Interim storage – General information
All interim storage facilities in Germany are designed as dry storage facilities in which transport and storage casks loaded with irradiated fuel elements or vitrified high-level radioactive waste are stored (e.g. in CASTOR® type casks). Different variants of the interim storage facilities have been approved. The main difference is the arrangement of the storage areas and the thickness of the building walls.
The interim storage facilities are designed in such a way that the heat emanating from the irradiated fuel elements or vitrified high-level radioactive waste is dissipated to the outside. One exception is the Neckarwestheim interim storage facility, where the casks are stored in a tunnel. However, all of the design concepts meet the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act for safe storage.
Today, the concept adopted by the Federal Republic of Germany provides for the interim storage of irradiated fuel elements at the sites of nuclear power plants. As a rule, the fuel elements must remain there until they are transferred to a final repository.
There are also interim storage facilities for low and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The BGZ operates the waste storage facility in Gorleben (ALG) and the western storage area of the Ahaus interim storage facility. From 2020 on, the 12 interim storage facilities at the sites of the German nuclear power plants will also be transferred to the BGZ.
Extremely high safety demands are placed on the disposal of radioactive materials from nuclear power plants. The German Atomic Energy Act, the Radiation Protection Act and the Radiation Protection Ordinance define the decisive measures that must be taken.
After the events at the Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima, the Nuclear Waste Management Commission (ESK) evaluated the robustness of the German interim storage facilities against impacts that exceeded the requirements of the licencing procedure, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Events such as earthquakes, floods, heavy rains, fires and aircraft crashes were addressed. In all scenarios, the Ahaus and Gorleben interim storage facilities met the stress levels, and the ESK certified that the facilities are highly robust, even under conditions beyond the design basis, i.e. in case of stress levels that are higher than the design would normally permit.