(translation by the Blog author)
On 26 April 2021, the NSC published its Activity Report 2020. With a new composition compared to 2019 and with Dr. B. Müller as the new Chairman, the Commission dealt with the same topics as before in accordance with its terms of reference. With regard to nuclear waste management, we would like to draw attention to two points in particular:
1. Avoidance of organic substances in low and intermediate level radioactive waste (L/ILW): this demand was already made 15 years ago by the former KSA; although no progress has obviously been made since then. As a reminder: organic waste can develop gas during decomposition in a deep geological repository, the pressure build-up of which can impair the containment capacity of the host rock and thus the safety of the repository. Organic substances are therefore not permitted in deep geological repositories for conventional (non-radioactive) waste. The NSC now writes in this regard:
“Organics in radioactive waste
At the end of 2019, the NSC had formulated questions on the basic principles and protection goals for the disposal of radioactive and non-radioactive waste for the attention of the SFOE. Once the answers to these questions were available, the NSC dealt with various aspects of organic low- and intermediate-level waste (ILW) and its long-term behaviour in a deep geological repository during the reporting year. In a letter to the SFOE [KNS OiSMA 2020], it stated that the regulations for the emplacement in a deep geological repository, which deviate from the specifications for non-radioactive waste, namely in the VVEA5 , should be explicitly expressed in the legal framework. This also applies to the criteria and framework conditions that are decisive for these deviating regulations. The NSC also emphasised that measures to avoid or reduce the presence of organics in L/ILW are still of fundamental importance in terms of safety, even if organics only account for a comparatively small proportion of the total mass of waste. Possible negative effects of organics in the L/ILW repository can be circumvented as far as possible by taking suitable measures to avoid or reduce them prior to emplacement, i.e. they do not have to be mitigated by additional technical measures only in the repository. (Bold by the author of the Blog)
The NSC will continue to pursue the issue, among other things, in the course of reviewing the 2021 disposal programme of the waste producers and will assess any changes to the current situation that may arise accordingly.”
Our comment: The NSC should also have been more strict and more emphatic in demanding that organic substances in radioactive waste be thermally destroyed before they are stored in a deep geological repository.
2. Preparations for the submission of the application(s) for the general licence(s) for a deep geological repository: Nagra intends to communicate the site(s) for a deep geological repository in about 2022. It then intends to start preparing the application (or applications) to obtain the general licence. The NSC is now concerned about Nagra’s reporting on the further geological investigations carried out with a view to submitting the application (or applications) and the technical reports to be submitted with a view to the general licence application. The Commission states in this regard:
“Reporting on general licence applications
ENSI’s specifications for stage 3 of the Deep Geological Repository Sectoral Plan  stipulate that, with regard to reporting for general licence applications, the waste producers must submit a concept to ENSI indicating when reference reports on completed investigations will be submitted to ENSI in advance. In line with this requirement, Nagra submitted Work Report NAB 19-48 by the end of 2019, which outlines the envisaged report structure for the documents and the provisional timetable for submission of the reports. With reference to the NAB 19-48 work report, the NSC decided to get an early idea of which of the reports were central to the assessment of site selection and should be dealt with by the Commission promptly after publication. After reviewing the report structure envisaged by Nagra and the associated timetable, possible thematic priorities for consideration by the Commission were identified and an efficient procedure for evaluating the reports in the NSC was agreed. Beginning with Work Report NAB 19-15 “Site-independent comparison of a combined repository with two individual repositories with regard to construction and operating procedures and the environment”, the NSC then commenced internal evaluation of the reference reports already published.”
Our comment: Several of Nagra’s supplementary deep boreholes in the three potential siting regions Bözberg, Zürcher Weinland and “Lägern Nord”, as well as the processing of the seismic profiles, have been completed. To date, the results of these investigations (in contrast to Nagra’s previous practice) have been communicated (and even published) only sparingly. This clearly contradicts the declaration of intent in the NAB 19-15 report and will not strengthen confidence in the waste management organisation. It is not clear from its annual report which reference reports the NSC refers to.
 Präzisierungen der sicherheitstechnischen Vorgaben für Etappe 3 des Sachplans geologische Tiefenlager; ENSI 33/649; ENSI, Brugg, November 2018
 If a deep geological repository is planned for all waste categories (combined repository), only one general licence application must be prepared and submitted.
 Konzept zur frühzeitigen Einreichung von RBG-Referenzberichten an das ENSI; Arbeitsbericht NAB 19-48; Nagra, Wettingen, Dezember 2019
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