Germany and France agree to take back nuclear waste

Both countries have been negotiating for several years. A solution has now been found for the transport of highly radioactive waste back to Germany. The Castors are to roll to Baden-Württemberg by 2024.

A train with a special Castor container at the exit of Biblis station

DGermany and France have agreed on a new way to take back castors containing highly radioactive nuclear waste. According to a joint information paper from the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Environment Ministry, three to five containers with highly radioactive nuclear waste are to be returned from La Hague, France, to the Philippsburg interim storage facility in Baden-Württemberg by 2024. This would complete the return of all nuclear waste that Germany has to take back from France. According to the ministries, the agreement should be decided in plenary this Thursday.

The original plan provided for the return of 157 containers with medium-level radioactive material from the French plant in La Hague. Five castor casks with medium-level radioactive waste were originally intended to be returned to the Philippsburg interim storage facility and 152 casks with medium-level metal residues from reprocessed fuel elements to the Ahaus interim storage facility in North Rhine-Westphalia.

However, this solution was not feasible “due to technical difficulties with the intended TGC27 container design” and would have resulted in a delay in transport until the 1940s, explain the ministries. Contrary to what was initially planned, 152 containers with radioactive metal residues are now to remain in France. For this purpose, in addition to the Castor transports to Philippsburg, 30 empty fuel element transport containers are to be brought to the German interim storage facility in Ahaus. That too is part of the agreement.

Financial compensation for France

The background to the need for action and the long struggle for a solution is an international agreement according to which Germany must take back its nuclear waste that has been reprocessed abroad. This also applies to the waste that is still stored today in the reprocessing plants in La Hague, France, and Sellafield, UK.

Germany is taking back the same amount of radioactivity from France as originally agreed, it said. France receives financial compensation. This compensation is therefore made up of private and state funds. Both the German energy suppliers and the state fund for financing the nuclear waste management are involved in the compensation payments. How high the respective funds are initially remained unclear.

The chairman of the environmental committee in the Bundestag, Sylvia Kotting-Uhl (Greens), asked for more information on the agreement on Wednesday. The federal government must “provide transparent information about compensation payments and the effects on the interim and final storage of waste,” said Kotting-Uhl of the German press agency.