“Results meet expectations”

Nagra has completed its first deep borehole in Bülach (Nördlich Lägern siting region). First results meet expectations. The second borehole in Nördlich Lägern will be drilled in Eglisau.

The National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Nagra, is dismantling the drilling rig in Bülach. “The drilling proceeded well. In seven months, we reached a depth of 1370 metres, and the rock samples we obtained are of good quality”, announces Markus Fritschi, Nagra’s Deputy CEO.

The samples are now being analysed in several laboratories. First results are already available – and they meet expectations. “Apparently, the Opalinus Clay that will eventually host the deep geological repository has a thickness of over 100 metres in Bülach”, Fritschi explains. The composition and tightness of the Opalinus Clay are comparable with samples from earlier boreholes in Northern Switzerland. Fritschi draws a positive initial conclusion: “The results confirm that the Nördlich Lägern region is suitable for hosting a repository. They will now be checked and supplemented in a second borehole in the Nördlich Lägern siting region in Eglisau”.

Throughout the drilling, the collaboration with the community of Bülach, local residents and the public in the region went well. “We are pleased that over 2000 people visited us and looked over our shoulder on a tour of the drill site”, says Fritschi.

The purpose of the deep boreholes is to support the decision on which of the three regions Jura Ost, Nördlich Lägern and Zürich Nordost is best suited for the construction of a deep geological repository. The lead in the search for a site lies with the Federal Government. It is not yet possible to state which region is the most suitable: “We first have to complete drilling in all three regions, and only then can we compare the regions with one another”, says Fritschi. The first borehole in Zürich Nordost began in August and drilling in the Jura Ost region will begin in 2020. The drilling rig used in Bülach will move to Marthalen (Zürich Nordost), where drilling will begin early next year.

Nagra has submitted a total of 23 permit applications for deep boreholes in the Jura Ost, Nördlich Lägern and Zürich Nordost siting regions, and, to date, twelve legally valid permits have been granted. How many boreholes will actually be drilled to complete the overall geological picture depends on the results, but it is not planned to drill all 23 boreholes. Nagra has set up a hotline for questions and concerns of local residents and other interested persons. It is free and operates 24/7 (0800 437 333). Every drill site also has a visitors’ pavilion and there are open days for the public.

More information: Patrick Studer, Head, Media Office: 076 579 36 50. patrick.studer@nagra.ch

According to Swiss nuclear energy legislation, the producers of radioactive waste are responsible for its safe management and disposal. In 1972, the Federal Government and the nuclear power plant operators 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, 120 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.