The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is in charge of applications-oriented basic research independent of location on nuclear disposal, especially regarding the aspect of safety in the treatment and disposal of radioactive waste. The focus is on the question of safe handling and disposal of radioactive waste. The Economic Affairs Ministry has been funding scientific investigations into this issue for nearly four decades. The results achieved so far show that the final storage of radioactive waste can be safely undertaken in deep geological rock formations.

An important task for research is to lay the scientific and technical basis for creating a final repository especially for heat-generating radioactive waste. This includes the development of methods and techniques necessary for specific measures to prepare final storage, and methods and techniques for the planning, construction, operation and closure of a final repository. This research work also continually furthers the state-of-the-art in science and technology.

The focus of future research work will be on the following R&D fields:

  • Impact of extended intermediate storage times on waste and containers (R&D field 1)
  • Scientific principles governing the site selection (R&D field 2)
  • Final repository concepts and technology (R&D field 3)
  • Proof of safety (R&D field 4)
  • Knowledge management and social and technical issues (R&D field 5)
  • Monitoring nuclear materials (R&D field 6)

A more detailed description of the R&D work being conducted as part of the research into nuclear disposal can be found in the current paper underpinning the funding by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy for research into nuclear disposal (2015-2018) (PDF: 1.1 MB, in German). As it conducts its activities, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy can rely on the support of the Project Management Agency in Karlsruhe (PTKA) (in German) based at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) (in German) and by its own research agencies, the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (in German) and the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (in German).

The research work receiving funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is making a substantial contribution towards the creation, further development and maintenance of scientific and technological knowledge and skills and to fostering young talent in the field of the disposal of nuclear waste in Germany.

International cooperation on research plays an important role in this. For several years now, not only salt, but also clay and crystalline rock (granite) have been studied intensively to assess their properties and see whether they could serve as host rock. The work being conducted in underground labs in granite and clay have made it possible to arrive at findings that are being regarded as important components of a proof-of-safety, which is required to demonstrate that these types of rock are suitable for hosting a final repository. Demonstration experiments (including in situ experiments) are becoming ever more important in this context. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has concluded a number of bilateral agreements on final storage with various international partners (Switzerland, Sweden, the U.S.A., Russia, France, China, the Czech Republic) and is also a founding member and partner of the Implementing Geological Disposal Platform for Technology (IGD-TP), which now has some 120 members from around the globe. All of these members are conducting research into nuclear disposal and share the goal of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to design safe final repositories.

The Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft Endlagerforschung (DAEF) (in German) was founded on 16 January 2013. This independent working group wants to promote research and development in the field of final nuclear disposal by fostering cooperation between ints members. The DAEF will be providing expert advice to the Federal Government. Among the founding members of the DAEF are the most important institutions involved in final storage in Germany. The DAEF is headed up by Prof. Dr Horst Geckeis (KIT) and his deputy Dr Jörg Mönig (GRS).