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German nuclear waste storage make take decades

July 5, 2016

The Germany government has already begun procedures to shut down all of the country's nuclear reactors. A committee called to make a plan for the country's nuclear waste problem has said it may take until next century.

Symbolbild Atommüll
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

In 2011, Chancellor's Angela Merkel's government announced that all of Germany's nuclear reactors would be slowly phased out and shut down by 2022, leaving the country with a pressing need to find a storage facility for its atomic waste. However, a two-year investigation by top scientists, industry leaders and representatives of civil society announced on Tuesday that such a facility may not be ready until the next century.

Presenting their final report, even the decades-long timetable was described by leading committee member Michael Müller as "ambitious."

The panel had hoped to arrive at a solution where a facility would be ready by 2050, but Müller said such a schedule was logistically impossible.

The first challenge is to find an appropriate site. One possible place is the controversial, and small, waste facility in Gorleben in Lower-Saxony, which has long been the flashpoint of intense confrontation between police and anti-nuclear activists. Though Müller said that other sites were also being looked at, and there had been no decision on Gorleben as of yet.

Governments 'irresponsible'

The backlash, not only from Germany's strong environmental movement but also from the press, was swift and clear. Jochen Stay of the anti-nuclear group "Ausgestrahlt" accused the commission of having "delayed" making any real decision.

"The recommendations they've made are so vague that they could justify choosing any site," Stay said.

Newspaper Badisches Tagblatt claimed that state governments who refused to even entertain the idea of a storage facility in their region, especially those of Saxony and Bavaria, were being "politically irresponsible" by employing "St. Florian's principle," a German term of phrase which means to avoid responsibility by handing it to someone else.

Another daily, the Flensburger Tageblatt, accused the government of "putting itself in conflict with the interest of its citizens," by not having conceived of a storage plan before it began to phase out nuclear power. The storage options for the interim are not safe, the paper argued.

es/kms (AFP, dpa)