Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Methods and measures to deal with socio-technical challenges in storage and disposal of radioactive waste (SOTEC-radio)

Project description

How to carry out the site selection, construction, and operation of a final repository especially for high-level radioactive waste? How to organize the long-term interim storage, which is necessary until this final repository is built? Scientists and technologists contribute considerably to answering these questions. But also social science expertise, e.g. on the socio-technical dynamics especially during the site selection process, can be of great importance in the phase of preparation and realization of measures for radioactive waste disposal.

The experience gained during the last decades has shown that a successful site selection does not only require constant updating of the scientific and technological knowledge, but also proper consideration of the social context and a constructive handling of societal expectations. Many studies confirm the interactions between the technical and social factors. Indeed, the disposal of radioactive waste is a socio-technical task, which has to be addressed and analyzed beyond the established disciplinary boundaries of research. There is a need for further investigation with regard to following issues:

  • How do technology and society interact in decision processes?
  • How do political, legal, and social framework conditions influence the technologies and concepts chosen for final repositories?
  • To which extent are there options and instruments that enable both affected and interested actors to participate in technical debates and decisions?
  • How can the period of time relevant for political and social dynamics and processes be adequately taken into account in planning?

Our project team will look into these questions. We analyze how socio-technical interactions regarding the final repository and interim storage facilities for radioactive waste can be identified and, above all, how these can be recorded, described, and assessed.

The project´s main objectives are:

  1. Systematization
    Development and regular updating of a differentiated and systematized understanding of socio-technical contexts and challenges during the disposal of radioactive wastes
  2. Concept development
    Development of scientific concepts for the analysis of socio-technical challenges
  3. Options for actions
    Development of courses of action to deal with socio-technical challenges in governance structures and radioactive waste management

Further goals are:

  1. Contribute to maintain and develop competence in the research on disposal (Exchange of ideas with the interested public and politics)
  2. Promote young researchers to enhance the long-term R&D capacities: teaching, PhD colloquia, summer/winter schools, etc.
  3. Expand and foster international co-operations on radioactive waste disposal issues
  4. Formulation of policy recommendations.

Our working assumptions:

  1. A prolonged interim storage will precede the final storage of radioactive wastes. This will cause new societal conflicts.
  2. In order to face the lengthy time of the process, the possible changes of the disposal policies and concepts as well as resulting insecurities, institutions are needed that are at the same time steady and robust, but also flexible.
  3. The sooner concrete steps for dealing with radioactive wastes are initiated the more favorable it is regarding scientific, technological, political, economic, and social aspects.

ITAS addresses questions on planning and long-term processes (long-term governance) in a separate work package. The main focus is on the challenge of keeping future developments and requirements for action in mind in today’s planning processes. This is important given the long periods of time which will pass until a final repository is closed. Against this background, the stability of future institutions has to be prepared as effectively as possible, i.e., it has to be avoided that current losses of knowledge impede or even rule out future actions. ITAS focusses on questions such as:

  • Which framework conditions apply for the stability of institutions?
  • How can the societal and political capacity to act be ensured in the future?

To this end, the existing concepts for and experiences with long-term monitoring and governance are examined. Also conclusions which can be used for planning how to deal with socio-technical challenges at safety-related, scientific-administrative, and institutional levels are drawn based on literature, expert interviews, and the results from two focus groups organized by ITAS.

First preliminary works on the subject “long-term governance” were conducted in the framework of the project “Governance between Science and Public Protest. ITAS work package in the research platform ENTRIA“: Workshop on Technical Monitoring and Long-term Governance

„Handlungsempfehlungen für die Entsorgung hochradioaktiver Abfälle aus soziotechnischer Perspektive“

Abschlusskonferenz 11./12.02.2020

Wie kann Reversibilität in der Endlagerstandortsuche organisiert werden?
Was sind Pfandabhängigkeiten oder eine adäquate Langzeit-Governance?
Wie können wir mit Expert*innen-Dissensen umgehen?

Im vom BMWi geförderten Projekt SOTEC-radio wurden Konzepte und Maßnahmen zum Umgang mit soziotechnischen Herausforderungen bei der Entsorgung radioaktiver Abfälle entwickelt, die bei der Abschlusskonferenz im Februar in Berlin diskutiert werden.


  • Prof. Armin Grunwald (ITAS am KIT) mit einer Einschätzung zu den Herausforderungen in der Endlagerstandortsuche: „Welche Herausforderungen sind abgearbeitet und was ist noch zu tun?“
  • Prof. Andreas Lösch (ITAS am KIT): „Soziotechnische Gestaltung als (Un-)Möglichkeit bei der nuklearen Entsorgung“
  • Prof. Miranda Schreurs (TU München): „Wo stehen wir im Standortauswahlverfahren?“

Entlang der Leitfrage „Welche Handlungsempfehlungen können aus soziotechnischer Perspektive für die Entsorgung hochradioaktiver Abfälle formuliert werden?“ werden anschließend mit ausgewählten Impulsgeber*innen aus Wissenschaft, Politik und Zivilgesellschaft zentrale Ergebnisse des Vorhabens und weitere Perspektiven besprochen.

Die Details zu Tagungsort und zeitlichem Ablauf entnehmen Sie bitte dem beigefügten Programm (PDF).


Grunwald, A.
Endlager: Welche Herausforderungen sind abgearbeitet und was ist noch zu tun?.
2020. SOTEC-radio-Abschlusskonferenz (2020), Berlin, Germany, February 11–12, 2020 
Hocke, P.; Bechthold, E.; Enderle, S.
Ist das Standortauswahlverfahren auf einem zukunftsfähigen und robusten Weg?.
2020. SOTEC-radio-Abschlusskonferenz (2020), Berlin, Germany, February 11–12, 2020 
Book Chapters
Hocke, P.; Brunnengräber, A.
Multi-Level Governance of Nuclear Waste Disposal. Conflicts and Contradictions in the German Decision Making System.
2019. Conflicts, Participation and Acceptability in Nuclear Waste Governance. An international comparison. Vol. 3. Ed.: A. Brunnengräber, 383–401, Springer, Wiesbaden 
Journal Articles
Kuppler, S.; Hocke, P.
The role of long-term planning in nuclear waste governance.
2019. Journal of risk research, 22 (11), 1343–1356. doi:10.1080/13669877.2018.1459791
Hocke, P.
Wer steuert das Verfahren? Strukturelle Beobachtungen - konstruktive Handlungsfähigkeit.
2019. Tagung "Standortsuche MMiteinander - aber nicht konform? Atommüll-Lager und Partizipation" (2019), Loccum, Germany, June 28–30, 2019 
Hocke, P.
Problemorientierte Governance in einem nuklearen Standortauswahlverfahren. Partizipation als Chance für die "Endlagerung"?.
2019. Ringvorlesung "Kernenergie und Brennstoffkreislauf" (2019), Hanover, Germany, January 14, 2019 
Hocke, P.; Kuppler, S.
Do we need a nuclear steward? Monitoring as task for long-term governance institution.
2019. Modern2020 Final Conference (2019), Paris, France, April 9–11, 2019 
Kallenbach-Herbert, B.; Akinsara-Minhans, A.; Brohmann, B.; Kuppler, S.; Hocke, P.; Bechthold, E.; Brunnengräber, A.; Isodoro Losada, A.; Themann, D.
Konzepte und Maßnahmen zum Umgang mit soziotechnischen Herausforderungen bei der Entsorgung radioaktiver Abfälle (SOTEC-radio).
2018. Öko-Institut e.V., Darmstadt 
Hocke, P.
Ansätze und Begriffe des Soziotechnischen.
2018. SOTEC-radio-Workshop (2018), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, February 22, 2018 
Hocke, P.
Entsorgungsoptionen für radioaktive Reststoffe: Interdisziplinäre Analysen und Entwicklung von Bewertungsgrundlagen.
2018. Deutsch-Russisches NO.RWM-Seminar "Society and Radioactive Waste" (2018), Tomsk, Russia, October 19, 2018 
Hocke, P.; Brunnengräber, A.; Kallenbach-Herbert, B.; Kuppler, S.
Zwischen Technik und Gesellschaft: Wer gestaltet das Endlager?.
2018. 13. Projektstatusgespräch zu BMWi-geförderten FuE-Arbeiten zur Entsorgung radioaktiver Abfälle (2018), Karlsruhe, Germany, June 20, 2018 
Hocke, P.; Kuppler, S.; Mbah, M.
Politischer Lernprozess oder naives Hoffen auf positive Effekte zukünftiger Bürgerbeteiligung? Das neue deutsche Standortauswahlverfahren bei der Entsorgung hochradioaktiver Brennstoffe.
2018. 8. Internationale Konferenz des Netzwerks Technikfolgenabschätzung (NTA 2018), Karlsruhe, Germany, November 7–8, 2018 
Kuppler, S.; Hocke, P.
Governance-Herausforderungen in der Endlagerpolitik.
2018. Ringvorlesung "Kernenergie und Brennstoffkreislauf - Technische Aspekte und gesellschaftlicher Diskurs", Hannover, 16.01.2018 
Kuppler, S.; Mbah, M.
Governing energy landscapes. The need for a long-term, place-sensitive perspective.
2018. UFZ Energy Days (2018), Leipzig, Germany, September 24–25, 2018 
Kuppler, S.
Governance von Stauräumen. Ansätze zum Umgang mit Zielkonflikten in gesellschaftlichen Transformationsprozessen.
2017. Kolloquium ’CHARM - Stauraummanagement : Prozesse im Kleinen, Auswirkungen im Großen’, Freiburg, 12.Oktober 2017 


Dr. Peter Hocke
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-26893