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AVR Fuel Elements: Ruling by the Competent Authorities

Jülich, 2 July 2014 - The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Energy and Industry of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Ministry for Economic Affairs NRW) has issued a ruling pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act as the competent nuclear authority requiring the removal of the AVR fuel elements currently in interim storage in Jülich (AVR container store). According to this ruling, Forschungszentrum Jülich is obliged to submit a concept for the removal of the AVR fuel elements from the AVR container store. One possible solution that will be detailed in this concept involves returning the AVR fuel elements to the USA – an option which is currently being explored. Forschungszentrum Jülich will work closely with all parties involved to draft conceivable scenarios by the end of September and submit these to the regulatory authority. Until all of the AVR fuel elements have been removed from the AVR container store, the decision authorizing Forschungszentrum Jülich to be in possession of nuclear fuels will remain in force. This permits the continued safe and legal storage of the AVR fuel elements in the AVR container store.

In its justification, the nuclear authority stated that the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), as the competent licensing authority, had informed it that due to new information on earthquake resistance it was impossible to forecast the end of the ongoing licensing procedure. This, in turn, gave rise to the need for the ruling requiring the removal of the fuel elements.

Background and context:

For a licence to be granted that would allow Forschungszentrum Jülich to continue to store the AVR fuel elements in the existing AVR container store in Jülich, Forschungszentrum Jülich must submit specific evidence of earthquake resistance. Forschungszentrum Jülich must verify the earthquake resistance of the existing interim storage facility in line with the relevant technical regulations based on the assumption by the licensing authority (BfS) of a theoretically conceivable extreme earthquake (return period: 100,000 years). These new requirements go far beyond the requirements that were in force and corresponded to the state of the art at the time when the AVR container store was constructed and went into operation.

In order to present such evidence, Forschungszentrum Jülich had contracted external consultants to undertake the necessary complex investigations and calculations. Having conducted extensive exploratory investigations of the underground, these experts concluded that the necessary verification of earthquake resistance in the case of the assumed extreme earthquake cannot be furnished using standardized procedures. The relevant technical regulation demands more extensive investigations in such cases and these are currently in progress. Forschungszentrum Jülich had promptly informed the licensing authority and the regulatory authority of the current state of affairs.