Technischer Bericht NTB 08-01

Entsorgungsprogramm 2008 der Entsorgungspflichtigen

Important steps in the management of radioactive waste have already been implemented in Switzerland and there is now wide experience in carrying out the associated activities. These include the handling and packaging of waste, waste characterisation and compiling of inventories and interim storage and the associated waste transport. In terms of preparing for deep geological disposal, the necessary scientific and technical work is well advanced and the feasibility of implementing geological repositories that provide the required long-term safety has been successfully demonstrated for all wastes arising in Switzerland; these feasibility demonstrations have also been approved by the Federal Council. Sufficient knowledge is available to allow the next steps in the selection of repository sites to be performed. The legal framework and organisational measures are also in place that will allow the prescribed steps to be performed in the coming years to be implemented efficiently. The conceptual part of the Sectoral Plan for Deep Geological Repositories that was approved by the Federal Council on 2nd April 2008 plays a major role, as it regulates the details of the site selection process to be conducted over the next years.

This report documents the waste management programme prepared by the waste producers, as required by the legislation (Nuclear Energy Act (KEG 2003), Art. 32 and Nuclear Energy Ordinance (KEV 2004), Art. 52). The report was prepared by Nagra on behalf of the waste producers and covers all aspects as required by law. The following areas are addressed: 

  • Origin, type and volumes of radioactive waste: The origin, types and volumes of radioactive waste to be disposed of in Switzerland are known. The reference case for the waste management programme assumes operation of the existing nuclear power plants for a period of 50 years and a collection period up to around 2050 for radioactive waste from medicine, industry and research (the time by which, in the reference case, emplacement in the repository of the low- and intermediate-level waste from the power plants will have been completed). Sufficient flexibility in dealing with future developments has to be retained. For this reason, the types and volumes of radioactive waste that would arise in the case of extension of the operating lifetime of the existing power plants and the collection period for waste from medicine, industry and research by 10 years are included for planning purposes. Also considered are the wastes to be expected in the case of an additional production of 5 GWe for a period of 60 years by way of replacing the existing power plants and the stepwise expiry of the electricity supply contracts with France, while assuming a moderate increase in electricity consumption.

    The resulting wastes are conditioned, characterised and inventoried on an ongoing basis. Before conditioning of a waste stream begins, the proposed conditioning procedure is evaluated by Nagra in terms of the suitability for disposal of the resulting waste packages. This is a prerequisite for clearance by the authorities of routine conditioning procedures. Conditioned waste will also be evaluated when preparing the safety reports in support of the programme milestones and it is possible that some conditioning procedures will be modified in the light of new understanding. Besides information on waste that already exists, a model inventory of waste that will arise in the future has also been compiled. This provides a reliable basis for planning and implementing geological repositories and managing available interim storage capacity.

  • Geological repositories, including design concepts: The Swiss waste management concept assumes two deep geological repositories, one for low- and intermediate-level waste (L/ILW repository) and one for spent fuel, vitrified high-level waste from reprocessing and long-lived intermediate-level waste (HLW repository). These two repositories could be implemented at different sites or at the same site if the geological situation is suitable. For the latter possibility of a combined repository, the disposal chambers of the two facilities could be constructed in the same or in different geological formations. Against the background of the legal and regulatory framework, the conceptual requirements and assumptions to be taken into consideration for the different repositories are defined and corresponding projects have been developed. The proposed design concepts are based on the requirement in the nuclear energy legislation that long-term safety is to be assured by a system of multiple passive safety barriers. For repository implementation, a range of design alternatives exist for individual components that allow consideration of the site-specific situation. In order to ensure optimum configuration of the repository installations, there must be sufficient flexibility to allow information and experience arising in the future (results of site explorations, improvement of knowledge through research and development) to be taken into account. Planning must also account for waste arising as a result of future developments in the areas of nuclear energy and application of radioactive materials in medicine, industry and research. With this in mind, the possibility of increasing the disposal capacity of the repositories has to be considered when planning the facilities.

  • Allocation of the waste to the geological repositories: Site selection and design of the repositories have to consider the allocation of the waste to the different repositories. An allocation of the waste taking into account specific waste properties was undertaken in the context of preparing proposals for geological siting regions in order to derive the requirements on the geology. The waste allocation will gradually be refined in the course of the different licensing steps.
  • Implementation plan for the geological repositories: The legal and regulatory framework and the definition of other conceptual requirements and assumptions form the starting-point for deriving an implementation plan for the L/ILW and HLW repositories. The requirements and assumptions allow the basic procedure to be defined and the necessary work to be specified. After estimating the time required for performing the technical work and for the regulatory procedures, the implementation time plan can be defined. It assumes that the general licences will be granted for both repositories in 2018 and, in accordance with the most recent cost study, start of operation of the L/ILW repository in 2035 and the HLW repository in 2050. This assumes that there will be no time-consuming appeal procedures and that the technical work can be performed efficiently and without delay.

    The time plan takes into account site-specific studies for the L/ILW and HLW repositories, as well as the more generic, non-site-specific work that forms part of the research and development programme. The work foreseen in the plan also considers the recommendations made by the federal authorities and their experts when reviewing Nagra’s work. Nagra has prepared a separate report that addresses implementation of the recommendations made in the various reviews of the HLW "Entsorgungsnachweis" feasibility demonstration project.

    The stepwise licensing procedure set out by the legislation ensures that the necessary flexibility is maintained in terms of achieving optimum design of the disposal facilities. According to the law, it is also possible to take into account the waste arisings foreseeable in each licensing step that will result from future developments in nuclear energy and in the use of radioactive materials in medicine, industry and research. Handling future licensing steps appropriately will allow optimum use to be made of information that becomes available in the future (results of detailed site explorations, increase in knowledge through research and development); it will also allow any required expansion of repository capacity to be taken into account and the stepwise refinement of the waste allocation will also be possible.

  • Duration and required capacity of centralised and decentralised interim storage facilities: Radioactive waste must be held in interim storage until such time as it can be emplaced in geological repositories. For L/ILW, this will be around 2035 and for spent fuel, vitrified high-level waste and long-lived intermediate-level waste around 2050, taking into account the required cooling time for the spent fuel and the high-level waste. For the existing power plants and waste from medicine, industry and research collected up to 2050, sufficient interim storage capacity can be made available to hold the waste safely until it can be emplaced in the repositories. If the start of operation of the repositories should be delayed, the interim storage facilities can also be operated for a longer period of time. Triedand- tested infrastructure and technology for transporting the waste is already in place and concepts have been prepared for any infrastructure that will be required in the future.

  • Financing the waste management activities up to shutdown of nuclear installations: The costs of waste management and decommissioning are estimated periodically in order to specify the contributions to be made to the decommissioning and waste management funds and the reserves to be put aside by the owners of the nuclear installations. The last cost study was carried out in 2006, reviewed by the authorities (HSK) and approved in December 2007 by the administrative commission of the decommissioning and waste management funds. The 2006 study forms the basis for the information on costs presented in the waste management programme. Financing of future costs is done either directly by the facility owners (costs arising before shutdown) or through the decommissioning fund for the costs of decommissioning nuclear installations and the waste management fund for waste management activities after shutdown of the power plants. The model used for calculating the reserves is based on the current cost estimates, and ensures that the reserves already set aside and to be made in the future will cover all expected costs, taking into account capital yields (assuming a rate of return of 5 % and a rate of price increases of 3 %).

  • Information concept: Decisive in terms of implementing the required repositories are active dialogue with interested audiences and the provision of comprehensive information to the public on all aspects of nuclear waste management. The public should be in a position to understand the roles played by the different participants in the process. With the Sectoral Plan process that is now in place and the licensing requirements specified by the nuclear energy legislation, the lead, and hence the responsibility for providing information, lies with the federal authorities (in particular the Federal Office of Energy). They are in particular responsible for ensuring appropriate participation and involvement of the public in the site selection process. They can call for the involvement of the regulatory authorities and, if necessary, of Nagra, who then bring their technical know-how to the process. The regulatory authorities (particularly HSK/ENSI) prepare reviews of licence applications and supervise the operation of nuclear installations from the viewpoint of safety and, in their position as an independent evaluator, ensure that safety requirements are met. They inform the public about the results of their supervisory activities and function as contacts for questions on safety. Nagra has been entrusted by the waste producers with the task of preparing for the construction and operation of deep geological repositories. In this capacity, Nagra provides comprehensive information on its work, the results of its investigations, its ongoing projects and later on the construction and operation of the facilities, seeking active dialogue throughout with interested parties.

  • Nagra openly provides information on the status of its work and its projects at an early stage and on a regular basis. The aim of these information activities is to understand the concerns of the different groups and to inform them openly about nuclear waste management in general and the activities of Nagra in particular. The public is informed in a transparent way about why radioactive waste should be disposed of in geological repositories. The public and elected representatives should be able to recognise the need for action in achieving this goal and to form objective opinions on the concrete projects outlined in the Sectoral Plan procedure. Using trained personnel and an ongoing approach of adapting to meet the needs of dialogue partners at different stages in the process ensures that the instruments used for information and communication are kept up to date.

The waste management programme presented here documents the general conditions and the fundamental procedures for the timely implementation of repositories that provide the required long-term safety. It provides information on all the topics specified in the Nuclear Energy Ordinance. The programme contains proposals by the waste producers regarding how the repositories are to be designed on a conceptual level (including alternatives), how the individual steps in implementing repositories are to be developed, how the time plan for implementation looks and what financial means are required. Once the waste management programme has been reviewed and approved, a phase of active and committed cooperation among all parties involved will be required in the coming years to achieve the desired progress in implementing the repositories.

The work programme for the immediate future is clearly defined. Until the next update of the waste management programme in approximately five years, it is expected that significant progress will be made, particularly in identifying potential geological siting regions and sites to be approved by the Federal Council in stage 1 (preliminary orientation) and stage 2 (interim result) of the Sectoral Plan process.