Last week Switzerland announced the area chosen to build its future Deep Geological Repository to bury forever the nuclear waste from its four nuclear power plants. After fourteen years of searching, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy announced that the chosen territory would be the north face of the Lägern mountain, close to the German border.
It will be many years before the storage facility becomes a reality, but the news has already found a considerable echo in Germany, a country that decided to abandon nuclear energy first at the initiative of the Social Democrats and then of the Christian Democrats, and whose last three plants were scheduled to be shut down in December, although in the end two of them will remain in reserve for a few more months in view of the prospect of a winter without Russian gas.
The future nuclear storage facility, the definitive solution proposed by Switzerland for its waste in the image of other countries such as Finland, will be operational by the middle of the century, although it will still have to be submitted to a referendum. It will cost 20.7 billion euros. The waste will be stored in drums at a depth of 800 meters in an area of opaline clays that experts believe will act as a natural geological barrier. The aim is that they will remain there forever, without the need for any monitoring.
The nearest town to the future storage site is Hohentengen, in Baden-Württemberg, where, according to the local press, the news has caused concern among residents who wonder why the storage site has to be so close to German territory, just two kilometers from the border. Activists, neighbors and the mayor himself have begun to denounce the project, of which they fear above all, they say, its possible effect on groundwater. The experts, meanwhile, assure that the chosen territory is ideal because it has not undergone changes in 175 million years and this type of clay would prevent hypothetical filtrations. "The geology has spoken," they say in the consortium created in Switzerland to find the perfect site.
The German government has promised talks with Switzerland about possible compensation payments and recalls that there have been contacts and meetings with local authorities during the years when this and other sites were on the table. They have also ruled out that Germany will take advantage of this construction to store its own nuclear waste. The country has yet to decide what it will do with its own in the long term and hopes to reach a decision in 2031.
Switzerland has opted for this decision after decades of studies. After sending its waste to France and the UK for years, it built a repository in Würelingen in 1993 as a precursor to the construction of a Deep Geological Repository. In principle, this is the path that Spain has also proposed, but in the case of our country, the project for the intermediate step, the so-called Centralized Temporary Storage Facility (CTS), is at a standstill and the waste is being stored individually in each power plant.
Although a location for the ATC was found, the town of Villar de Cañas, the last permits, already under the Sánchez government, were never granted. The mandate given by Congress at the time was to have it up and running by 2010. The AGP, the next 'hot potato', should be built in 2073, according to the draft of the seventh radioactive waste plan.