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
Navigation and service
The public hearing on the decommissioning of the Morsleben repository was carried out by the licensing authority, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment of the Federal State of Saxony-Anhalt (MLU) from 13 to 25 October 2011. It was held over altogether nine days in Oschersleben (Saxony-Anhalt).
Building upon the results of comprehensive investigations, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has developed its decommissioning concept for the Morsleben repository. In 2005, the BfS submitted the documents to the licensing authority, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment of the Federal State of Saxony-Anhalt (MLU) and presented them to the general public. According to this concept, the decommissioning will consist of widely backfilling the mine, sealing the emplacement areas and the shafts. An important component of the nuclear licensing procedure required for decommissioning are considerations on long-term safety. Morsleben is the first radioactive waste repository that is intended to be decommissioned under nuclear law.
Objections against the planned decommissioning of the repository in Morsleben are discussed in a public hearing. Irrespective of this, the BfS will deal with some of these concerns that have been raised on the occasion of informative meetings and published in collective objections.
The public hearing in the scope of the plan-approval (licensing) procedure for the decommissioning of the Morsleben repository started on 13 October 2011. In the applicant's introductory statement, Dr. Michael Hoffmann (BfS) gave an overview of the mine's history and the decommissioning plans.
For monetary reasons, the former GDR examined only existing salt mines when searching for a repository site. The emplacement of radioactive wastes was already launched in 1971 before the repository was licensed and structural preparations were completed. According to today's criteria, the mine would not have been licensed as a repository.
Based on the Unification Treaty, the Morsleben repository for radioactive waste was transferred to the area of responsibility of the Federal Republic of Germany after German reunification – the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) became the operator of the repository. The permanent operating licence granted by the GDR was considered a factual plan-approval decision which continued to be effective until 30 June 2000. Emplacement operation of low-level to intermediate-level radioactive waste was resumed in 1994. Following a fundamental reappraisal, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection irrevocably waivered the acceptance of further radioactive wastes and their disposal in the Morsleben repository in 2001.
In the former GDR chicken were produced in the Marie mine, while the repository we know today was being constructed in the Bartensleben mine. Later on toxic waste was stored intermediately in the Marie mine.
From 1971, low-level and intermediate-level radioactive wastes were disposed of in the Bartensleben mine. Small amounts of radioactive waste were stored intermediately.
Between 1937 and 1944, the air force used the Marie mine to develop an ammunition plant at the surface and to store aircraft ammunition underground. From 1944 until the end of World War II in 1945 the entire mine was confiscated for armament production. Concentration camp prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp were forced to produce armaments underground. The work killed many people. Today the repository is also a memorial site for survivors and their next of kin.
In 1897 construction of Marie mine started in Beendorf. Later on, the Bartensleben mine was constructed in Morsleben and connected underground to the Marie mine. The mine was created. Today, historic devices from the time mining activities took place can be found at several places in the mine. They are witnesses of the repository's past as potash and rock salt mine. As a result of the former mining operation, the mine's cavity volume is today 8 – 9 million cubic metres. Such a large number of cavities presents a challenge for the safe decommissioning of the repository. Part of the cavities has already been backfilled to stabilise the mine.
Operational radiation protection includes both the dosimetric monitoring of staff and visitors and the monitoring of the facilities themselves. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has taken a number of measures in order to prevent people from being exposed to any radiation hazards. Defined radiation protection areas, dosimetric monitoring and contamination controls are used to protect staff and visitors from unacceptable radiation exposure.
In order to be able to safely operate the Morsleben repository until the nuclear decommissioning procedure concludes with the implementation of the decommissioning measures applied for by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, the mine openings need to be stable. Neither natural rock movements nor inflowing water must impede the stability. The barrier function of the covering rock layers needs to be kept.
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) examined different approaches for decommissioning and filed a plan-approval application for the best suitable option.
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.
The responsibilities for the disposal of radioactive waste are regulated in the Atomic Energy Act (AtG). Pursuant to § 9a para. 3 AtG the Federation has the task to establish facilities for the long-term storage and disposal of radioactive waste. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) is the competent authority pursuant to § 23 AtG. Today, the overall responsibility for the operation and decommissioning of the Morsleben repository is with the BfS.
In case relevant volumes of influent solutions enter the mine – which is not very probably but needs consideration as well – the emplacement areas eastern field and western-southern field are additionally separated by the other mining districts by sealing structures. Thus, isolated areas which will be dense for the long term will be created in the large and complex mine openings.
Environmental monitoring, also referred to as immission monitoring, controls the radioactivity in the direct vicinity of the repository. Air, water, soil and plants are examined to recognise early long-term changes as a result of the discharge of radioactive materials from the repository and to control compliance with dose limits. The results from environmental monitoring prove that there are no indications that the operation of the Morsleben repository increases the existing natural or civilizational radiation exposure.
In the context of emission monitoring controls are carried out as to what extent discharges from the Morsleben repository are radioactively contaminated. Radioactive materials can be released via both the return air and the waste water (e.g. water for a shower or washing hands) from the control area of the repository. For this reason, discharges from the mine are monitored and the measurements are documented.
The planned measures of the decommissioning concept need to be suitable to isolate the radioactive waste from the biosphere as best as and for as long as possible. Releases that cannot be prevented need to be as low as possible and delayed for such a long period that the following protection goals in terms of radiation exposure to man and environment are complied with.
The mining state of the Morsleben repository is monitored continuously. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) monitors the state of the rock and the existing saline solutions to ensure that the repository can continue to be operated in an orderly and safe manner until it will be decommissioned.
Since the Morsleben repository is an installation under § 9a Atomic Energy Act, its operation and future decommissioning are entirely financed by State funds. From 1990 to 2014, the Morsleben repository for radioactive waste entailed costs of about 1.1 billion euros.
In practically all mines, various volumes of influent solutions and brines occur. Influent solutions are groundwater that is saturated with rock salt and flows into the mine workings from outside. Solutions originate from the operation of the mine or were enclosed when the salt rock was generating. In contrast to the solutions from the operation of the mine, the latter are also entirely saturated with rock salt.
Apart from the radioactive waste disposed of, waste has also been stored intermediately in the Morsleben repository for radioactive waste. This waste consists of radium-226 waste and of mainly cobalt-60 radiation sources. Measured by volume, the intermediately stored waste covers only a negligible portion of the radioactive waste (less than 0.01 per cent). Still, it represents ca. two thirds of the emplaced activity (182,000 gigabecquerels; as of 2013).
In the former Bartensleben potash and rock salt mine near Morsleben (Saxony Anhalt), the GDR set up a repository for low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The Federal Republic of Germany continued to use this repository until 1998. Altogether 36,754 cubic metres of low-level and medium-level radioactive waste have been stored in the Morsleben repository.
From 1971 to 1991 and from 1994 to 1998, altogether 36,754 cubic metres of low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste were disposed of in the Morsleben repository for radioactive waste (ERAM). This also includes 6,621 sealed radiation sources. About sixty per cent of the inventory currently being stored originates from the time after the repository had been taken over by the BfS in the course of reunification, starting on 3 October 1990.
The crucial point in radioactive waste disposal is guaranteeing long-term safety. Long-term safety analyses are based on observations in nature and of the geological past and provide the option to forecast the future development. Thus, estimations can be made on unfavourable long-term developments (such as an acute inflow of water) and their effects on man and environment.
With the German Reunification on October 3, 1990 the Federal Republic of Germany assumed responsibility for the Morsleben repository for radioactive waste. According to the provisions set out in the Unification Treaty, operation of the Morsleben repository was to be continued until June 30, 2000.
On the basis of comprehensive investigation programmes a decommissioning concept has been developed that takes into account the complicated geological, geo-technical, mining and long-term safety requirements. It has been designed in such a way that the protection goals will be kept.
The operation of the Morsleben repository has currently been reduced to keeping the mine open. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) applied for the decommissioning of the Morsleben repository under nuclear law. The licensing procedure provides for public participation. For this purpose the necessary documents were disclosed for public inspection. During that period the citizens could raise objections to the project. The BfS published a first evaluation of the submitted technical concerns. The formal discussion of the objections takes place during the public hearing under the aegis of the licensing authority.
Comprehensive monitoring measures serve to ensure the current and future safety of the Morsleben repository. The mine safety of the site is being controlled and the radiation exposure to persons, facilities and the vicinity of the repository is being monitored. The objective is to provide consistent proof of the radioactive materials discharged from the mine and to quickly detect possible changes in order to be able to take action should this become necessary.
The former potash and rock salt mine and current repository Morsleben can look back on a varied history. In 1971, the GDR established a repository for low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste in this mine. The Federal Republic of Germany continued to use this repository until 1998. Altogether 36,754 cubic metres of low-level and medium-level radioactive waste has been stored. The repository is under decommissioning. The objective is to safely seal off the radioactive waste from the biosphere. The overall responsibility for the construction and operation of the repository is with the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).
In the scope of the licensing procedure for decommissioning, a decommissioning concept has been developed in order to close the repository in such a way that there will be no risk for man and environment, not even on the long term. Different options have been examined and the option of widely backfilling the repository has been selected as the best suitable concept. For this decommissioning option the required long-term safety analysis was carried out.