The Gorleben nuclear waste storage facility is an interim storage facility for highly radioactive waste in the area of the Gorleben community in the Lüchow-Dannenberg district of Lower Saxony in Germany . It is also known as the Gorleben transport container storage facility . It has been in operation since 1995.
There is an “exploratory mine” in the Gorleben salt dome very close by , in order to examine its suitability as a possible national repository. On September 28, 2020, however, the Gorleben salt dome was identified as geologically unsuitable as part of the nationwide, open-ended search for a repository and excluded from further proceedings. 
There are currently four facilities for the exploration, interim storage and handling of radioactive waste about two kilometers south of the village of Gorleben :
- In the Gorleben transport cask storage facility , all casks containing highly radioactive waste from the La Hague reprocessing plant in northern France are temporarily stored . These are castors from German production and French TN 85 .  The above-ground hall is secured with fences against demonstrators, but not against plane crashes.
- The Gorleben salt dome , with a dormant research project called "exploratory mine", on the suitability as a repository for highly radioactive waste.
- In the Gorleben waste storage facility , radioactive waste with a low level of heat generation from the operation of German nuclear power plants as well as from research and industry has been temporarily stored in a hall since 1984.
- The Gorleben pilot conditioning plant , an unfinished facility for transferring radioactive waste, which has not yet started operation and which has so far been used to repair damaged transport containers.
The transport cask store, the waste store and the pilot conditioning system are operated by Brennelementlager Gorleben GmbH , a subsidiary of the federally owned BGZ Gesellschaft für Zwischenlagerung mbH . The operator of the exploratory mine is also federally owned DBE mbH .
Other nuclear energy projects were planned in the region at times :
- a nuclear waste disposal center ,
- a reprocessing plant for nuclear fuels in Dragahn in the municipality Karwitz west of Dannenberg and
- a nuclear power plant near Langendorf on the Elbe. [Note]
The plans were rejected, among other things because they were politically unenforceable.
Gorleben repository project
An underground salt dome near Gorleben was examined with the question of its suitability as a repository for all types of radioactive waste. The German Society for the Construction and Operation of Repository for Waste Materials mbH ( DBE mbH ) operates a so-called exploratory mine here, which should serve as a possible repository for highly radioactive nuclear waste in the future. The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Raw Materials (BGR) was commissioned to carry out geological investigations into the suitability of the salt dome as a repository. These were carried out by BGR from 1977 to 2000 and from 2010 and have not yet been completed.  Despite intensive research, the suitability is highly controversial and has not yet been clarified.
The location decision was made in 1977 under the SPD federal government of Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and the CDU state government of Prime Minister Ernst Albrecht . Previously, 140 salt domes had been examined with different criteria taking into account geological conditions, size and population density.  The salt dome near Gorleben was selected without giving any geological reasons for the construction of a repository at this location, which was critically expressed by geologists. Instead, the geopolitical peripheral location of the sparsely populated Wendland in the former was decisive for the choice of locationZone border area on the inner-German border .  This irrelevant background in the decision in favor of the Gorleben salt dome is denied by some responsible persons today.
There was increasing protest against the planning of a nuclear waste disposal center in Gorleben not only in Wendland . In the Lower Saxony state election on June 4, 1978 , the Green List Environmental Protection (GLU), forerunner of the Green Party in Lower Saxony, ran for the first time and scored 3.9 percent from scratch. On March 31, 1979, in connection with the Gorleben symposium of the Lower Saxony state government, which took place as an international expert hearing from March 28 to April 3 at the Hanover Fair under the direction of Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker , a Gorleben- Trek to one of the largest demonstrations of the anti-nuclear movement in downtown Hanover.
As a consequence of the expert hearing and the growing political concerns and protests against the Gorleben project, Prime Minister Ernst Albrecht declared in a government statement on May 16, 1979 in front of the Lower Saxony state parliament that a nuclear fuel reprocessing society (DWK) on The Gorleben site requested nuclear waste disposal center with a reprocessing plant (WAA) was not politically enforceable at this time. 
The SPD opposition in the Lower Saxony state parliament spoke with its parliamentary group leader Karl Ravens against the nuclear waste disposal center for safety reasons and because of safety concerns and demanded a renewed review of the Gorleben site and its suitability for an integrated nuclear waste disposal center. The further planning for Gorleben was then postponed for further negotiations with the federal government and the consultation in the nuclear council.
Test drillings for the nuclear repository were again accompanied by protests. In 1980, among other things, a hut village called the “ Republic of Free Wendland ” was built at borehole 1004 . At times, up to 5,000 opponents of nuclear power occupied the area around the boreholes. The hut village was evacuated by the police in July 1980. The then chairman of the Working Group of Young Socialists in the SPD ( Jusos ) and later Chancellor Gerhard Schröder declared his solidarity with the occupiers.
The protest against the repository plans has continued since then, mainly supported by the local resistance groups such as the citizens' initiative environmental protection Lüchow-Dannenberg or the rural emergency community . The Gorleben prayer has been held every Sunday since 1989 .
Regardless of the location, the basic definition of rock salt as the host rock for a repository is an assessment step that excludes possible alternatives such as clay or granite formations , which are favored for this purpose in other countries. Advantages of rock salt include the high geological stability of several hundred million years, the ability to creep and the good thermal conductivity. The disadvantage of rock salt is that it dissolves when it comes into contact with water. 
Concrete geological exploration drillings, which were carried out for the purpose of exploration between 1979 and 1999, then already showed at the beginning of the 1980s that the Gorleben-Rambower salt dome is unsuitable due to, among other things, an unstable overburden and groundwater contact. The "Gorlebener Rinne", an ice age meltwater channel up to 320 meters deep, made of sandy-gravelly, groundwater-bearing material, lies exactly above the tectonically upwardly bulging cap of the salt dome. The Elbe flows about 300 m above the salt dome .
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) demands as a minimum requirement an all-round multi - barrier system for the possible suitability of the salt dome as a repository. The originally assumed watertight overburden consisting of several hundred meters thick Oligocene clay layers is missing in this area. The waterproofing at the top no longer exists because it was destroyed by the ice age erosion and filling. The previously suspected seals at the bottom are also missing, because here the watertight layers were destroyed by the vertically rising salt dome diapir .
It was found that saline groundwater moves both laterally and vertically from the edge of the salt dome towards the surface  , so that if it comes into contact with highly radioactive material, the biosphere could be contaminated . If groundwater comes into contact with rock salt, subrosion , i.e. the formation of cavities due to salt leaching, must be expected. This can lead to the collapse of the overburden and even the formation of sinkholescome to the surface of the earth. There are numerous examples of such processes in salt domes all over northern Germany. This also includes a ten kilometer long, deep infiltration channel over the northeastern part of the Gorleben-Rambow salt structure itself; there, for example, the 175 hectare Rudower See as well as the now mostly moored Rambower See (see Rambower Moor ) have formed. [8th]
The BGR, which carries out the geological investigations on behalf of the BfS, has published and summarized these results. Although their underground investigations were not yet completed in 2015,  the report describes the core area of the salt dome as being well suited for final disposal and larger than expected from the surface investigations.  The further exploration of the site as a possible repository, which critics regard as a hidden expansion to a repository, was suspended between October 1, 2000 and October 1, 2010.  This as a moratoriumThe designated interruption should serve to “clarify conceptual and safety-related issues relating to final disposal”. Proponents of the Gorleben site have now called for the moratorium to be lifted so that the salt dome can be "further explored". Opponents, on the other hand, are calling for a comparison of the variants with several alternative locations in other host rocks, as is required for other large planning projects. In addition, they have long considered the geological findings to be significant enough to exclude Gorleben from being a nuclear waste repository.
Current problems in other salt domes, such as Asse II and Morsleben , which are already used as storage facilities for low and medium level radioactive waste - including ceiling crashes, leaching and groundwater ingress - are viewed by critics as an indication that the unstable medium rock salt is a geologically unsuitable host rock for a long-term safe repository represent. This is countered by the fact that Asse II and Morsleben are former mines, whereas the Gorleben mine is a mine that has been opened as a virgin for final disposal.
It is not known how the salt behaves in the long term after an atomic storage. All that is known is that the highly radioactive substances heat up and continue to radiate for thousands of years. In the salt, there would be no retrievability, since the system has to be filled in the salt. Because of the imponderables, critics are calling for the salt and unrecoverable disposal to be excluded so that reconditioning and repackaging remain possible. The current transport containers (castors) officially last a hundred years. So-called Pollux containers are to be produced for disposal . So far there is a prototype.
At the beginning of the establishment of the exploration mine - that the former Federal Environment Minister Juergen Trittin ( Greens ) once as unauthorized " Schwarzbau was called" - and the interim storage it came in 1979 to popular protests and nationwide by anti-nuclear activists .
There are also supporters and beneficiaries of the planning at the Gorleben site. The municipality of Gorleben and the joint municipality of Gartow receive annual compensation payments, so-called Gorleben funds , from the state of Lower Saxony . The nuclear energy industry as well as large parts of the political parties CDU / CSU and FDP , including the CDU federal chairman and Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Lower Saxony FDP environment minister Hans-Heinrich Sander , advocate further exploration and ultimately the expansion of the Gorleben salt dome as national or possibly even international repository for highly radioactive nuclear waste.
At the end of August 2009, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared the nuclear repository "dead". It is "practically impossible" to carry out a further exploration of the Lower Saxony salt dome. It was previously known that around 115 contracts with landowners in Gorleben will expire at the end of 2015. On the other hand, a report on the repository containing safety concerns was changed in 1983 after the influence of the government of Helmut Kohl . The CDU , CSU , FDP and the nuclear industry, on the other hand, are sticking to Gorleben as a nuclear waste storage facility. 
In April 2010, the ZDF magazine Frontal21 reported on the editors and Greenpeace , which had previously been confidential documents on Gorleben.  The documents show that the choice of Gorleben under the then Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Ernst Albrecht, was not based on scientific aspects. Gerd Lüttig , former Vice President of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources , examined 250 different salt domes across Germany for the storage of atomic residues on behalf of the nuclear fuel reprocessing company between 1972 and 1975 and categorized them into classes of different suitability. According to him, the Gorleben site achieved neither the quality of the first nor the second class of salt domes.  According to Lüttig's statements, Albrecht replied to the hint that Gorleben did not belong to the particularly suitable salt domes with the words: "That doesn't matter, this is now a political decision".  Albrecht never commented on these allegations; he was demented at the time they were discovered.  Matthias Edler, at Greenpeaceresponsible for the nuclear energy topic, came to the following conclusion after reviewing the files: “The files say that there was no scientific selection process that resulted in the Gorleben salt dome as a consistent result. [...] In this respect, it can only be described as a political, and indeed an arbitrary, decision ”.  Geological questions played a subordinate role.  However, after recent explorations, geologist Lüttig considers the salt dome in Gorleben to be suitable as a repository today  . In March 2010, Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen declaredto give priority to the Gorleben site “based on the current state of knowledge” and to resume exploration of the salt dome after a ten-year break (“moratorium”).   The Bundestag gave two explanations on the fact that Gorleben was not considered in the first location search by KEWA (KWA 1225, 1977): On the one hand, the proximity to the GDR border played a role, on the other hand, the criterion that no locations near "recreation and holiday areas" should be considered  .
In September 2010 it became public knowledge that gas inclusions had been discovered on the Gorleben salt dome. This can be an indication that there may be large natural gas deposits at greater depths. This assumption is based on natural gas discoveries in Lenzen in Brandenburg, just a few kilometers away . There was drilling for natural gas in the 1960s; it came on June 25, 1969 to a severe gas explosion  , after which the drilling was stopped. If large quantities of gas are also stored under the planned Gorleben nuclear waste repository, which, according to Prof. Dr. Klaus Duphorn is likely, it could pose a threat to the planned repository.  
In November 2012, the exploration work in the course of the cross-party consensus talks on the so-called Repository Search Act ( Site Selection Act - StandAG) was temporarily stopped and finally ended with the entry into force of the StandAG on July 27, 2013. The reason for the termination is the restart after the search for a repository. For this purpose, according to the StandAG, the so-called repository commission develops criteria for a repository. According to this, Gorleben is to be treated according to the new criteria like any other possible location.  According to the energy supply companies, the federal government should assume the costs of finding a new location as long as there are no reasons against Gorleben. 
Investigation Committee on Gorleben
At the request of 285 members of the SPD, the Left and the Greens, the Bundestag set up a committee of inquiry on Gorleben on March 26, 2010. The 15-member committee chaired by the CDU parliamentarian Maria Flachsbarth was supposed to clarify the circumstances under which the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) decided in 1983 to only use the salt dome in Gorleben in Lower Saxony and not geological formations such as granite or clay other federal states to examine whether they are suitable for nuclear waste disposal. 
The debate was shaped primarily by the dispute over the SPD's proposal 17/1161 (of March 23, 2010), which was finally rejected by the coalition majority, for the duration of the committee to continue the exploratory work in Gorleben as planned by Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) renounce, which had been suspended since a moratorium imposed under red-green .  In May 2013 the committee of inquiry ended its work with the submission of the final report.  Furthermore, a committee of inquiry in the Lower Saxony state parliament dealt with the processes surrounding the Asse II mine. However, the Gorleben nuclear waste storage facility was only discussed in passing in this committee. This committee of inquiry ended its work in October 2012.
Interim report sub-areas according to § 13 StandAG of the BGE
The Federal Association for disposal has its interim report in accordance with § 13 Act on the search and selection of a site for a repository for high-level radioactive waste (on 28 September 2020 site selection law - StandAG) presented. The BGE comes to the conclusion that the Gorleben salt dome has not become a sub-area after application of the geoscientific weighing criteria according to § 24 StandAG. The regulation of § 36 Paragraph 1 Sentence 5 No. 1 StandAG applies, according to which the Gorleben salt dome is excluded from the proceedings. The Gorleben salt dome will therefore not be considered in the further work of the BGE on the proposals on the siting regions. 
The interim storage facility was completed in 1983, but did not start operating until 1995 due to massive resistance and legal disputes between the state and the federal government.  In the transport cask storage facility , the highly radioactive nuclear waste from the reprocessing plants in La Hague and Sellafield is to be temporarily stored in the transport casks for several decades until it has cooled from an initial 400 ° C to 200 ° C - and a suitable repository is available. Currently (November 28, 2011) there are 113 of these containers. The total capacity of the warehouse is 420 containers.
Critics express concerns about the safety of the facility and in particular point to the lack of protection against airplane crashes. In contrast, the operators take the position that the waste is adequately protected in the containers (cf. criticism of the safety of the Castor containers ).
In August 2011 it became known that the radiation at the measuring points on the fence of the plant had increased from 0.23 to 0.27 millisievert per year  , 0.3 millisievert per year is permitted here. The cause of the increase in radiation is still unclear; it may be due to the measuring point being shifted by a few meters. 
Protests against the construction
During protests against the interim storage facility under construction in September 1982  , water cannons of the type WaWe 6 caused broken ribs, back bruises and kidney injuries in seated demonstrators; Lawsuits went to the Federal Constitutional Court.  
Transports to the interim storage facility and protests
So far (as of December 2011) 113 nuclear waste containers have been transported to the interim storage facility in 13 transports. The first transport took place in April 1995, the last so far in November 2011. So far the transports have come from La Hague, transports from Sellafield are to follow.
There were two longer periods without transports:
- Between May 1998 and January 2000, Castor transports were temporarily banned because of measured radioactive contamination. 
- No transport took place in 2009 because the new containers had not yet been approved. The reason for this was the necessary precautions due to the higher temperature of the planned cargo. 
Protests and blockades
The protests against the use of atomic energy and the disposal plans culminate in the transport of Castor containers to Gorleben. The railway line from Lüneburg to the Dannenberg loading station on the one hand and the road transport route on the other are particularly hard hit . From the loading station, the trucks drive about 20 kilometers to the Gorleben nuclear waste storage facility on country roads and through villages. The north route leads via Quickborn , Kacherien , Langendorf , Grippel , Pretzetze and Laase to Gorleben, the south route from Dannenberg via Splietau , Gusborn, Pretzetze and Laase to Gorleben.   The transports are accompanied by a large police presence. 
The transports were accompanied by large protests and had to be accompanied by strong police forces. While there were only 4,000 demonstrators and 7,600 police officers during the first transport (April 1995), the number of police forces deployed increased to up to 30,000 during the third transport (March 1997).  
Opponents of the transports were monitored by the police and the secret service. 
In addition to sitting blockades , the opponents of nuclear power repeatedly relied on barricades made of tractors, tree trunks and other materials, as well as chaining. In 2001, for example, five activists from the Wendland resistance and from Robin Wood near Süschendorf on the Lüneburg - Dannenberg railway line chained themselves to a concrete block embedded in the track bed.  A similar action took place in 2008 near Berg on the Wörth – Strasbourg railway line . Three demonstrators chained themselves there.  During the same transport, three demonstrators later climbed onto the train with the containers. Several hours of delays resulted from a blockade in which four demonstrators were chained to a concrete pyramid on the street.  In 2004 there was a death on the French part of the transport route. 
From 1995 to 2012, thirteen transports of containers with highly radioactive material were recorded:
|1||April 1995||1||The first Castor transport took place in April 1995. With 4,000 demonstrators and 7,600 police officers, the protests were still small. In total, one container was transported. |
|2||May 1996||1||During the second transport in May 1996, a container with nuclear waste welded in glass canisters was delivered. |
|3||March 1997||6||In March 1997, 30,000 police officers were deployed to bring six containers to the third transport; the delivery cost around 56 million euros.  |
|4||March 2001||6||In March 2001, after a four-year break, six containers were brought to Gorleben.  15,000 police officers were deployed. Demonstrators chained to the railroad caused a total of 17 hours of delay. |
|5||November 2001||6||During the fifth transport in November 2001, 15,000 officers from the police and the Federal Border Police (BGS) were deployed to protect the transport of 6 containers.  |
|6||November 2002||12||During the sixth transport in November 2002, twelve containers were delivered. Thus 32 of 420 parking spaces were occupied for 3800 tons of nuclear waste.  The police cauldrons in the villages of Laase and Grippel kept the courts busy.   |
|7||November 2003||12||In November 2003, 12,500 police officers secured the seventh transport. 171 demonstrators were arrested.  |
|8||November 2004||12||During the eighth Castor transport in November 2004, 12 containers were transported.  The French anti-nuclear activist Sébastien Briat was caught and fatally injured by the train transporting nuclear waste to Gorleben near Avricourt in France as part of an attempted blockade.|
|9||November 2005||12||During the ninth transport in 2005, 12 containers were delivered. |
|10||November 2006||12||The tenth transport with twelve containers took place in November 2006. 16,500 police officers were on duty nationwide, 9,400 of them around Gorleben alone. |
|11||November 2008||11||In November 2008, eleven TN 85 containers were used for the eleventh transport .    At the Franco-German border, three demonstrators chained to the tracks delayed the transport by twelve hours.  During the transport, three demonstrators later climbed onto the train with the containers.  Several hours of delays resulted from a blockade in which four demonstrators were chained to a concrete pyramid on the street.  The total number of containers with highly radioactive waste in Gorleben was 91 after this transport. The cost of using it to secure the transport amounted to 21.5 million euros. |
|12||November 2010||11||In May 2010 the Federal Office for Radiation Protection granted approval for the twelfth transport.  At the beginning of November 2010, eleven new containers with nuclear waste were delivered from La Hague. Around 50,000 demonstrators and activists acted against the transport, which was secured by 20,000 police officers. A total of 950 demonstrators and 78 police officers were injured. Despite massive guarding, some Greenpeace succeeded-Activists to deposit a prepared beer truck at the most important intersection in front of the loading station in Dannenberg, from the hold of which two activists walked down the street and let themselves be concreted in at lightning speed. By cleverly anchoring the activists in a construction made of concrete and steel, it took around 12 hours for the police to free them and clear the intersection. It also took several hours before four local farmers chained to a 1.5 meter high concrete pyramid could be taken off the street. Thus the 92 hour long transport turned out to be the longest up to then.  The costs for securing the transport were paid by the Federal Chairman of the German Police Union ,Rainer Wendt , estimated at up to 50 million euros. During this transport, the support of the Bundeswehr was requested for the first time in Gorleben .   |
|13||November 2011||11||On November 28, 2011, after almost 126 hours, a Castor transport with eleven containers with highly radioactive nuclear waste from La Hague reached the interim storage facility. Due to the massive protests, this was the longest transport time so far. During the transport, foreign police officers took action against demonstrators near Gorleben. They came from France, Croatia and Poland.  A total of 19,000 police officers were deployed. |
So far, the plan was to take 21 casks from Sellafield and 5 more from the La Hague reprocessing plant from 2014 .  As part of the negotiations on the Site Selection Act in April 2013 between the federal government, all parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag (except for the "Left" ) and the state governments, it was agreed not to deliver any more containers to the Gorleben interim storage facility. For this purpose, corresponding applications would have to be made and permits issued for other interim storage facilities.
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