Safe Disposal of Nuclear Waste
Jülich researchers at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research investigate how radioactive waste can be managed safely and stored permanently. In Germany, the Konrad mine has been designated as a final disposal site for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from nuclear power generation, and also from other applications, such as nuclear medicine. No final repository has yet been chosen for high-level waste, but the salt dome in Gorleben is being explored with respect to its suitability.
In the current discussion on the final storage of high-level waste, the priority is to guarantee safety for very long periods of time of up to several hundred thousand years. Jülich researchers are convinced that physical and chemical laws can be applied to the behaviour of high-level waste even for these long periods of time. Basic research plays a central role in this context.
In addition to research on the direct final storage of spent fuel elements, innovative waste management concepts are also studied as an alternative. These include the separation of certain radionuclides, their conditioning in ceramic waste forms, and the treatment of nuclear graphite.
Apart from basic research, more application-oriented research is also part of the portfolio. This includes nuclear material safeguards in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEO). The nondestructive characterization of waste packages makes routine inspections of their contents for radiotoxic and chemotoxic components possible. Product control in cooperation with the Federal Office for Radiation Protection ensures that the waste packages to be stored in a final waste depository meet the legal requirements.