Socio-technical challenges in storage and disposal of radioactive waste

Selecting an option for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste includes social processes and technological requirements which are inextricably linked. ITAS examines these mutual interdependencies in the SOTEC-radio project.

How should site selection, construction, and operation of a final repository especially for high-level radioactive waste be planned? How will the long-term interim storage which is required until such a final repository is built be organized? In the framework of the project “Methods and measures to deal with socio-technical challenges in storage and disposal of radioactive waste” (SOTEC-radio), ITAS researches in cooperation with the Öko-Institut and the Environmental Policy Research Centre (FFU) at the FU Berlin how the mutual interdependencies of social and technical aspects can be scientifically explained and how they influence waste management policy. On this basis, the researchers want to develop practical recommendations for actions on how politics should deal with socio-technical challenges.

First of all, the project partners review the current state of research on “socio-technical problems” and assess how the existing approaches can be transferred to the problem of final storage. ITAS also deals with the question how decision-making abilities can be maintained over the long periods of time in which an interim storage facility is operated and a deep repository is built, filled, and finally sealed. This so-called “long-term governance” includes both the problem of maintaining the technical competence and the question how the responsible institutions can adapt to changing framework conditions to ensure that even decisions to be made in several hundred years will still focus on the public interest. In this context, the roles and modes of cooperation of authorities, political decision makers, the industry, and the interested public are analyzed.

The project will run for three years and started in April 2017. Sophie Kuppler is in charge of the ITAS work, the whole project is coordinated by the Öko-Institut Darmstadt. (10.10.2017)

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