Germany formally launched its search for a permanent nuclear waste disposal site on Monday.
BGE, the nation’s waste management organization, named 90 areas around the country as possible candidates for the permanent waste disposal. It said in a long-awaited report that a location needs to be found by 2031. The aim is to start storing containers of radioactive waste at the site by 2050.
Germany is seeking a safe place to store 1,900 containers of waste. The containers make up only 5% of the country’s nuclear waste but 99% of its radioactivity, according to BGE chairman Stefan Studt.
“Germany’s geology is so favorable, from north to south and east to west, that we can say with conviction that it will be possible to find the one site with the best possible security for the final storage of highly radioactive waste,” Studt said.
Read more: What happens to nuclear waste from power plants?
After the Fukushima disaster in 2015, Germany decided to move away from nuclear power and towards more renewable forms of energy. The country’s is expected to close all nuclear plants by 2022.
Regions in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, as well as Lower Saxony and states in eastern Germany, are among the potential waste disposal sites. The locations suggested “favorable geological conditions for the safe disposal of radioactive waste,” the BGE said. The sites will now be vetted to account for other factors, including population density.
Not on the list is Gorleben, a small settlement in Lower Saxony of 650 residents. In the 1970s, West German authorities earmarked a salt mine in the region for nuclear waste disposal. Locals never accepted the decision and Gorleben became the focus of Germany’s anti-nuclear movement.
Read more: Nuclear waste in disused German mine leaves a bitter legacy
Gorleben currently houses two temporary nuclear waste sites. Critics have said the facility is not suited for storing nuclear waste as salt in the ground could weaken containment structures and cause radioactive leaks.
BGE managing director Steffen Kanitz said Gorleben was found not to have a “favorable overall geological situation,” partly due to the risk of erosion.
Germany is likely to run into resistance from local politicians at whichever site it chooses. Bavaria’s state government has already insisted that it is unsuited for permanent waste disposal.
dv/dr (AP, dpa)