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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Nuclear waste heads for rock salt storage
Tractor protest at Gorleben
Scientists say the site is safe, but local protests have been strong
By Ania Lichtarowicz of BBC Science

The storage site which will house the nuclear waste being returned to Germany is buried deep within geological salt formations.

The waste will be isolated and will not, according to the site's designers, be able to leak through the natural formations and back into the environment.

Rock salt is used because cracks do not appear very often, and even if they do, they do they reseal themselves very quickly.

It is also particularly suited for storing radioactive waste which can give off gases, as it will not let them escape.

Police erect barbed wire barricades
Strict security is in force for the waste's journey
And it can withstand the heat given off by the waste.

But what is particularly important is that there is little ground water present near the storage site.

Rock salt formations dissolve easily, and if this happened then the radioactive material would dissolve too and be carried outside.

The dryness of this particular site is believed to make it a suitable storage facility for this type of waste.

Explorations

The Gorleben storage facility lies south-east of Hamburg. Development on the site started in 1979, when work on a salt dome began.

Since then, explorations have been carried out to determine its suitability for storage of all kinds of nuclear waste.

The centre is scheduled to receive 168 canisters of waste from the La Hague reprocessing plant in France.

When they arrive, the glass canisters will be transferred into a temporary storage building.

The casks will then be moved deep underground into a storage facility, which is buried deep within the geological salt formations.

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See also:

23 Jun 00 | Europe
German Greens back nuclear deal
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Germany renounces nuclear power
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Germany faces political fallout
15 Jun 00 | Business
Nuclear power nightmare
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Nuclear doubts gnaw deeper
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