Why Germany is digging up its nuclear waste (February 2016)

It seemed such a good idea at the time. At least, to the German politicians in charge.

But in hindsight, the Asse II salt mine should never have been used in the 1960s and 1970s as a site to dump nuclear waste, said Ingo Bautz of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

“Today, nobody would choose this mine to place radioactive waste,” Bautz told journalists during a recent tour of the mine, in the north-western state of Lower Saxony.

“People were thinking in different terms in those times. The plan was to increase the use of nuclear power.”

To anti-nuclear activists, Asse is a prime example of government not listening to citizens’ concerns. “Incidents were predicted,” said Wolfgang Ehmke, activist in the Gorleben region.

But the waste had to be stored somewhere, so the voices that warned against selecting Asse II were ignored.

“The potential risks for the future were accepted,” Bautz said, during a recent press visit to the mine organised by Clean Energy Wire, a non-profit group supported by the Mercator and European Climate foundations.

Road signs, deep underground

Until 1978, low and intermediate-level radioactive waste was stored in Asse II, the only such site in Germany.

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