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"Act, however uncomfortable it may be"

Federal Environment Ministry, BfS and Asse-GmbH on the status of the Asse mine's safe decommissioning

Year of issue 2016
Date 2016.11.29

Clear roles and a common understanding of who is responsible for what in terms of the safe decommissioning of the Asse mine, are prerequisites for successfully mastering the challenges ahead. This is the conclusion Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter came to, Parliament State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry and MdB, at a meeting in Braunschweig. Together with Wolfram König, President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, as well as Hans-Albert Lennartz, commercial manager of Asse-GmbH, she presented the current status of preparatory work for the retrieval of the radioactive wastes in an informative meeting on Tuesday evening.

Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety Rita Schwarzelühr-SutterRita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, MdB Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry Source: Bundesregierung/Jesco Denzel

Following several years of planning and intensive discussion, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) announced in May 2016 to fill cavities located near the emplacement chambers with special concrete to stabilise the mine and simultaneously to take precautions against an emergency that cannot be excluded. In August 2016, the federal state of Lower Saxony approved the planned work. The Parliamentary State Secretary now requested all parties involved to take committed action: "The long-lasting debate about the necessary stabilisation measures taken by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection to prepare the retrieval of the Asse wastes, underlines that public participation serves to better comprehend federal decision-making processes. However, it is vital that all necessary safety measures need to be tackled. All parties involved must act, even if not everyone agrees and it is getting uncomfortable."

The necessity of joint action was also underlined by Wolfram König, President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection: "The critical public participation of such a complex and so far unique project by the public is absolutely vital to be able to question and examine the own actions on the way to best possible solutions." This must, however, not lead to question roles and responsibilities and to adjourn important decisions on improving safety again and again. Besides, König promoted not to obscure one's view as to what was actually achieved in the past years. "Even if it will still take some time until retrieval operation can start: I can state that we have meanwhile achieved clearly more safety and predictability with regard to the Asse." Among others, König mentioned the cutting-edge monitoring system BfS has been installing since it took over the operator responsibility, the improved radiation protection in the facility and the other stabilisation measures whose effect can already be seen today. "A major part of the responsibility also consists of ensuring the safety of the staff working underground, who carry out the preparations for retrieval in the end," Hans-Albert Lennartz of Asse-GmbH added.

State of 2016.11.29

Transfer of operator responsibilities

On 25 April 2017, the operator responsibilities for the Asse II mine as well as the Konrad and Morsleben repositories were transferred to the Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal (Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung mbH, BGE). Previously, the responsibility for the projects was with the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). The foundations for the change of operatorship are laid down in the "Act on the Realignment of the Organisational Structures in the Field of Radioactive Waste Disposal", which became effective on 30 July 2016. The BfS focusses on the federal tasks of radiation protection, for example in the field of defence against nuclear hazards, medical research, mobile communication, UV protection or the measuring networks for environmental radioactivity.

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