Swiss nuclear trade organisation, swissnuclear, will later this year begin discussions with local communities and cantons on possible payments and compensation for hosting a deep geological repository for radioactive waste. In September, Nördlich Lägern in northern Switzerland was proposed as the site of a repository.

How the repository surface facility could appear (Image: Nagra)

"The aim of this discussion phase is to get to know the partners, to understand their needs and to prepare the negotiation phase," swissnuclear said. "Among other things, it is also about how a sustainable generation-fair solution and a cooperative neighbourhood can be designed."

Swissnuclear, which represents the operators of nuclear plants who are responsible for waste disposal, added that the companies will "approach the talks in partnership and with an open mind".

The organisation noted that payments and compensation are voluntary payments by those responsible for waste disposal - nuclear power plant operators and the federal government - to the locations of the deep geological repository and the associated fuel element packaging plant.

"With payments and compensation, the contribution of the site region to the solution of a national task should be appreciated, the disposal of all radioactive waste in Switzerland, both from the operation of the nuclear power plants and from medicine, industry and research," it said.

The discussion phase will be followed by a negotiation phase with the aim of a mutually-accepted contractual arrangement. Swissnuclear noted this phase can only take effect once the general licences for the waste facilities have become legally binding, expected in 2029 at the earliest.

"Discussions on subsidies and compensation are taking place independently of the general approval process," swissnuclear noted. "This procedure is based solely on the application documents that [national radioactive waste disposal cooperative] Nagra prepares on the basis of technical and scientific criteria and regional project planning discussions. There are also reports and opinions."

The organisation has appointed former diplomat Christian Schoenenberger to represent it in the discussions. "Swissnuclear is convinced that Christian Schoenenberger can contribute to a good understanding of the positions of the parties involved in the run-up to the negotiations," it said. "As the discussion leader for the operators responsible for waste disposal, he will constructively contribute his many years of diplomatic experience for all parties."

In September 2022, following a 14-year site selection process, Nagra proposed Nördlich Lägern in northern Switzerland as the site of a deep geological repository, while a used fuel encapsulation plant be built at the existing Zwilag interim storage facility in Würenlingen in the can­ton of Aar­gau. The entrance to the repository, the so-​called surface facility, would be constructed in the Haberstal area in the community of Stadel in canton of Zürich.

Nagra is preparing the general licence applications for the repository and the encapsulation plant, which it expects to submit to the Federal Council in 2024. The authorities and the federal government will review these applications before the Federal Council and parliament make their decisions. This approval will be subject to an optional referendum, with the Swiss voters having the final say. Nagra said it is likely to be another 30 years or so before it can start waste emplacement operations.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Tuesday, 24 January 2023
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