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Gorleben - Preliminary Safety Assessment for the Gorleben Site (VSG)

From 2011 to 2013, GRS - together with eight other project partners - was involved in the research project "Preliminary Safety Assessment of the Gorleben Site" (VSG), dealing with various questions concerning the Gorleben site and fundamental methodological issues of disposal. The project was funded by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU).

Project partners

GRS was responsible for the scientific and organisational management of the project and handled the bulk of the work packages itself. In addition, GRS involved the following partners in the project:

  • Dr. Bruno Baltes
  • Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR)
  • Institute of Mineral and Waste Processing, Waste Disposal and Geomechanics of TU Clausthal
  • Institute of Disposal Research of TU Clausthal
  • Institute of Geomechanics GmbH  (IfG)
  • Institute for Safety Technology (ISTec)
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/Institute for Nuclear Waste Disposal (KIT/INE)
  • international nuclear safety engineering GmbH (association of several institutes of RWTH Aachen)
  • Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (IAU) of Goethe University Frankfurt.

Original and updated objectives

In its original conception, the VSG project had three main objectives:  

  1. a systematic summary of the state of knowledge on Gorleben
  2. a preliminary suitability prognosis
  3. an identification of the need for research and development (site-specific and generic).

After the start of the project, there was a broad consensus in the political arena that a site for a repository should be found using a multi-stage, criteria-based procedure. The considerations in this regard led to the Site Selection Act.

As the criteria had not yet been established at that time, it was not possible to draw up a preliminary prognosis in the VSG. Against this background, GRS, in agreement with the Federal Environment Ministry, adjusted the project objectives as follows:

  • The originally intended preliminary suitability prognosis for the Gorleben site was not pursued. It was examined whether the repository concepts developed in the VSG project in conjunction with the geological barrier at the Gorleben site or a salt formation comparable in terms of the geological situation appeared suitable for meeting the Federal Environment Ministry’s safety requirements.
  • The project was supplemented by the question of which methodological approaches of the VSG could be used sensibly in a future site selection procedure for the comparison of repository sites. Irrespective of what the site selection procedure would look like, it was foreseeable that in the course of such a procedure it would again and again be necessary to systematically summarise and evaluate the state of knowledge on the individual sites achieved up to a certain procedural step.
  • In addition, it was to be investigated which of the technical concepts developed in the VSG for the emplacement of radioactive waste and for the closure of the repository mine could be transferred to repository systems at sites with different geological conditions.

In all, 24 reports were published as part of the project. The results of the VSG were continuously reviewed by an external German expert group (TU Clausthal).