Surface infrastructure

The surface infrastructure is part of a deep geological repository.

A deep geological repository for radioactive waste also consists of facilities at or near the surface. This "surface infrastructure" is required for the realisation and operation of the repository. It includes the surface facility, auxiliary access facilities, structures for site development and disposal areas for excavated material. Temporary locations for construction site installations are also required.

At the end of Stage 2, the Federal Council confirmed the following areas for a surface facility: JO-3+ (Jura Ost, community of Villigen), NL-2 and NL-6 (Nördlich Lägern, communities of Weiach and Stadel) and ZNO-6b (Zürich Nordost, communities of Marthalen and Rheinau).

Geological siting regions with the siting areas for the surface facility of a deep geological repository confirmed as an interim result by the Federal Council in Stage 2. 

The waste is delivered to the surface facility (see figure), prepared for emplacement and then transported via a main access to the emplacement drifts underground. The main access could consist of either shafts or tunnels.

Layout of the surface facility for the example of a combined repository for low- and intermediate-level and high-level waste.

Elements of the surface facility
1   SF/HLW encapsulation plant
2   L/ILW encapsulation plant
3   Transport cask treatment facility
4   Wastewater and operational waste treatment plant
5   Facility for preparation of backfilling/sealing materials
6   Energy supply installations
7   Ventilation building
8   Delivery air-lock railway
9   Gate
10 Administration area
11 Workshops
12 Garages
13 Fire service building
14 Visitors centre

Besides the surface facility (main access), auxiliary accesses are also required. The auxiliary access facilities supply the underground part of the repository with electricity and fresh air and are used for transport of construction materials and persons.

Depending on their function, there are three types of auxiliary access facility: one for operations, one for ventilation and a combined facility for both operations and ventilation. The auxiliary accesses generally take the form of shafts that are connected directly to the location of the underground facilities. In contrast to the siting areas for the surface facilities, which can be located outside the siting region, there is therefore less freedom in arranging the auxiliary access facilities. The facility at the upper end of a shaft is termed a shaft head facility in classical mining terminology.


Visualisation of an auxiliary access facility for ventilation


Visualisation of an auxiliary access facility for operations


Visualisation of a combined auxiliary access facility for operations and ventilation

With a view to the general licence applications, and working together with the regions, Nagra will concretise the surface infrastructure in the three remaining siting regions Jura Ost, Nördlich Lägern and Zürich Nordost. In May 2019, Nagra published site-specific proposals for the surface infrastructure, which will serve as a basis for the discussions with the regions.

More information on the concretisation of the surface infrastructure in cooperation with the regions can be found on the "cooperation" subpage and in our brochure "Oberflächeninfrastruktur für geologische Tiefenlagerung – Vorschläge zur Konkretisierung" (only available in German). Parallel to the concretisation of the surface infrastructure, Nagra is continuing to investigate the remaining siting regions with deep boreholes.

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