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IAEA Finds Progress in Waste Management in Germany, Encourages Actions for Improved Cost Assessment

Cologne, Germany

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Germany demonstrated commitment to continued development of its national radioactive waste management (RWM) programme since a previous review in 2019. The review team noted that the majority of the initial recommendations and suggestions had been addressed and advised Germany to apply a consistent approach across future activities related to cost assessment of the RWM programme.

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded a six-day follow-up mission to Germany, the first IAEA follow-up to an ARTEMIS mission, which took place from 7 to 12 November.

The mission was carried out at the request of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) to review the implementation of the findings identified during the initial ARTEMIS mission in 2019. It was hosted by Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit gGmbH (GRS), Germany's central professional organization in the field of nuclear safety, in the city of Cologne.

The scope of the ARTEMIS follow-up mission covered all aspects and topics related to the development and implementation of the RWM programme. The mission focused on the national policy and strategy for the management of radioactive waste, application of selection criteria in the identification of a site for a disposal facility for high level radioactive waste, and cost assessment for the RWM programme. It also reviewed the national plan and cost estimation for the retrieval of waste from the ASSE II former salt mine.

ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. The review team comprised seven experts from Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and two IAEA staff members. Reviews are based on IAEA safety standards and technical guidance as well as on international good practices, and follow the guidelines of the ARTEMIS review service.

Mission team leader Patrice François, Senior Expert in Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning at the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety in France, said: “Germany, as the first country to call for a follow-up ARTEMIS mission, has shown its dedication to meet the findings from 2019 and strong commitment to transparency of communications, in the interest of improving standards of safety in implementing its national programme for radioactive waste management.”

Germany has made the decision to stop generating electricity from nuclear power plants. The three remaining operational nuclear power plants were planned to be shut down by the end of 2022. However, due to the current energy crisis these reactors, which have a total net capacity of 4000 MW(e), they will remain in operation until 15 April 2023 at the latest. Owing to the country’s previously large nuclear power programme with a total of 33 reactors, including the three in operation, a significant amount of radioactive waste will be generated by decommissioning activities. The waste will need to be stored until it can be safely disposed.

Currently, Germany does not have a receiving radioactive waste disposal facility. The Morsleben disposal facility has stopped receiving waste and is being closed. A new disposal facility for low and intermediate level waste is being constructed at the site of former iron ore mine Konrad. A nationwide search has begun to identify a site for a disposal facility for high level radioactive waste.

The mission included interviews and discussions with representatives of BMUV, GRS, Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE), Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal (BGE), Company for Storage (BGZ), as well as a site visit to the Biblis Nuclear Power Plant, a pressurized water reactor in permanent shutdown situated around 200 km southeast of Cologne, to observe the status of the dismantling and the management of radioactive waste.

The team found that Germany has successfully implemented many recommended actions from the 2019 mission. Of the three recommendations and 12 suggestions identified in the initial mission, two recommendations and two suggestions require further development, including:

  • Updating the cost assessment for the national waste management programme in the Cost Report, based on a consistent approach across all activities, including waste retrieval from Asse II mine.
  • Analysing risk and uncertainty when updating the cost assessment for all public sector components of the radioactive waste and spent fuel management programme.
  • Assessing whether the geosphere requirements for non-heat generating waste are different from those for high level waste and, if they are, taking them into account in the application of disposal facility siting criteria.
  • Making greater use of the radioactive waste inventory to monitor changes in the inventory over time and demonstrate waste minimization.

Gerrit Niehaus, Director General for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Safety at BMUV said: “We are happy that we were able to demonstrate that we made progress, that most of the 2019 findings could be closed and that no new ones were identified. The findings that remain open will be used to guide us on our way to further improve the safe management of radioactive waste in Germany, our national programme and our communication.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about two months.


ARTEMIS is an integrated expert review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. This service is intended for facility operators and organizations responsible for radioactive waste management, as well as for regulators, national policy makers and other decision makers.

The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Additional supplementing IAEA documents such as Nuclear Energy Series publications can be included in the review basis to supplement the safety standards series. They include practical examples to be used by owners and operators of utilities, implementing organizations, academia, and government officials in Member States, among others.

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