Final disposal of radioactive waste, Geotechnology
- How can we safely dispose of radioactive waste?
- What is BGR's role in the disposal of radioactive waste?
- Which tasks does BGR carry out when looking at "geotechnical safety" issues?
How can we safely dispose of radioactive waste?
Radioactive substances are used for a wide range of purposes around the world, such as electricity generation in nuclear power plants, in medical radiology, and in material testing technologies. These applications give rise to radioactive waste whose ionising radiation is hazardous for people as well as the environment. The Federal Government in Germany therefore has the objective of safely isolating the waste from the biosphere for a very long period of time. Scientists are of the opinion that providing this protection safely for very many years is only possible by disposing of the waste in repositories built deep underground in geological formations. The pluralistic members of the "Storage of high-level radioactive waste" Commission also recommended disposal in a geological formation deep underground. The geology of Germany provides the necessary conditions for the safe long-term isolation of radioactive waste in a repository located in deep geological formations.
What is BGR's role in the disposal of radioactive waste?
The Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) (Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources) provides the German Government with independent and neutral advice on all geoscientific and geotechnical issues involved in the Federal Government's nuclear repository projects.
During these activities, BGR actively carries out its own research, enabling BGR scientists to develop the state-of-the-art science and technologies needed to evaluate repository issues. This research is often carried out in collaboration with other national and international research institutes. Investigations are largely conducted in underground laboratories in international co-operation projects, as part of co-operation agreements, for instance with France, Sweden and Switzerland. This research involves developing and testing methodologies and equipment for the geoscientific exploration of potential repository sites. Another aim of the activities is to extrapolate the findings from the joint international projects to analogous geological formations at localities in Germany.
Which tasks does BGR carry out when looking at "geotechnical safety" issues?
BGR is particularly active in the field of geotechnical safety. BGR has wide-ranging experience, especially in the technical and constructional application of rock-mechanical and engineering-geological expertise in mining and construction. BGR is primarily active here during the planning of underground cavities – such as those used for the geological storage of renewable energy sources – as well as during the operation of underground storages used for lengthy periods, and during the post-operational phase. The status of science and technology has to be taken into account in all issues relating to radioactive waste repositories. Therefore BGR scientists actively develop this status of science and technology by their own research and development activities. The BGR has specialised in thermomechanical and hydraulic behaviour of rocks and rock masses with the main focus on applications in rock and soil engineering.