Use of nuclear energy in the Federal Republic of Germany
The framework conditions for the use of nuclear energy in the Federal Republic of Germany are stipulated in the Basic Law (Grundgesetz – GG) and the Atomic Energy Act (Atomgesetz – AtG). The Basic Law regulates legislative and administrative powers in general, while the Atomic Energy Act provides the legal framework for the safe operation of all nuclear facilities, the safe and secure handling and the transport of radioactive substances. The Atomic Energy Act aims to protect life, health and property against the hazards of nuclear energy. Another goal is to phase out the use of nuclear energy for the commercial generation of electricity in a structured manner, and to ensure regulated operation up until the date of discontinuation.
Following the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant the framework conditions to phase out nuclear power for the commercial generation of electricity in Germany were further specified by the 13th Act amending the Atomic Energy Act which entered into force in August 2011. With the amended Atomic Energy Act entering into force, eight nuclear power plants immediately forfeited their operating licenses. The operating licences for the three newest facilities will expire by 2022 at the latest; for all other nuclear power plants, expiry will be gradual in compliance with the deadlines 2015/2017/2019/2021.
Licensing procedure and regulatory supervision
For the protection against hazards from radioactive substances and the control of their use, the Atomic Energy Act requires regulatory licensing for the construction and operation of nuclear installations, handling of radioactive material and its transport as well as for import and export. The Act lays down the prerequisites and the procedures for licensing and supervision including the consultation of experts and the charging of costs.
Various laws and regulations as well as technical rules have been passed in Germany which have to be complied with by the licensee in order to ensure the safe and secure operation of nuclear installations, handling of radioactive material and its transport. Specific security measures always depend on the threat situation. Compliance with these stipulations is controlled by the regulator. Once the license is granted, nuclear installations are subject to continuous regulatory supervision for the entire operating lives, from the start of construction to the end of decommissioning. The main objective of the regulatory body is to ensure that the safety level laid down in the licence and the security requirements are maintained and hazards are counteracted, if need arises. The competent authority may also impose specific obligations retrospectively to this end at a later point. In certain situations the authority may also withdraw a license or order a stop of operations.
The operation of nuclear power and subsequent dismantling of nuclear power plants generates low-level and intermediate-level radioactive wastes with negligible heat development and intermediate-level and high-level radioactive wastes with relevant heat development. In addition, radioactive wastes originates from handling radioactive substances in all nuclear installations and from using radioactive material in industry, trade, research and medicine. In Germany, the intention is that all types of radioactive waste should be stored in deep geological formations. In the past, low- and intermediate-level waste was stored at the final repository for radioactive wastes in Morsleben (ERAM) and at the Asse II mine near Wolfenbüttel. In May 2007 the conversion of the Konrad mine near Salzgitter to a repository for low- and medium-level radioactive waste with negligible heat generation began.
The site for a repository in particular for high-level radioactive wastes is to be determined by 2031 by means of a regulatory site selection procedure with comprehensive public participation. The Act on updating the Repository Site Selection Act (StandAG) and other legislation, which for the most part entered into force on 16 May 2017, implements the statutory mandate of the previous StandAG. The German Bundestag evaluated the StandAG on the basis of the findings of its Commission on the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Waste, and adopted a law setting out exclusion criteria, minimum requirements, consideration criteria and other bases for decision-making. The current Repository Site Selection Act provides the framework enabling the actual selection procedure to be initiated quickly. Exploration of the Gorleben salt dome, the only site investigated so far, was discontinued in December 2012; Gorleben will be considered in the repository site selection procedure.
International cooperation – in Europe and worldwide
With regard to nuclear safety and nuclear security no country can be viewed in isolation.
Thus Germany has also become a contract party to the relevant international conventions on nuclear safety, nuclear security, safe disposal, assistance and notification as well as liability. At EU level, the Council adopted Council Directive 2009/71/EURATOM establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations on 25 June 2009 and Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste on 19 July 2011. This was the first time that binding European regulations in the field of nuclear safety were adopted.
The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG), a group of high ranking representatives of nuclear regulatory authorities in the EU member states advising the European Commission, also participated in the preparation of these two directives. There is also the Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association (WENRA), a group of European regulatory authorities whose focus is on harmonising safety standards in the area of nuclear safety and on decommissioning and disposal. The European Nuclear Security Regulators' Association (ENSRA) is the forum for European cooperation in the field of nuclear security.
In addition to cooperation at EU level, the BMU is also active at international level and works together directly with the regulatory bodies from other countries or indirectly in various groups and international organisations, in particular the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the OECD. It maintains bilateral relations with neighbouring countries to exchange information and regarding emergency response issues.
Various international activities and joint safety reviews (stress tests) were initiated due to the events in Fukushima.