“The Region is involved in shaping the project”

President Lino Guzzella and CEO Matthias Braun look back on the year 2023, on the constructive collaboration with the siting region – and on how Nagra plans to forge ahead.


Almost two years have passed since Nagra announced its siting proposal. It will soon submit the general licence applications. How has this changed Nagra’s work?

Matthias Braun: Our focus has become more local: since the siting proposal, we have directed much of our attention to the Nördlich Lägern region.This change is clearly evident and tangible. We set up an information pavilion in Stadel and have since opened an office there. We drilled in the Haberstal area and expanded the boreholes to include measurement stations for groundwater analysis. We are already working closely with the local authorities and with residents and organisations from Stadel and the surrounding area. In this respect, our day-to-day work has changed significantly.

How does this close collaboration manifest itself?

Lino Guzzella: For one, the tone is constructive. At our dialogue event in Fisibach, different stakeholders – community representatives, the authorities, residents and NGOs – engaged in objective and solution-oriented discussions. I was particularly impressed with the pragmatic approach of the local residents to our collaboration: this makes me
optimistic about the next steps. For me, this event was one of the highlights of 2023.

Braun: The region as a whole has shown a great deal of commitment. The communities of Glattfelden, Stadel and Weiach, for example, organised information events. The mayors of the three communities travelled to Finland with us and were able to see first-hand how the Finnish communities deal with their deep geological repository. A new organisation called “STADELaktiv” has been established. It sees itself as a working group consisting of residents who are committed to a compatible project. The “LoTi” organisation has also been in contact with us, for example, visiting us at the information pavilion or in the Mellingen drill core archive, and asking important and critical questions. The regional conference and its working groups are also engaged in valuable work. Overall, we are in a position to say that the region has assumed the role of an important stakeholder, participates actively and is involved in shaping the project. I am convinced that the commitment of the local residents will improve the repository project.

Matthias Braun, CEO

“ Our focus has become more local: since the siting proposal, we have directed much of our attention to the Nördlich Lägern region.”

Matthias Braun, CEO

So the region has become more active and is collaborating well. What else was Nagra working on in the reporting year?

Braun: We have made great progress in preparing the general licence applications. Many members of our staff are putting in a lot of work to make this happen. We are also concretising the repository project and making very good progress there, too.

Guzzella: I am aware that Nagra staff are under significant pressure. Thanks to their notable commitment, we expect to be able to submit the applications on schedule in November 2024. The quality of the reports is very high. That speaks for itself, but that we are also progressing on schedule is something that everyone at Nagra can be proud of and that I, for one, greatly appreciate. Working on the reports is very demanding and requires a huge amount of diligent work. Staff are quietly doing most of this behind closed doors. I have the greatest
respect for that. What also became evident in 2023 is that Nagra is forging ahead and evolving from a research organisation into a project organisation. I can feel this transformation in the corridors of Nagra, and I can sense it when I talk to staff members.

Braun: We are on the verge of taking a new path. We are convinced that we have found the most suitable site for a deep geological repository. We will now focus on implementing the project.

What does this mean for Nagra staff?

Guzzella: Many job profiles will change. I am positive that these changes are an opportunity for everyone at Nagra.

And what will change for Nagra’s Board of Directors?

Guzzella: The course that we, the Board of Directors, are now defining, the decisions we are now making, concretely impact costs and schedule – we are proceeding with great respect.
At the same time, we are confident that the project is safe and cost-effective and will remain so. Nagra staff have earned a great deal of trust, especially with the siting proposal, which was well received and understood. Furthermore, in this new phase, Nagra can increasingly benefit from the know-how of the members of the Cooperative, as they have a great deal of experience with major projects.

“ Nagra is forging ahead and evolving from a research organisation into a project organisation.”

Lino Guzzella, President

Why is the submission of the general licence applications so important for Nagra?

Braun: In my view, submitting the general licence applications is a very important milestone in the repository project. They formalise important basic features of the construction project, for example, the siting proposal or the surface perimeter of the structures.

Guzzella: I strongly agree with this assessment. Above all, it is an important political milestone. The siting proposal was perhaps more interesting for the media and of course very important for the region. Formally speaking, however, the submission of the general licence applications is, in fact, the decisive step, because only then can our proposal be reviewed by the authorities.

Braun: I remain convinced that the Sectoral Plan works and that all stakeholders involved are doing a great job. The collaboration with the region, for example, is so successful and pragmatic largely because of the Sectoral Plan. In this sense, the general licence applications are a direct consequence of the Sectoral Plan.

Guzzella: Yes, the Sectoral Plan has proven its worth. I am convinced that it will continue to contribute to the success of the project right up to the end.

Lino Guzzella, President

“Up to the end” means: until the general licences are granted in the late 2020s or early 2030s. What lies ahead until then?

Guzzella: Nagra is making good progress, the Nagra Board of Directors works together very well, and collaboration with the authorities and the region is also constructive and goal-orientated. The Swiss deep geological repository concept is robust, financing is secured, the Opalinus Clay is a suitable host rock, and Nördlich Lägern is the safest site. These are more than enough reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Braun: In 2024, we will still be working intensively on the general licence applications, which we will submit in November. At the same time, we will continue to plan the deep geological repository, the encapsulation plants and the surface facilities. And we will probably carry out exploratory drilling in the Haberstal before the general licence is granted. The project of the century of deep geological disposal is therefore making good headway.

Nagra Annual Report 2023

This interview is part of the annual report 2023. Read the full report here:
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