German experts have repeatedly criticised the preliminary review for the environmental impact assessment
In the light of recent developments regarding the search for a nuclear waste repository in Switzerland, Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry, requested a policy of clear information from the Swiss authorities. "The information available to date about possible environmental effects of a repository close to the German border is insufficient", stated Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter with reference to opinions of the German high-level group on deep repositories Expertengruppe Schweizer Tieflager (ESchT). She called upon the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (BFE) to finally present a meaningful environmental report.
In its search for a nuclear waste repository, Switzerland seems to be focusing on three sites close to the German border. Besides the two siting regions "Jura Ost" and "Zürich Nordost", the siting region "Nördlich Lägern" will now also be considered in the next phase of the site selection process.
In the opinion of the German high-level group on deep repositories, ESchT, there are no sufficient preliminary reviews for the environmental impact assessment for any of these potential sites. The experts stated that it was impossible for the public to get a comprehensive overview on the potential environmental impacts of a future repository with the information provided. First and foremost, an account of the radiological effects was missing.
Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter remarked: "The public needs reliable information on this complex and difficult issue. At present, a document that enables the population to assess every potential environmental impact is still needed. We urge the Swiss Federal Office for Energy to present the promised environmental report as soon as possible. Stakeholders on both sides of the border need clarity about the conventional and radiological environmental impacts they might have to expect."
Background on the Swiss search for a repository:
At the beginning of 2015, the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (NAGRA) presented the "2x2 proposal" according to which the two siting regions, Jura Ost and Zürich Nordost, were to be put forward for in-depth exploration and hence as potential repository sites. At the end of 2016, the BFE announced that the assessment of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) will differ considerably from NAGRA's proposal. In ENSI's view, the siting region Nördlich Lägern, close to Germany's border, should now also be assessed for its suitability. In a recent statement, ESchT, too, concluded that Nördlich Lägern must be included in the exploration in the next phase of the site selection process. ESchT considered the data base for deferring the process to be incomprehensible.
Next procedural steps:
The BFE announced the production of an environmental report, dealing as comprehensively as possible with the expected environmental impacts. A first draft is to be published in the first quarter of this year.
In the current 2nd phase of the process, the public can comment on the proposal for the follow-up process through a public consultation procedure, expected to take place in the final weeks of 2017. The Swiss Federal Council's decision at the end of 2018 will initiate the last and decisive 3rd phase of the Swiss site selection, which will conclude with the decision on the repository site.