US President Barack Obama wanted to build a nuclear waste repository in the Nevada desert more than 10 years ago. A US court ruled that the repository would be approved if the operators could guarantee safety for a million years.
This is how long the waste will continue to radiate and how long there will be a danger to humanity and all life. But the operators could only guarantee safety for 10,000 years. The nuclear waste repository was not approved.
This is how it is all over the world
This is how it is all over the world. For decades, nuclear “repositories” have been sought, but nowhere has a repository for heavily radiating nuclear waste been found. Not even in Germany.
For 60 years, nuclear power plant operators have promised that “in a few years” the problem of nuclear waste would be solved. But so far, the world has only dangerous and temporary “interim” storage facilities. In the meantime, US nuclear waste is stored mainly in the Marshall Islands. The highly toxic material threatens the entire Pacific. No one wants to be responsible anymore.
The Swiss recently discovered a final storage site after an equally long search: Not coincidentally, directly on the border with Germany opposite the community of Hohentengen on the High Rhine. Construction is not scheduled to begin until 2045, however. But questions remain here as everywhere else. The mayor of Hohentengen, Martin Benz: “Further statements must be made on radiological , on radioactive effects and on possible interference cases. We are considerably concerned about the effects on the groundwater.” Only this much is clear: After 50 years of searching for a final repository: All questions are open.
The Gorleben repository project
The search for a “final repository” has been going on in this country for a long time in vain. In 1977, under the SPD federal government of Helmut Schmidt and the CDU state government of Ernst Albrecht in Lower Saxony, the site decision for the Gorleben nuclear “repository” project had apparently been made. But at that time, protests against this planning of a nuclear waste disposal repository were not only voiced in the Wendland region. Shortly before, I had an appointment with Ernst Albrecht for a television interview at his private home. He arrived an hour late, pale as a sheet and distraught as he stepped out of the helicopter from which he had previously observed 100,000 demonstrators in Hanover from the air. But as a Christian, I can’t do that.” Then, in March 1979, Albrecht announced that “at this point in time, a final repository cannot be politically implemented in Gorleben.” Large parts of his party were appalled by this “cowardice.”
Later, Gorleben became an “interim storage facility” and was abandoned altogether on September 28, 2020. Gorleben can live. But that does not solve the problem. Because the waste is there. Until now, the construction of a “final repository” in Germany was supposed to begin by 2031, said the “Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung” (BGE). But this deadline is not tenable, its managing director Stefan Studt now explains. In an extreme case, it could be the year 2068. Experts, writes the TAZ, assume that final storage can only begin in 2080 and will not be completed before 2120 So far, 90 site regions have been selected as potentially suitable for final storage. By the time the repository is commissioned, the dangerously radiating waste will be packed into 1,900 Castor containers.
For decades, we have been operating around 400 nuclear power plants on our planet. These produce thousands of tons of low-, medium- and high-radiation waste, for which there is still not a single final repository. No mouse has ever built a mousetrap, but we humans build nuclear power plants, even though we do not know what to do with the waste that is produced. Shouldn’t homo sapiens be at least as smart as a mou
Anyone who operates nuclear power plants is creating a legacy for eternity. To this day, no one knows what to do with the highly toxic nuclear waste that inevitably accumulates. Only the risk is certain. Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 have shown how dangerous the normal operation of nuclear power plants is. In the case of many other near-accidents, such as in 1979 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg/USA, where more than 100,000 people had already been evacuated due to a partial core meltdown, or in Sellafield/England, we were only lucky that nothing worse happened. At Sellafield, the cancer mortality rate among young children was still about eight times higher than the national average ten years later. Operating nuclear power plants is as irresponsible as building nuclear bombs. And the two are related. A government that relies on nuclear bombs for military “deterrence” must operate nuclear power plants, because that is where the material to build the bomb is produced – see our neighbors France. A vicious circle. Because the only thing that is certain is the risk.
Why I became an opponent
I myself was also a supporter of nuclear energy until 1986, until the Chernobyl disaster. I had believed the “experts” who told us that “something can happen at most every ten thousand years.” After the accident, I interviewed for ARD the head of the Chernobyl cleanup, Professor Vladimir Chernousenko. He was a professor of nuclear physics, an ardent supporter of atomic energy, and was appointed by Gorbachev as the chief cleanup worker at Chernobyl after April 26, 1986. But he, like many others, was exposed to nuclear radiation in the damaged reactor; his doctor gave the man in his early fifties five more years to live. I asked this nuclear expert if the German nuclear power plants were not safer than the Soviet ones. His answer: “There is not a single one hundred percent safe nuclear power plant in the whole world. Every AKW has a residual nuclear risk.” I then wanted to know what a residual nuclear risk was. Chernousenko’s memorable answer, “Residual nuclear risk is that risk that can finish us off any day. That’s why it’s called that.”
Researchers are increasingly warning of the unpredictable consequences of hot tides or ice ages, as well as extreme weather events and the vagaries of climate change over a million years. All this disproves the fairy tale of safe and cheap nuclear power. The earth shakes, flash floods sweep away entire towns, ice sheets and melting ice deform landscapes. What does it cost to pay a gatekeeper to guard nuclear waste for over a million years on a monthly salary of 3,000 euros and an inflation rate of two percent? I once asked this question on the talk show on “Maischberger”.
A German mathematics professor began to do the math while the show was still on the air. His assumptions: The gatekeeper gets a monthly salary of 3,000 euros – for one million years and we have an inflation rate of only two percent – also over one million years. The result of this calculation: A gatekeeper costs us more money over a million years than the entire human race has money today. Cheap nuclear power? A bigger swindle has never been dished out to us.
This question is being asked in Germany, Switzerland, the USA and everywhere else where nuclear power plants are still in operation. But satisfactory answers do not exist anywhere and may never exist. That’s why the whole world must switch as quickly as possible to renewable, inexpensive and safe energy from the sun, wind, hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal energy and ocean current and wave energy.
Nuclear expert Vladimir Chernousenko died of cancer six years after the Chernobyl disaster, and I have been an opponent of nuclear energy ever since. For good reasons.