Searching for a radioactive waste repository site: GvW supports BGE in public participation process

Germany’s search for a repository site for high-level radioactive waste is making progress. The selection procedure to find such a site is carried out by the Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal, (Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung mbH – BGE), a 100% federally-owned company under private law responsible for radioactive waste disposal. According to the German Repository Site Selection Act [Standortauswahlgesetz – StandAG], which has been guiding the work of the BGE since its inception, this procedure must be conducted in full transparency. To meet this transparency requirement, the BGE has to give the public access to all information on which its decisions in the site selection procedure are based. Access to geological data is governed by the German Geological Data Act [Geologiedatengesetz – GeolDG] which entered into force in June 2020. GvW Graf von Westphalen is assisting the BGE in the preparation, implementation and follow-up of decisions in accordance with this new legislation.

The new rules introduced by the GeolDG include, inter alia, a standard procedure by which geological data collected in Germany, regardless of whether such data is needed for the site selection, must be provided to the public step by step after specified periods of time and depending on the nature of such data. In addition, the Act provides for procedures which, on a case-by-case basis, allow for data of this kind to be made public at times different from – and more specifically earlier than – those stipulated by the standard procedure if the data shall be used for special government tasks. The site selection procedure is one of these tasks.

The first milestone in the site selection procedure is the “Sub-areas Interim Report” published on the BGE website on 28 September 2020. This report marks an interim point on the way to proposing siting regions to be explored above ground and to first decisions of the legislator in the site selection procedure. Many documents and data are available to the public already at this stage. Geological data currently not available to the general public can be made available to everyone based on an individual decision following a special administrative procedure weighing the concerned interests by the BGE. This also applies to data collected by businesses or private individuals. GvW is advising the BGE on many aspects of these procedures, ranging from administrative and procedural issues to specific questions regarding the interpretation and application of the GeolDG.

GvW is advising the BGE on this matter with a team across several offices, headed by Dr Sigrid Wienhues and including the following further team members: Dr Carsten Bittner (deputy lead, both of Hamburg), Juliane Hofmann (Berlin), Jana Gretschel (Munich) as well as Jennifer Wagner, Nadine Höhn, Nora von Laer, Dr Stefanie Ramsauer and Dr Ronald Steiling (Hamburg).