Federal Minister for the Environment Peter Altmaier, Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil and Lower Saxony’s Minister for the Environment Stefan Wenzel presented a “Joint Proposal, Site Location Act” on 24 March, 2013. It must be welcomed that politicians now wish to tackle a solution to the question of final disposal together. It is also positive that Gorleben is to remain as a potential site in the process. However, at the same time the proposal throws up new questions as regards content and creates legal uncertainty. There is still a considerable need for clarification.
One example of this is the proposal, on adoption of the Site Location Act, to discontinue the transports of casks containing irradiated nuclear fuels to the Gorleben interim storage facility. The interim storage facility in Gorleben, however, is currently the only facility in Germany with a license to accept vitrified radioactive waste that is to be returned from reprocessing overseas for which Germany is contractually obliged. The proposal does not take this legal situation into account.
Moreover, there is a need to flesh out the task of a new Federal Government/Federal States Select Committee for the “storage of higher activity wastes” that is to be created and which is supposed to deal with the “discussion and clarification of key questions for the permanent storage of higher activity waste”. In so doing, it must be ensured that consideration is given to specialist expertise, e.g. that of the Nuclear Waste Management Commission, so that the scientific and practical knowledge gathered in Germany over the last four decades is used for the further process of site location.
Overall it remains to be seen which aspects in the legislative process can still be clarified and what the final text of the act will look like. Only then will it be possible to make a final assessment. The aim must remain that of clarifying the question of final disposal in Germany responsibly and quickly and not putting the process on the back burner under any circumstances.