On 25 April 2017, the operator responsibilities for the Asse II mine as well as the Konrad and Morsleben repositories were transferred to the Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal (Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung mbH, BGE). This website of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) will therefore no longer be updated and displays the status as on 24 April 2017. You will find current information at the BGE: www.bge.de
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The Konrad mine is the youngest of the former iron ore mines in the Salzgitter region. The iron ore deposit of the Gifhorn Trough extends over a length of about sixty kilometres and a width of eight to fifteen kilometres.
An important criterion for disposal is that the radioactive waste is not connected to the ground water. This is the case with the Konrad mine: mighty layers of argillaceous rock prevent the ground water from flowing into the mine.
The repository is sealed to groundwater by clayey rock. Existing waters are inclusions originating from the time the ore deposit formed.
The surface installations of the Konrad mine in Salzgitter-Bleckenstedt were built prior to shaft sinking or immediately thereafter in the 1950s and 1960s. Since 2007, comprehensive building measures have been carried out for the construction of the repository.
The Konrad mine has had a changeful history. That the iron ore deposit was discovered at all, was coincidental: When drilling for raw oil, iron ore was found instead of oil.
The iron ore deposit of the Konrad mine, where radioactive waste is to be disposed of, formed about 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period.
The Konrad site is located in a tectonically undisturbed zone in Germany. The last relevant tectonic movements in the vicinity of the site took place about five million years ago.
In a depth of 800 to 1,300 metres of the Konrad mine there are iron ore deposits where one intends to dispose of the radioactive waste. Compared with other iron ore mines, Konrad is exceptionally dry. The covering layer of clay rocks, which is 160 to 400 m thick, seals the mine against the groundwater near the surface and the Salzgitter branch canal.
Up until now, there is no operable and licensed repository for radioactive waste available in Germany. Already today, however, waste has been stored in decentralised interim storage facilities. For the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) it is natural to examine possible risks emanating from the transports of radioactive waste to the Konrad repository and to have as much knowledge of them as possible – irrespective of the fact that the BfS does neither carry out nor license the transports.
Radioactivity is a term for the property of certain atomic nuclei to transform themselves into other nuclei without external influence. During this process, energetic radiation (alpha, beta, gamma or neutron radiation) is emitted. There are both natural radionuclides and artificial radionuclides generated by nuclear processes.
The construction and operation of the Konrad repository was licensed in 2002 by the Lower Saxon Environment Ministry, following a plan-approval procedure having lasted twenty years. On 26 March 2007 the licence for Konrad was also confirmed by the Federal Administrative Court.
To ensure safety, the radioactive waste is subjected to several examination procedures before it is disposed of. A combined control of conditioning (packaging in a manner meeting the requirements for disposal) and random sampling has proven their worth.
The changes laid down in the "Act on the Realignment of the Organisational Structure in the Field of Radiation Protection and Radioactive Waste Disposal" basically aim to structure the organisations and authorities in a manner that future tasks, such as the search for a site for a repository for high-level radioactive waste, can be implemented successfully. Furthermore, the aim is to improve the organisational structures in existing areas and to ensure a clear allocation of responsibilities and tasks in the field of radiation protection and radioactive waste disposal. The changes that were decided by the German Bundestag in June 2016, are a response to proposals brought up repeatedly in the political debate by Wolfram König, President of the BfS.
Radioactive waste disposal costs incur in the planning phase, in the process of implementing the licensing procedure, during the construction, operation and decommissioning of a repository.
Based on the Precautionary Radiation Protection Act the Federal Office for Radiation Protection operates a national network for the large-scale determination of natural radiation exposure by continuously measuring the gamma dose rate (GDR). The BfS has installed measuring probes also on the premises of the Konrad repository, already before it has been taken into operation.
Farmers in the catchment area of the Konrad mine are concerned about the possible radiological contamination of their agricultural products. Therefore, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection has installed additional environmental monitoring equipment for the Konrad mine already before the mine is into operation as a repository.
Germany has decided in favour of maintenance-free and safe radioactive waste disposal in deep, stable geological formations. Repositories in deep geological formations such as the Konrad repository are located several hundred metres below the earth's surface and are isolated from the biosphere over long periods of time.
Radioactive waste having accrued and still accruing in Germany will be disposed of in Germany. Up until now there has been no operable, licensed radioactive waste repository available in Germany. Therefore, radioactive waste accruing will be stored in storage halls especially built for this purpose, so-called interim storage facilities, until they can be disposed of in a repository.
Many preparations still need to be made before emplacement can start. Once this has been done, emplacement operations will take place according to a set scale.
While the BfS has the role of operator and builder and thus takes the overall responsibility, the DBE carries out the planning and construction of the Konrad repository on behalf of the BfS. A multitude of other players are involved in the complex task of constructing the Konrad repository.
In Germany there are two repositories and two repository projects for which the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) is responsible: Morsleben, Asse, Konrad, and Gorleben. While Gorleben is still a mine and no decision has been made so far as to whether radioactive waste will ever be disposed of there, radioactive waste has already been stored in Morsleben and in Asse. Konrad, on the other hand, is currently being converted to a repository and is the only repository so far that has been licensed under nuclear law.
The plan-approval decision for the Konrad repository contains the qualified permission issued under water law (GWE), which is laid down in Annex 4. It limits the volume of non-radioactive, damaging substances contained in the radioactive waste to be disposed of.
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) is a scientific-technical higher federal authority in the portfolio of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) headquartered in Salzgitter. It works for the safety and protection of man and environment from damages due to ionising and non-ionising radiation.
There is no case where the BfS approves its own works. Rather, in terms of repositories, it is comprehensively controlled and supervised by several institutions at the same time.
Requirements result from the safety-analytical investigations that need to be complied with when waste packages to be disposed of will be delivered to the repository in future. These requirements have been implemented in the Konrad waste acceptance requirements. In the frame of waste package quality control it is examined whether they are complied with.
The Konrad mine, an abandoned iron ore mine located in the area of the city of Salzgitter is currently being converted to a repository for radioactive waste with negligible heat generation. About 90 per cent of the radioactive waste accruing in Germany is in this category; it does only contain about 1 per cent of the total radioactivity of all waste, though.
Prior to and during the operation of the repository the surrounding area of Konrad is monitored. That way it can be ensured that the emissions and immissions originating from the repository remain within or below the legal limit values.
In addition to the safety analysis of normal operation, accident analyses were carried out. The scenarios were based on technical or human failure or rock-mechanical impact. On this basis possible releases of radioactive material were calculated. The hypothetically assumed accidents show that no serious radiological consequences for the population in the vicinity would result.
Conclusions can be drawn to events possibly occurring in the future from geological events having occurred in the past . For the safety of the Konrad repository geological events have been investigated that could influence the Konrad site, should they occur in future.
The limit value for radiation exposure to a person has been set out in the provisions of the Radiation Protection Ordinance. For individuals of the population the limit value is 1 millisievert per year. That is about half of the natural radiation exposure occurring in Germany.
The protection of man and environment is of highest priority. For this reason, comprehensive safety considerations have been made in the scope of the plan-approval procedure for the Konrad repository.
Preparations for the emplacement of low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste to come are also being made underground. For this purpose, many mine openings still need to be driven more than 800 metres below the earth’s surface.
A survey of the most important construction measures carried out until the date the Konrad repository will be completed can be found here. Every week we inform you about the current works at the surface and underground.
In the following timeline you will find a brief selection of the works carried out so far at the surface and underground in the Konrad mine.
The protection of man and environment against radioactive radiation is a key component of the federal precaution and protection system. For instance, the environment of the Konrad mine has already been monitored with the help of three programs before the future repository will even be taken into operation.