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Gas could threaten nuclear waste depot

The Local · 15 Sep 2010, 16:28

Published: 15 Sep 2010 16:28 GMT+02:00

“It is totally incomprehensible to me that despite all of these deficiencies Gorleben is still being examined for its suitability as a storage facility, and not any alternative sites,” geologist Klaus Duphorn said.

According to Duphorn, there would have to be no gas above a depth of 1,500 metres in the salt dome, but this could “hardly” be confirmed, he said.

East German files from 1969, when the communist regime drilled into the salt dome just over the border from Gorleben in Lower Saxony, show that there was a deadly accident involving a gas explosion some five kilometres from where the nuclear waste is located.

That incident proves that there are two geological layers under the mine that hold natural gas, Duphorn said.

“This gas is highly explosive. The ignition point is at 20 degrees Celsius if it meets oxygen,” he warned.

Other geological deficiencies mean that caverns could shift, creating cracks that might allow for the contamination of groundwater, he said.

Duphorn, 76, was the first official geologist hired by the German government to survey Gorleben. His opinion, however, was later kept out of the official appraisal, he said, alleging this was because of his unfavourable conclusions.

Despite repeated allegations about questionable safety conditions and illegal development at Gorleben, exploration of the site is set to resume in October after a 10-year hiatus.

Story continues below…

In March a media report said that Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen was considering stripping the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) of its nuclear waste duties in order to end the moratorium on new exploration and expedite further storage at the site.

Nuclear energy is deeply unpopular in Germany and protests are often staged at Gorleben, which has come to symbolise activists’ concerns about its safety.

DAPD/The Local/ka

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

01:02 September 16, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, I'm an American citizen. Yet I care very much about what goes on in Deutschland. And I agree, that one of the biggest problems with nuclear energy is adequate disposal. The truth is, no rational person wants such waste close to them. Let's be honest.
09:53 September 16, 2010 by T.J. Morton
I have to disagree with you @Logic Guy. Properly engineered containers, and properly surveyed sites would make me comfortable with a spent fuel repository nearby.

I am nearly certain that there is more to this story than meets the eye. If indeed, this Geologist had well documented shortcomings about the adequacy of this site, and, his opinion was left out of the report, then I would not classify Gorleben as a well surveyed site.

It seems, however, that this article only reports Mr. Duphorn's version of the story. I don't see any attempt to uncover reasons why his opinion was left out of the report other than his allegation.
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