The nuclear waste disposal debate is getting restless again

The nuclear waste disposal debate is getting restless again

Shortly before names of suitable regions are named in the search for a repository, the eye falls on Bavaria. But it is also fermenting elsewhere. An overview.

Nobody wants the nuclear waste. View of the former Gorleben exploration mine. Will it still be a repository in the end?

© Photo: Philipp Schulze / dpa
Nobody wants the nuclear waste. View of the former Gorleben exploration mine. Will it still be a repository in the end?

Berlin – A look at Bavaria shows how fragile the consensus on the search for a nuclear waste repository is. Just a few days ago, the Free State’s Environment Minister, Thorsten Glauber (Free Voters), questioned the process. “This process will cause unrest in Germany for decades and cost billions,” he said. With Gorleben there is a well-explored site for a safe and almost turnkey repository. The key was “only withdrawn for political reasons”. So, of all things, Gorleben, the location that has experienced widespread resistance for several decades.

The timing of the statements was tricky. When the Federal Association for Final Storage (BGE) presents its first interim report this Monday, regions that are suitable for a repository will be named again for the first time. Salt, clay and granite rocks come into consideration as geological formations.

Since politicians restarted the search, the so-called “white map” has also been in effect – no location in Germany is excluded.

Dozens of regions, perhaps just under 100, will probably be considered further if the UBI initially excludes unsuitable areas. Numerous federal states will be affected – if they leave, the search threatens to fail.

How Bavaria positions itself for the first interim report has long been viewed with concern in politics. After all, the CSU and Free Voters wrote in the coalition agreement in 2018: “When it comes to protecting our homeland, we think beyond generations. We are convinced that Bavaria is not a suitable location for a nuclear repository. “

The criticism was enormous. And now too there was prompt contradiction to the words from Bavaria. The environment ministers in Lower Saxony, Olaf Lies (SPD), and in Schleswig-Holstein, Jan Philipp Albrecht (Greens), who both anticipate potential locations in their federal states, warned that the procedure should be followed.

When asked about his public positioning, Glauber said a little later: “Safety comes first. For political reasons, no compromises should be made here. Security means that the rock itself offers the necessary security for a period of one million years. “

However, it is also fermenting elsewhere. Citizens’ initiatives and associations such as “Ausgestraht” are extremely critical of the process anyway. The Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) only just warned of the failure of the search and called for more transparency.

Critical scientists and environmental associations are not sufficiently involved, public participation is neglected. “Being concerned will lead to a politicization of the regions and to resistance. If the further procedure here does not permit an equal, objective and balanced debate, then there is a risk that the further process will be decomposed, ”said BUND Chairman Olaf Bandt last Wednesday.

The BUND was always against Gorleben remaining in the proceedings. The Greens see it differently, even if their focus is mainly on deviants like Bavaria. Because they stand by the process: The principle of the “white map” made the search process possible, said Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann in a press conference last Wednesday. He agreed, although his party strictly rejects Gorleben as a location.

Kretschmann’s positioning is not easy in a country that will elect a new state parliament in March 2021. Should Baden-Württemberg also have possible siting regions, this attitude could still be subjected to a stress test. When asked about his colleague Söder, he said that a conversation for two might not be a bad idea.

Robert Habeck, head of the Greens, was also involved in the press conference: “If the safest location is in Schleswig-Holstein in the end, then it is in Schleswig-Holstein,” said the state’s former environment minister. He criticized Bavaria for “stealing out of responsibility”. This is a hard-to-bear degree of “national irresponsibility” – an impression that Markus Söder (CSU) is currently struggling to create. The Bavarian Prime Minister cannot afford to disengage in the search for a repository at the moment. The procedure was decided by consensus of all 16 federal states.

If he wants to become the Union’s candidate for chancellor, which is currently not yet foreseeable, he will not be able to support the Free State going it alone.

One shortcoming of the report could be its public data base. Not all of the data that leads to decisions can be published. The Geological Data Act, which regulates their publication, has only been in force for a few months, and much of the data has not yet been categorized.

Another reason: Despite the entry into force of the law, younger and high-quality data of private owners will be protected. These include complex 3-D models of the subsurface that were created by mining companies. They can only be published with the consent of the owner. Data that cannot be published will likely be blackened in the report – a lack of transparency and a gateway for deviants.

The opposition in the Bundestag is already preparing for the event that Bavaria opposes the result of the interim report regardless of the scientific procedure. “Bavaria has signed the site selection law just like all other states and has committed itself to this open-ended search for a final repository,” said Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, Member of the Green Party, the Tagesspiegel. “As a large producer of nuclear power, Bavaria must not run away from responsibility,” said the chairman of the environmental committee in the Bundestag.

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