Annual General Meeting of Nagra in Bern

Site selection process is both exemplary and challenging

„The way selected by Switzerland for disposing of its radioactive waste is exemplary and, at the same time, challenging for all those involved“, explained Corina Eichenberger, President of the Board of Directors, looking back at the 2015 business year on the occasion of Nagra’s annual general meeting. Ms Eichenberger emphasised that the broad involvement of the public, authorities and interested organisations and the transparent, systematic, stepwise procedure are oriented towards achieving results and attach great importance to participation, also when viewed in an international context.

At today’s annual general meeting of Nagra (National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste), Corina Eichenberger, President of the Board of Directors, reviewed the events of 2015. In January, Nagra announced that, of the six siting regions confirmed by the Federal Council in Stage 1 of the Sectoral Plan process, the regions Jura Ost and Zürich Nordost are proposed for further investigation in Stage 3. „The decision was a courageous one, but also the correct one given the primacy of safety in the process“, said a confident Eichenberger. According to the Sectoral Plan, regions can only be placed in reserve if they show clear disadvantages compared to the others. „If a region has disadvantages that are relevant in terms of safety, it makes no sense to investigate it further.“

ENSI (Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate) announced in September 2015 that Nagra was required to provide additional documentation supporting its siting proposals. The requirements relate to optimisation of the disposal depth in terms of safety and are particularly relevant for deciding whether the Nördlich Lägern siting region should undergo further investigation in Stage 3. „We do not know yet where ENSI’s evaluation of the additional documentation will lead“, said Thomas Ernst, Chief Executive Officer of Nagra. The documents will be submitted in July 2016 and published openly; the results of ENSI’s review are expected for spring 2017 and the decision of the Federal Council on the siting regions to be carried forward to Stage 3 at the end of 2018.

In preparation for Stage 3 of the Sectoral Plan process, 3D seismic measurements were carried out in the regions Jura Ost and Zürich Nordost in winter 2015/16. To be prepared for every eventuality and to avoid potential delays in the process, Nagra will also carry out 3D seismic measurements in Nördlich Lägern from autumn 2016.

Further highlights in 2015 were the dismantling of the FEBEX Experiment («Full-Scale Engineered Barriers Experiment») at the Grimsel Test Site in May. With a duration of 18 years, FEBEX was the longest 1:1 demonstration experiment on emplacement of high-level waste in the field of research on deep geological disposal, making it unique. Analyses of the samples recovered during dismantling are currently underway. In October, Nagra’s new interactive exhibition „Journey through time to a deep repository“ celebrated its premiere at an autumn fair in Schaffhausen. The exhibition has a virtual experience section that uses the novel Oculus technology to take visitors on a journey through time to a future repository. The new organisation of Nagra for Stage 3 of the Sectoral Plan process was announced in December. „The new structure will allow us to meet the upcoming challenges for repository site selection in a focused and goal-oriented manner“, explained Ernst.

The annual general meeting also approved the financial statements for 2015, which showed a turnover of CHF 62.2 million. After deduction of income from services for third parties and various research contributions, the expenditure to be borne by the members of the Nagra Cooperative amounted to CHF 56.7 million.

According to Swiss nuclear energy legislation, the producers of radioactive waste are responsible for its safe management and disposal. In 1972, the nuclear power plant operators and the Federal Government set up the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra) to perform this task. Nagra, which has its headquarters in Wettingen (AG), is the national technical competence centre in the field of deep geological disposal of radioactive waste.

Out of a strong sense of responsibility for the long-term protection of man and the environment, 110 employees are involved daily in performing this important work. The high level of competence is secured by targeted research programmes in two Swiss underground rock laboratories and intensive international collaboration.