Germany Seeks Faster Atomic Waste Recovery From Crumbling Site

Germany plans to speed up recovery of atomic waste costing at least 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) from a crumbling underground storage site to stop radioactivity leaking into groundwater before the facility is closed.

Factions of the four main political parties issued a draft bill today in Berlin to remove regulatory hurdles to recovery from the Lower Saxony site, said Maria Flachsbarth, a lawmaker in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. It will be debated tomorrow and may be passed in March, she said.

“We all agree that the recovery must happen faster,” said Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, a politician for the Green Party. “This will still take years and decades.”

The federal government will cover costs that may reach at least 4 billion euros, said Deputy Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser. The Asse site in a former salt mine holds 126,000 barrels of weak and mid-level waste, including contaminated equipment and clothing from workers in the nuclear industry.

With about 12,000 liters (3,166 gallons) of underground water leaking into Asse a day and eroding its walls, Germany plans to relocate waste before the water seeps back out into aquifers. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection took over Asse in 2009 after the former manager failed to report seepage threatening the structure, and unauthorized storage of material.

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