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In ‘challenge of the century’, Swiss search to bury radioactive waste

The underground laboratory stretches throughout 1.2 kilometres of tunnels.

Storing radioactive waste above floor is a dangerous enterprise, however the Swiss suppose they’ve discovered the answer: burying spent nuclear gasoline deep underground in clay.

The Mont Terri worldwide laboratory was constructed to check the consequences of burying radioactive waste in clay which sits 300 metres (985 toes) beneath the floor close to Saint-Ursanne within the northwestern Jura area.

The underground laboratory stretches throughout 1.2 kilometres (0.7 miles) of tunnels. Niches alongside the way in which, every round 5 metres excessive, are crammed with varied storage simulations, containing small portions of radioactive materials monitored by hundreds of sensors.

More than 170 experiments have been carried out to simulate the completely different phases of the method—positioning the waste, sealing off the tunnels, surveillance—and to breed each conceivable bodily and chemical impact.

According to specialists, it takes 200,000 years for the radioactivity in probably the most poisonous waste to return to pure ranges.

Geologist Christophe Nussbaum, who heads the laboratory, mentioned researchers wished to find out what the potential results may very well be “on storage that needs to last for nearly one million years.”

That “is the duration that we need to ensure safe confinement,” he mentioned, including that up to now, “the results are positive.”

Potential websites recognized

Three potential websites within the northeast, close to the German border, have been recognized to obtain such radioactive waste.

Switzerland’s nuclear plant operators are anticipated to decide on their most popular choice in September.

The access tunnel to the  Mont-Terri Laboratory
The entry tunnel to the Mont-Terri Laboratory.

The Swiss authorities shouldn’t be attributable to make the ultimate choice till 2029, however that’s unlikely to be the final phrase as the difficulty would in all probability go to a referendum underneath Switzerland’s well-known direct democracy system.

Despite the drawn-out course of, environmental campaigners Greenpeace say Switzerland is shifting too quick.

“There are a myriad of technical questions that have not been resolved,” Florian Kasser, in control of nuclear points for the environmental activist group, advised AFP.

For starters, he mentioned, it stays to be seen if the methods in place can “guarantee there will be no radioactive leakage in 100, 1,000 or 100,000 years.”

“We are putting the cart before the horse, because with numerous questions still unresolved, we are already looking for sites” to host the storage services, he mentioned.

Kasser mentioned Switzerland additionally wanted to contemplate the way it will sign the place there websites are to make sure they aren’t forgotten, and that folks many centuries from now stay conscious of the hazards.

Swiss nuclear energy vegetation have been pumping out radioactive waste for greater than half a century.

Until now, it has been dealt with by the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, or NAGRA, based in 1972 by the plant operators in conjunction with the state.

For now, the waste is being saved in an “intermediary depot” in Wurenlingen, some 15 kilometres from the German border.

A radioactive waste storage model in the underground laboratory
A radioactive waste storage mannequin within the underground laboratory.

Horizon 2060

Switzerland hopes to affix an elite membership of nations closing in on deep geological storage.

So far, solely Finland has constructed a web site, in granite, and Sweden gave the inexperienced gentle in January to construct its personal web site for burying spent nuclear fuel in granite.

Next up is France, whose Cigeo challenge, led by the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (ANDRA), plans to retailer radioactive waste underground in clay.

“We are awaiting the declaration of public utility but in the meantime we will submit a request for a construction permit,” mentioned ANDRA spokeswoman Emilie Grandidier throughout a go to to Mont Terri.

Following the 2011 nuclear accident on the Fukushima energy station in Japan, Switzerland determined to phase out nuclear energy step by step: its reactors can proceed for so long as they continue to be secure.

A projected 83,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, together with some excessive exercise waste, must be buried.

This quantity corresponds to a 60-year working lifetime of the Beznau, Gosgen and Leibstadt nuclear power plants, and the 47 years that Muhleberg was in operation earlier than closing in 2019.

Filling within the underground nuclear waste tombs ought to start by 2060.

“It’s the project of the century: we have carried out the scientific research for 50 years, and we now have 50 years for the authorisation and the realisation of the project,” mentioned Nagra spokesman Felix Glauser.

The monitoring interval will span a number of a long time earlier than the positioning is sealed a while within the twenty second century.

US affirms new interpretation for high-level nuclear waste

© 2022 AFP

In ‘challenge of the century’, Swiss search to bury radioactive waste (2022, April 9)
retrieved 9 April 2022
from https://techxplore.com/news/2022-04-century-swiss-radioactive.html

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