German Nuclear Waste

Constantin Dory
March 18, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: The old salt dome in Gorleben under investigation. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Like many other countries, Germany is facing the problem of storing its radioactive waste properly. Old, inappropriate repositories and the search for better ones have led to many public protests during the past decades. The estimated amount of nuclear waste in Germany after shutting down all nuclear power plants is 29,000 m3 for high-level waste and 300,000 m3 for low- and intermediate-level waste. [1,2] The German government decided to store the nuclear waste in deep geological repositories. However, a permanent repository site has not yet been found. Experts do not expect the final solution and storage of all nuclear waste in Germany before the end of the 21st century. The costs are expected to be 50 to 70 billion Euro. [3]

Repositories in Germany

The most notorious repository site is in Gorleben (see Fig. 1). However, nuclear waste is stored here only temporarily. The old salt dome was investigated for many years in the hopes of finding a permanent repository site, but the scientific community had continued reservations as to whether this site was suitable for storing nuclear waste. [4] In Salzgitter, a permanent repository site for low- and intermediate-level waste is under construction. [5] In Morsleben, the DDR started a repository site for low- and intermediate-level waste, which was continued by the German government through 1998. [6] In the salt dome in Asse, intermediate-level waste was stored to test the possibility of using it as permanent repository. However, in 2010 it was decided to remove all nuclear waste from this repository. [7]

© Constantin Dory. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] M. Rittgerott, "Asse Einblicke," May 2009 ["Asse Insights"].

[2] "Gemeinsames Übereinkommen über die Sicherheit der Behandlung abgebrannter Brennelemente und über die Sicherheit der Behandlung radioaktiver Abfälle," Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit, May 2015 ["Common Convention for Safe Handling of Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste"].

[3] "Atommüll-Endlagerung nicht mehr in diesem Jahrhundert," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20 Apr 15 ["Permanent Nuclear Waste Storage: Not in This Century"].

[4] "Gorleben ist Geschichte," Die Zeit, 11 Dec 16 ["Gorleben Is History"].

[5] M. Bauchmüller, "Atommüll-Endlager wird nicht rechtzeitig fertig," Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23 Sep 10 ["Permanent Nuclear Waste Storage Will Not Be Ready in Time"].

[6] "Merkels Altlast," Spiegel, 10 Oct 08 ["Merkel's Legacy"].

[7] "Bundesumweltministerium will Asse schneller räumen," Spiegel, 19 Jan 12 ["Federal Environment Ministry Wants Speedier Asse Clearout"].