Lemke: Nuclear waste remains dangerous even after the last three power plants have been shut down
Around two weeks before Germany finally phased out nuclear power, Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) emphasized the continuing problem of nuclear waste. This garbage will still be dangerous for “30,000 generations,” she said on Thursday in Berlin. The waste from the use of nuclear power is stored throughout the country, and the search for an underground repository remains a “major task for society as a whole”.
Lemke said it was “good that a new era begins on April 15”. Then the last three nuclear power plants (AKW) in Germany will be taken off the grid. The Akw Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland were originally supposed to go offline at the end of 2022. Because of the energy crisis, the coalition extended the terms until mid-April.
The years that followed were “challenging,” said Lemke: “Decades of dismantling lie ahead of us.” In the six decades of use in Germany, only three nuclear power plants have been completely dismantled. 30 Akw are still standing. Decommissioning takes 10 to 15 years.
The waste must be stored and stored. The low to medium-level radioactive waste alone filled a hundred Olympic swimming pools, said Lemke. For highly radioactive waste it is “inevitable” to find a repository. This should happen by 2031. The minister recently called for the process to be accelerated.
The President of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management, Wolfram König, welcomed the fact that the departure from nuclear power ended the “decades-long discussion” about advantages and disadvantages. Now the “Herculean task” is to find the “safest repository” in deep geological layers.
The 16 above-ground interim storage facilities for highly radioactive nuclear waste guarantee “sufficient safety”, but cannot replace a repository, said König. Only when the waste is stored in a repository is the nuclear phase-out “really complete”.
When asked, Lemke went into the energy supply again. Despite the shutdown of the three nuclear power plants and the planned phase-out of coal, it is “ensured”, above all through the “massive” expansion of renewable energies, said the minister. With a view to calls for the nuclear phase-out to be postponed again, she warned that “stop with backward-looking debates”. She accused the previous governments: “We could be much more advanced in the expansion of renewable energies”.
Lemke emphasized that radiation protection remains important despite the move away from nuclear power in Germany. Germany must be able to react “quickly and effectively” to risks, especially to nuclear accidents abroad.
The President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Inge Paulini, pointed to “new risk scenarios” such as the use of nuclear weapons: “We don’t know what’s going to happen next in the world.” Radiation does not stop at borders. Seven nuclear power stations are located less than 100 kilometers from the German border.