the past, you have publicly advocated the continued use of nuclear energy in the future. In recent years, Nagra has always emphasised that it is neutral in terms of energy policy. Will Nagra remain neutral on this issue?
Of course, Nagra as an organisation remains neutral. Nagra has a clear mandate, which is to prepare for a deep geological repository. Campaigning for or against nuclear energy is not part of this mandate, although employees can of course have their own opinions on the subject.

I also have a personal opinion. The climate change caused by mankind is a serious threat to future generations. The electrification of wide areas will help to avoid the worst scenarios, but only if the electrical energy used for this purpose is largely produced without emission of greenhouse gases. Nuclear energy makes a contribution to this. Therefore, in my opinion, we should also consider this option. If we had relied on coal instead of nuclear energy in Switzerland in the 1950s – and there were influential voices that called for this – we would have released around 500 billion cubic metres of CO2 into the atmosphere instead of the approximately 10,000 cubic metres of high-level waste that we will dispose of in a repository. I consider the fact that this was avoided to be an important contribution to protecting the climate.

You have emphasised that you want to work closely with the members of the Nagra cooperative. How can this cooperation be strengthened?
Nagra's owners created the organisation to achieve a specific goal: to safely dispose of radioactive waste in a deep geological repository on the long term. This goal has to be achieved with the necessary quality and within a given time and financial framework. As President of the Board of Directors, I will do everything in my power to ensure that everyone involved in the process, i.e. the owners, the Board of Directors and the Executive Board, work towards this goal in the best possible way – and do so with pleasure, respect and commitment.

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