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New high-tech storage depot opened for nuclear waste

Switzerland's nuclear power industry has opened a hi-tech storage site for radioactive waste from the country's five commercial reactors.

Switzerland's nuclear power industry has opened a hi-tech storage site for radioactive waste from the country's five commercial reactors.

The SFr500 million storage depot, at Würenlingen, canton Aargau, is adjacent to a government-run dump for low-level radioactive waste.

The new depot will take in highly radioactive waste, mostly spent rods, which have been
reprocessed in plants such as Sellafield in Britain, and La Hague in France. It will be able to take in the nuclear waste from power stations, and lower level waste from industry and research centres until 2035.

The new site is an interim site while the nuclear industry tries to fulfill a government requirement to find a permanent underground nuclear dump within Switzerland.

Several promising sites have been found in the past but getting planning permission and surmounting local opposition has proved a long drawn-out task. When the idea for the site at Würenlingen first came up a decade ago there was also considerable local opposition but this has now dissipated.

The faith of the local population in the project is being rewarded by the nuclear power industry with a recurring annual payment of SFr1.9 million to the local communities around the dump.

The site is largely automated, with robots taking over much of the conditioning and processing work which transforms waste into columns, or barrels, which in some cases can then be incinerated.

by Peter Haller

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