Monday, May 9, 2011

Opalinus Clay

With Osama had bin the German news is again Laden with the nuclear issue. No more energy from fission in the future that is decided but what to do with all that highly radioactive waste already present and still being produced until the last power reactor will have shut down in Germany?

So far our government had put all their money on or better in an abandoned salt mine located in Gorleben in the State of Lower Saxony to serve as the permanent radioactive disposal site. Citing the Anglo-American Wikipedia: The name "Gorleben" has become infamous both nationally and internationally because of plans to build a national deep geological repository for radioactive waste there, along with interim storage units. The waste comes from Germany's nuclear power plants, was reprocessed in France at La Hague, and the unusable remains then sent back to Germany in spent nuclear fuel shipping casks for final storage.
Abandoned salt mine Gorleben
A strong opponent to the Gorleben storage site is Anna Countess of Bernstorff who was honored in Freiburg last week with the Kant-World-Citizen-Prize 2011. She is an admirer of our designated green Governor (Ministerpräsident) for he had agreed to starting a search for a high level radioactive waste disposal site in Baden-Württemberg. Such an action the past Black-Yellow government had always refused arguing that one first has to show that Gorleben is no good. In fact, it had never been good for the Countess as part of the land on top of the Gorleben site belongs to her. No wonder she is strongly opposed to any radioactivity in her - although deep lying - basement. Slightly more objectively than this "not in my basement" attitude Green Peace has declared a risk of water infiltration into the salt mine and lately the news of natural gas diffusing into the cavern has created an "explosive mixture" for any further discussions.

When our designated governor considered the possibility of radioactive storage in Germany's South-West he certainly had the Opalinus clay in mind a geological formation that since years is under investigation in Switzerland in view of a long term safe haven for waste from their power reactors. Mighty layers of this particular clay are found in the North of Switzerland but somewhat delicately extend into Germany. Opalinus clay may in fact be better suited than salt as a geological storage medium since the stuff is waterproof and due to its elasticity will heal any developing geological faults thus keeping the storage cavern tight for generations.

Generally hailed as a courageous step the consent to search for the storage site in our "Ländle" is worth what it is: another brainwashing of the people. The investigation of the Opalinus clay formation will just cost taxpayers' money and - taking the Swiss example - continue for years well beyond the responsibility of any present government. Anyway the answer to all the search and research is already clear from the start: storing radioactivity into Opalinus clay will  bear a residual risk (Restrisiko) just big enough to justify the statement of those living around: Not in my basement.

Let's face it: we simply don't know how to protect future generations against the radiological risk and consequences of all that artificial radioactivity we have produced and are still producing.

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