Near the German border, Switzerland plans a contentious nuclear waste storage facility

Germans living near the border are becoming concerned about safety due to a plan for a nuclear waste storage site in Switzerland. The initiative, which is supported by power plant owners, needs Swiss government permission. Communities are concerned about the safety and the availability of clean drinking water in light of Switzerland's announcement that it will construct a nuclear waste storage site near the German border. The plan is supported by the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra). The Swiss Federal Office of Energy recommended the Nördlich Lägern area, which lies north of Zurich and near the German border. The controversial issue of how to dispose of radioactive waste was addressed by the creation of Nagra by power plant operators and the Swiss government. What steps can be taken to ensure the waste's safety? According to Patrick Studer, a representative of Nagra, the waste would be buried several hundred meters beneath the surface in opaline clay. The required confinement time for high-level waste is over 200,000 years, while for low-level and intermediate-level waste, it is roughly 30,000 years, according to the Nagra website. Five Swiss nuclear power plants will supply the waste. Medical and industrial waste will be accepted as well. Switzerland currently has four nuclear power plants operational. They are free to continue operating as long as their safety is ensured. This means until the 2040s. However, both the Swiss government and parliament must approve the so-called deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste.  German communities and officials continue to be concerned There is a growing sense of anxiety in the bordering German communities. Their main worries are related to the security and availability of drinking water. The population is very concerned about the issue of protecting their drinking water, according to Martin Steinebrunner of the German coordination office for the proposed waste facility. The decision by Switzerland to construct a nuclear waste repository just across the border from Germany has drawn criticism from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. Christian Kühn, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Environment Ministry and a member of the German Bundestag from Baden-Württemberg, stated that the proposed site's proximity to the Baden-Württemberg village of Hohentengen presents a challenge both during the repository's construction and operation. At the same time, Kühn emphasized that it was "right and important" for geology to serve as the determining factor for the location of a repository. There were two additional locations, both very near the German border, from which to choose. The choice of a specific location in Germany for a repository for highly radioactive nuclear waste won't be decided upon until at least 2031. Long process before the start of construction If the waste storage facility is approved, the location of where the nuclear waste will be assembled and packaged for long-term storage is still unknown. A planning application will be made by Nagra by 2024, according to the company. Parliament must then give its approval after the Swiss government decides on the application. If this procedure is considered, it is unlikely that the storage facility will open before 2050.