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Workshop on underground disposal of hazardous waste

Underground disposal Herfa-Neurode, Germany (Source: Wikipedia)On 30 November 2010, the international workshop “Underground Disposal of Hazardous Waste” took place in Braunschweig. At this event, which was co-organised by GRS and the Federal Environment Ministry, experts from all over the world discussed the state of knowledge, the chances and the challenges of underground disposal of hazardous toxic waste. One focus was on possible ways to implement European disposal concepts in the countries of Asia and Latin America.

Same initial situation – same solutions?
Not very long ago, the European countries were facing waste disposal problems similar to those faced by many Asian and Latin American countries today. A large legacy of abandoned hazardous sites, unregulated waste dumping and a low priority given to environmental issues are also part of the history of industrial progress in Europe. Owing to a more sensitive general public and due to health concerns, the mandatory requirements and therefore the entire waste management system in Europe have changed considerably since the 1970s. The concept of controlled underground disposal of waste in salt or potassium mines has been developed against this background.

Conference issues
The workshop mainly provided an overview of the current state of research and practical application in Germany and Europe. On this basis it was discussed whether the concept of underground disposal can also be viable in developing regions of the world. Among others, the following issues were on the agenda:

•    management of hazardous waste in Germany
•    legal basis
•    site selection criteria
•    waste characterisation and conditioning
•    implementation concepts
•    technical barriers

The topic of waste management at GRS
GRS has been active in the field of waste management and disposal for around 20 years already. Our non-profit research and expert organisation carries out research into hazardous chemical waste and radioactive waste and looks into issues relating to the management and disposal of such waste. This includes assessments of how safely the waste can be isolated from the environment and the development of the necessary associated methods and instruments.