Site selection and the memo AN 11-711
The Deep Geological Repository Sectoral Plan is the product of a failed search process: it emerged after the vote on Wellenberg in September 2002, which was lost for the nuclear industry, and was subsequently set in motion when the new nuclear energy legislation was drafted from 2005 onwards. In the past almost 2 decades, all the players involved have never tired of describing this Sectoral Plan as an absolutely transparent process with an open outcome. Nevertheless, in the course of the procedure, doubts were repeatedly raised from various sides about the management of the Sectoral Plan and the transparent as well as open-ended implementation of the search process was questioned. The Nagra memo AN 11-711 published in the «Sonntags-Zeitung» in October 2012, which raised the question of an anticipated site selection, was of particular importance.
Now, Nagra has announced the site remaining from the last three investigated sub-regions and has passed the buck to the «Nördlich Lägern» area. Of course, the question arises as to why this area, after decades of existence as a reserve site, suddenly gets such good geological marks. But this question is actually of secondary importance. The main question is whether and how transparent and open-ended the process was that led to this surprising result. There are increasing indications that this search process was anything but open and transparent and that it is more likely to be a heavily contaminated search process.
1 A highly non-transparent history
In the case of the site selection process for the Sectoral Plan for deep geological repositories, precisely this question arises, namely that this process – despite assurances of the contrary regarding transparency and openness of results – took place in essential phases under exclusion of the public and its background and results were never scrutinized or reviewed. The fact that the conception of the Sectoral Plan concept was directly influenced by representatives of economic interests, without making this clear, and thus a more than dubious approach was chosen by the leading federal bodies. That no process instrument such as an error culture with clearly defined «tools» existed that could have uncovered such omissions and covert actions. And finally, that answers to inconsistencies and paradoxes in the process were neither demanded nor given. Let us look back.
The Deep Geological Repository Sectoral Plan concept, which heralds the new Swiss site selection process for radioactive waste, bears the date of April 2, 2008. As of that date, the site selection process, with its three stages, the selection criteria and the terms of reference of the key players, is in force and is now being implemented under the leadership of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (brief description Appendix 1). All important parties have agreed to the concept in the preceding consultation to the extent that the pre-negotiated search process can now be initiated: the administrations from the federal administration and the cantons and their governments, the various organizations operating in the waste management sector, supervisory and expert bodies, to name only the most important players in the process. The purpose of this preliminary procedure, which is typical for the Swiss political system, is to test and determine the feasibility and acceptance of a project in advance of a political or legislative process. If this is supported by a broad majority of those involved, there is de facto nothing essential standing in the way of its realization. The Swiss consultation procedure has proven its political suitability. But is it also suitable for risk and high-risk areas of an economically central pillar of our country’s economy, which is repeatedly faced with major political and economic challenges? A high-risk area that therefore requires completely different scientific support?
2 The veiled concept of the Sectoral Plan
The development of the concept for the Deep Geological Repository Sectoral Plan has not yet been disclosed either by the nuclear industry or by the federal authorities. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), which is in charge of the procedure, writes that it was done with broad involvement,  which is certainly true because various administrations and commissions were involved and, as already mentioned, a broad consultation took place. The website of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Inspectorate ENSI also states that the concept for the Deep Geological Repository Sectoral Plan «was developed by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy together with other authorities and organizations and approved by the Federal Council in 2008». But there is – as far as research goes – not a single report on the history of the development of the Sectoral Plan. Who were the administrations and organizations involved in this project? How was the division of labor made, who was responsible for which parts, and who put them together into an overall document? What were the interests of the nuclear industry in a rapid implementation of the Sectoral Plan in connection with the general license applications submitted in 2008 for three new replacement nuclear power plants? And why was the general licensing procedure, which is governed by the Nuclear Energy Act, amalgamated with the Sectoral Plan procedure, which is a spatial planning instrument? A multitude of questions that could say a lot about the strategies that were concocted in the political-economic background.
For example, who actually wrote the content of the Sectoral Plan. On the title page of the concept of April 2, 2008, the Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE), the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (HSK) as predecessor of ENSI, the Commission for Nuclear Waste Disposal (KNE) and the Federal Commission for the Safety of Nuclear Installations (KSA) are mentioned under the heading «Agencies involved in the preparation». Also mentioned are an initial advisory board and a steering committee. Nagra, on the other hand, is not mentioned.
Other participants that do not appear in official documents are, for example, the Bern-based l planning and environmental office «Gresch+Partner», which provides a brief insight into its work in the nuclear field on its website. Among its various clients is the «National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste» and, under «Special studies», it lists the «Coordination of nuclear repository procedures». It is not clear what orders Nagra has received. However, it can be assumed that the procedural coordination relates to the Deep Geological Repository Sectoral Plan. It is not known from whom «Gresch+Partner» received the mandate and what the terms of reference were. The fact is, however, that Nagra was significantly involved in the preparation of the Sectoral Plan, as two of the blog authors can independently attest. The technical-scientific authorship is clear. 
Of course, one can argue about how sensible it is for the institution to be monitored to write the content concept according to which it is monitored. But what is not acceptable, in any case, is that this fact is concealed by the responsible authorities and by Nagra. Nevertheless, the history of its creation is nowhere documented by the official side and neither confirmed nor denied by the authorship or the responsible authorities. A wall of silence surrounds this central conceptual step as well as the network in which it was created.
3 The consequences of this wrong conception
But the fundamental problems of such an interest-driven approach soon became apparent: first of all, in the completely unrealistic implementation schedules, which had to be corrected again and again over a period of years and the future postponed. But above all, the concept itself: Nagra’s planners had chosen an extremely controversial approach that was subsequently repeatedly criticized by experts and the regions. Instead of tackling the problems in an orderly manner from below, the planning focused primarily on safety analyses and then on solving the problems on the surface (surface facilities, access structures to the repository): namely, first comprehensively clarifying the geology, then working out the repository concepts, then carrying out or verifying the safety analyses and finally defining the required infrastructures. However, Nagra first calculated that the sites were safe from a radiation point of view (safety analyses in stage 1), then studied the access routes to the repository (shafts, hot cells, etc., stage 2, and in some cases also repository concepts), and finally explored the geology by drilling (boreholes and geology, in some cases 3D seismics, adjustments to the repository concept, stage 3).
Above all, the postponement of the exploration work to the end of the search process led to an increase in serious problems. This was because the cooperative had long since decided on one of the sites – the Zürcher Weinland – as the location for a repository for high-level waste. For more than three decades, Nagra clearly favored this region. In 2002, it carried out an early selection and applied for the same as a site for a repository for high-level waste (Application 2). In this process, which lasted for decades, the other two regions – Nördlich Lägern and Bözberg – were rated significantly worse one after the other and were therefore relegated to the role of reserve sites. In the further process, especially in the additional report demanded by Federal Councilor Moritz Leuenberger – the so-called options report – the Zürcher Weinland clearly came out on top.  This consistent prioritization of the Weinland also remained in the further course of the Sectoral Plan process. A summary of the course of this prioritization can be found in the book « Where to put the nuclear waste?». 
It was therefore not really surprising when, in the fall of 2012, memo AN 11-711 containing Nagra’s exploration strategy and slide 13, which was marked confidential, was leaked to the public through indiscretion and the Cooperative’s widely known site favourites were named as target sites: Weinland as the site for high-level waste and Bözberg for low- and intermediate-level waste (Figure 1).  Once again, Nördlich Lägern was clearly lagging behind and was already sorted out after the planned execution of only two boreholes (double stop sign after borehole 2 diagonally in Figure 1).
The slide set shows in detail the process planning up to the interim result with the narrowing down decision (at least 2 sites per category [2×2]) at the end of the second stage of the Sectoral Plan, including the planned internal reports and further file notes (slide 15).
Figure 1: Memorandum AN 11-711, slide 13. The preliminary prioritization of the sites.
Vertraulich = confidential; ES = exploration strategy; ZNO = Zurich North-East (Weinland); NL = North Lägern; JO = Jura East (= Bözberg); SR = South Randen; WG = host rocks; RG = framework rocks
After publication of the memo, Nagra hastened to present the slide set as a «model process with hypothetical results» without any reference to reality,  which had been used for the cost study that Nagra was required to submit to the federal government every 5 years. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) followed this presentation and allowed itself to be «convinced» without even an external review of the document by independent experts. The cooperative repeated in public statements that the paper was «not a plan for how we will proceed». Thomas Ernst, Nagra’s managing director at the time, even stated that «as a result of Stage 2, more than two sites will certainly be pursued. There will certainly be between three and five, and certainly not two.» At Nagra, he said, no one yet knows what those sites will be.
On January 30, 2015, Nagra announced the decision – once again delayed by years – at a major media conference in Bern. This 2×2 decision not only focused on 2 sites, instead of the 3 to 5 predicted by Thomas Ernst, but also named the same two that had already been favored in the memo: the Zürcher Weinland and Bözberg. So they were back on track with the AN 11-711 memo, and this time there was no justification with a cost study. In fact, Nagra had proposed the same sites that had been identified in the memo slide marked confidential.
The focus on the two sites set by Nagra caused great incomprehension among the authorities. ENSI announced a review of the decisions, as did the two «surprised» cantons of Zurich and Aargau. For example, a media release issued the same day by the cantonal government of Zurich stated that the cantons had always called on Nagra to ensure a similar depth of investigation in all regions up for selection. A demand that the association KLAR Switzerland from the Weinland assessed similarly. However, KLAR SCHWEIZ also expressed its doubts that the search procedure «is not being planned in an open-ended manner.» In addition, ENSI and the affected cantons hastened to emphasize that reviews by their experts are planned.
However, the congruence of the site proposals considered between the memorandum and the 2×2 decision was not examined. At least not in official writings. However, as the sparrows whistle from the rooftops, the topic was intensively discussed internally among the cantons. However, federal authorities, supervisory authorities, commissions, and finally also cantons and their administrations deliberately did not pick up the ball and did not demand an investigation. They remained silent in the well-known Helvetic tradition. The fact that none of these institutions publicly dealt with the memorandum and the 2×2 decision, and ordered an investigation, is astonishing in so far as the AN 11-711 releases extremely target-oriented traces that would make it possible to verify the facts. Indeed, slides 15 and 16 of the memo outline the further sequence of events for Stage 2 and for the preparation for Stage 3 (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Memorandum AN 11-711, slide 16. flow chart stage E2 and preparation stage E3.
The different tasks are underpinned by internal reports and planning. At the end of December 2011, a Nagra internal report (NIB) on the exploration strategy should be available. Then, at the end of February 2012, a further memorandum on exploration objectives. In April 2012, input to this further memo should follow, with a target-means matrix. Then, at the beginning of June, another memo on the exploration concept for Stage 3, including drilling locations. And finally, at the end of June 2012, a presentation of this approach to ENSI and the drafting of another Nagra Internal Report (NIB) on the Stage 3 exploration concept. The formal exploratory applications were due in June 2012. And behind most of this work, the initials of the staff designated for this purpose were neatly noted: Mhh, Fbe, Web, Mlhe! All very well known colleagues of the mentioned authorities.
Thus, it was and still is basically easy to verify the search process between file note AN 11-711 to the 2×2 decision on the basis of internal Nagra documents and to address the question of how the search process was actually conducted. This transparency and the question of the actual openness of the results of the process should certainly also be entirely in the interests of the new Nagra leadership on the Board of Directors and at the head of the cooperative itself, in order to clearly distance themselves from the dubious and unsightly practices of their predecessors.
4 Process procedure and fault lines
So how must the selection of the Nördlich Lägern site be assessed? Following Nagra’s 2×2 decision, the cantons, and in particular the Canton of Zurich and its authorities, have done everything possible to direct the search process towards the Nördlich Lägern site. Their guidance in this regard is the technical report of 11 January 2016 on Nagra’s 2×2 proposal and the expert reports attached to this technical report. The Cantonal Safety Working Group (AGSiKa) and its Safety Expert Group (KES) focused on 4 problem areas: the seismic investigations and tectonics, deep erosion, geomechanical modelling and the implications for the engineering feasibility of a deep repository, and the equivalence of sites based on dose calculations. Harsh criticism was voiced in all four areas: Once again, Nagra had missed the timing for 3D reflection seismic studies. In the area of engineering feasibility, it was criticized that false premises and inadequate reasoning had led to a misinterpretation of the feasibility of a repository at greater depths. The erosion scenarios were incomplete and the previous weighting of the sites was untenable. And finally, the equivalence of the sites with respect to the calculated released doses was not tenable. The AGSika gave good marks to all other decisions: no objections to the deferral of other host rocks and the siting areas Wellenberg, Jura-Südfuss and Randen. This line of argumentation essentially remained in place until the conclusion of the 3rd stage investigations and the decision in favor of the Nördlich Lägern siting area.
The harsh criticism of AGSiKa and its effect on the decisions of the Committee of Cantons and the federal authorities, respectively, regarding the exclusion of the siting area Nördlich Lägern, represent an obvious fault line in the search process. This is evident at the very moment when Nagra is implementing its narrowing down according to the ideas of Note AN 11-711. The reaction of the cantons is harsh by Swiss standards and tonalities. There is a power struggle between the cantonal institutions and Nagra, which ends with a clear verdict in favour of the cantons and their experts. From this perspective, one could speak of a good end to the process. That this is not so and that there are doubts about the correctness of the process is related to a number of and questionable decisions and mistakes.
From the substantive arguments, the approach of the cantons is not completely convincing. They simply excluded criteria 2.4, conflicts of use, as well as 3.2 and 3.3, explorability of spatial conditions and predictability of long-term changes. The reason given by the AGSiKa was the complexity of the matter and scarce own resources. But by doing so, they simply excluded a discussion of the Permo-Carboniferous Trough (PKT), the presence of raw materials, and the advisability of constructing a repository over such a trough. This approach is reminiscent of the historical exclusion of the discussion on the suitability of deep-seated crystalline rock, which was also boikotted by Nagra in the early 1980s. As everyone knows, the program had to be abandoned a decade and a half later due to the unsuitability of the geological subsurface. Neither ENSI’s expert opinions nor Nagra’s failure to disclose drilling data will prevent the discussion about conflicts of use with resources in the Permo-Carboniferous Trough: what is needed – as with any exploration of sites – are further field investigations, which must necessarily include deep drilling. At present, priority is given to investigations of possible gas deposits in reservoir rocks of the Permo-Carboniferous Trough.
More dramatic, however, are the deficits in the management of the process. Neither the cantons nor the federal authorities, most notably the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, have publicly questioned the consequences of Nagra’s 2×2 decision and the congruence of the confinement decision with the AN 11-711 memorandum and ensured that this process is fully clarified. The effect of the misguided processes on the population of the siting region Nördlich Lägern was completely ignored: Exclusion of the region by Nagra in January 2015, reintroduction of the region through the intervention of the cantons (and subsequently ENSI and SFOE), finally selection of the area always referred to as the reserve site as the best and most suitable area. The credibility of such a process management is damaged. The procedure is unprofessional. And the effect is disastrous: one cannot avoid talking about a contaminated process in which essential procedures were simply wrongly handled. The authors of this blog have been pointing out for decades the need for structural improvements and the introduction of an error and safety culture worthy of such a name. Without the necessary reforms in this direction, the credibility of this search process will not be restored.
Finally, Nagra’s approach of making the siting decision without publishing the associated documents is also untenable. The essential expert assessments and reports are not available to the public, neither the reports on seismics and the drilling campaigns nor those on the analyses and the definitive safety reports. This is a shortcoming that is detrimental to the scientific nature of the process and shouldn’t have been accepted by the current Nagra President and former President of the Federal Institute of Technology of Zürich, Lino Guzzella. The selection of the siting region is not verifiable when it is published. A simply unacceptable procedure for a scientific program.
Once again, the deficits that have always been inherent in the search for a site in this country are repeated in the Sectoral Plan. Structural problems in the set-up and the dependency relationships of the disposal companies, a management structure in the SFOE that is technically overburdened in technical-scientific questions; weak control structures that have no power of disposal in the planning process, and finally a blurring culture in the process management that covers up mistakes instead of disclosing and correcting them.
Be that as it may, what is now emerging again is the next shambles in the decades-long search process for repositories and deep geological repositories for radioactive waste. The list of project corpses is long. Anhydrite rocks of the Jura and the Alps, the deep crystalline basement of northeastern Switzerland with its «Guarantee» project, various host rocks in all alpine regions for low and intermediate level waste (Ollon, Piz Pian Gran, Oberbauenstock), finally a Wellenberg introduced through the back door that failed both politically and geologically. And now a siting decision that is tainted by contamination and manipulation and was anything but open and unbiased. And its quality is still far from being assured. The same applies to the Nördlich Lägern area: Despite seismic studies, the geological uncertainties are so considerable that any major deviation from the geologically expected can mean the end of this project, as the numerous previous examples show. If deviations can be allowed at all at that time.
It is therefore time to do what should have been done long ago: to review the entire program from the bottom up and to tackle the more than overdue structural reform of nuclear waste management. The congruence of AN 11-711 and Nagra’s 2×2 decision and the path to the final decision for Nördlich Lägern must be investigated and evaluated. Consequences of misconduct must be drawn.
From a structural and organisational point of view, Nagra should be separated from the nuclear industry and given independent status. In such a volatile world, and at a time when the second major nuclear power company is already having to ask the federal government for financial assistance, it would be time to place the entire waste management chain – intermediate storage facilities operated by the federal government and the electricity industry, as well as the waste management companies – under the auspices of the federal government. But not only: credible structures are one side of the coin, equally important is competent management of such a complex program. In this field, too, there is still a great deal of room for improvement.
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 Gresch Partner 2022, https://www.greschpartner.com/kundenliste.php (2.6.2022) und https://www.greschpartner.com/bereich_raumplanung.php (2.6.2022)
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 az Baden, 2012. Rote Fahnen wehen vor der Nagra, 11. Oktober 2012
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 Medientmitteilung Regierungsrat Kanton Zürich, 30. Januar 2015. Sachplan geologische Tiefenlager: kein Standortgebiet darf zu früh ausgeschlossen werden.
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 AGSiKa/KES 2016. Sachplan geologische Tiefenlager. Etappe 2. Fachbericht vom 11. Januar 2016 zum 2×2-Vorschlag der Nagra, Arbeitsgruppe Sicherheit Kantone (AGSiKa), Kantonale Expertengruppe Sicherheit (KES), https://www.ag.ch/media/kanton-aargau/bvu/raumentwicklung/projekte/sachplan-geologisches-tiefenlager/fachbericht-vom-11-januar-2016.pdf
 «The raw materials worthy of use and any resulting conflicts of use are assessed. In particular, it is assessed whether, from today’s point of view, economically exploitable raw materials (e.g. salts, hydrocarbons, geothermal energy, mineral springs and thermal springs) occur to a particular extent in or below the host rock or the containment zone. It is also assessed whether the development and utilization of the raw materials could pair the barrier effect of the host rock (layer violation) or directly affect the repository.»
 AGSiKa/KES 2016. Sachplan geologische Tiefenlager. Etappe 2. Fachbericht vom 11. Januar 2016 zum 2×2-Vorschlag der Nagra, Arbeitsgruppe Sicherheit Kantone (AGSiKa), Kantonale Expertengruppe Sicherheit (KES), S. 6