Status of Implementation
- Legal responsibility for radioactive waste management lies with the producers of the waste, i.e. the NPP operators and the Federal Government (for waste from medicine, industry and research). All types of wastes must be disposed of in deep geological repositories. To plan and implement final disposal, the waste producers established the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra) in 1972. Nagra is responsible for the disposal of all types of radioactive waste, including the necessary research and development activities and the preparation of siting proposals and licence applications. The demonstrations of the feasibility of disposal were approved by the Federal Government in 1988 (L/ILW) and June 2006 (HLW) respectively. To store the waste until the geological repositories are available, a centralised interim storage facility (ZZL) has been operated by ZWILAG AG since 2001.
- Switzerland has two operating underground research laboratories in two different host rocks - the Grimsel Test Site (GTS) in crystalline rock, operated by Nagra, and the Mont Terri Rock Laboratory in Opalinus Clay, owned by the Republic and Canton of Jura and operated by the Swiss Geological Survey of the Swiss Federal Office of Topography.
- The Nuclear Energy Act (2003) assigns responsibility for defining and leading the site selection process to the Federal Government. Following a stepwise approach based on spatial planning legislation, siting has to be conducted in close cooperation with regional stakeholders. In April 2008, the Federal Government approved the concept for the site selection process in the form of the “Sectoral Plan for Deep Geological Repositories”; this defines the siting criteria, the steps for implementation, the timeframe and the roles of the various stakeholders.
- As a first step, Nagra proposed six potential siting regions for the repositories for L/ILW and HLW, based on safety-oriented criteria defined by the regulator. All sites have clay-rich sediments as potential host rocks. The proposals were approved by the Federal Government on 30 November 2011.
- The second stage of the process, now ongoing, aims at defining the location of the repository surface facilities in each of the siting regions – in collaboration with local stakeholders through the participation process – and narrowing down the number of siting regions to at least two each for the L/ILW and the HLW repository. The highest priority is still given to safety issues, but spatial planning and socio-economic considerations must also be addressed. In January 2015, Nagra proposed two regions, “Jura Ost” and “Zürich Nordost”, for further investigation in Stage 3. The results of the review process were presented by the safety authority ENSI in December 2016. Nagra’s proposals are supported with one exception: ENSI recommends that “Nördlich Lägern”, which had been put in reserve, should also remain in the process for further investigation. All three regions have Opalinus Clay as the host rock and are suitable for the disposal of both L/ILW and HLW. In Stage 3, they will be investigated in depth in seismic surveys and deep boreholes with a view to site selection and preparation of an application for a general licence.
- A Waste Disposal Programme describing the framework and the steps of implementation – as required by the Nuclear Energy Act – was approved by the Federal Council in 2013. An update was submitted to the authorities in 2016, together with a Research, Development & Demonstration Plan and an updated Cost Study.
Target Geologic Formation: Opalinus Clay
Earliest In-Service Date: 2050 (L/ILW), 2060 (HLW)