09 Apr 2020, 13:51
Rachel Waldholz

Environmentalists call for halt to German search for nuclear waste site during coronavirus

Clean Energy Wire / Tagesspiegel Background

The environmental group Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) is calling on the German government to postpone a report on potential nuclear waste repositories, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic is limiting public participation in the process. The federal company for radioactive waste disposal (BGE) is expected to issue a report this autumn identifying locations that could serve as permanent nuclear waste storage sites. But in an open letter to BGE and the federal office for nuclear waste (BASE) sent on Wednesday (8 April), BUND called for a moratorium on the search during the coronavirus crisis. The environmental group says restrictions imposed during the pandemic are making public participation, which is required by law, impossible. In particular, BUND points out that the German parliament has not passed a geological data law, which would govern the release of technical data to the public. "We are leaving behind nuclear waste for future generations to be preserved for a million years. That is why it is important for everyone involved to undertake this process of searching for nuclear waste storage facilities in cooperation with the people,” BUND chair Olaf Bandt said in a statement. “Only a moratorium can ensure that the search is made transparent and comprehensible to all." 

But the BGE says work is going forward as planned. “It is not yet possible to estimate how the current restrictions on public life will affect the timetable for finding a site," Steffen Kanitz, one of BGE's managing directors, told Tagesspiegel Background. The agency is working on digital formats to allow public participation, Kanitz told Tagesspiegel, adding that the agency hopes the German parliament will pass the geological data law this spring as planned. "We would be happy if the Bundestag could pass the law quickly despite the crisis," Kanitz said.

Germany has a long history of anti-nuclear activism. The country has committed to phasing out all nuclear power by 2022 and initiated a search for a final repository that is meant to be completed by 2031.

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