about Gorleben


Someone was asking me wether I am pro or contra using Gorleben as a final nuclear waste repository.

The answer is: I don’t know.

Most of the containers brought there seem to be an interim solution, so at one point one is forced to think about what to do with the material. The salt dome at Gorleben which was originally planned as a final repository (in the late seventies) was declared (if I trust the Wikipedia link) by the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (resource: Zusammenfassender Zwischenbericht über bisherige Ergebnisse der Standortuntersuchung in Gorleben. Mai 1983, Braunschweig as less suitable:

„Eine erste Bewertung des Deckgebirges hinsichtlich seiner Barrierenfunktion für potentielle kontaminierte Grundwässer zeigt, daß die über den zentralen Bereichen des Salzstocks Gorleben vorkommenden tonigen Sedimenten keine solche Mächtigkeit und durchgehende Verbreitung haben, daß sie in der Lage wären, Kontaminationen auf Dauer von der Biosphäre zurückzuhalten.

translation without guarantee: A first evaluation of the sediments above the dome with respect to their functioning as a barrier against potential contaminated ground water displays that the clay sediments above the central parts of the salt dome Gorleben do not have enough thickness and spreading in order to prevent in perpetuity the contamination of the biosphere.

And there are other reports which indicate that there may be more geological problems.
Moreover the decision for Gorleben as a final repository was influenced by political/non geological citeria, like the one that Gorleben used to be close to the border of the former GDR and thus economically less attractive.

So it seems that a profound investigation also of other possible locations and their comparision with Gorleben has to be made.

Last not least I feel quite uncomfortable with the notion of “final repository” in general. If it means that the stuff is dumped there and then more or less left alone (and thus in the long term forgotten) then this can become very problematic (see e.g. Asse II).

It is important that the problem of nuclear waste is always present in the public mind (so alone for that reason peaceful protest is usually good).

This implies that the information about nuclear waste repositories, former nuclear production sites and in general about (possibly) contaminated sites has to be easy accessible for everybody and in particular for future generations. In particular one would expect that there exists a detailed map about such sites in the internet (“a google earth for nuclear sites” ?), however I have found nothing of this kind even not on the page of the International Atomic Energy Agency like on the pages of their waste technology section. The Dirata Database (which was hard to find) is a first step. Moreover it is a challenge to adress the waste problem which is involved with small size waste like with these mini nuclear power plants (e.g. probably soon in Romania) and where one reads the following about a company called Hyperion (which seems to have already a six year waiting list):

“Because the Hyperion plants would be buried underground and guarded by a security detail, the company explains that they´ll be out of sight and safe from illegitimate uses.”

Next year, the company will submit an application to build the modules to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As a matter of fact the world has to think about how to make important information of nowadays accessible to future generations. The Svalbard fault, where information about plants is kept is one example. The genetic information about nowadays people and animals may also be important information to store somewhere in a “world treasure box” (especially given all of the above). A map with information about nuclear sites certainly has to go as well into that treasure box.

->see also this BBC report about a lost US nuclear bomb over greenland (via Tagesschau.de). The cancer records in denmark seem to be sofar only partially online. It would be interesting to look into them like into these ones.

2 Responses to “about Gorleben”

  1. Patrick Meen Says:

    “The genetic information about nowadays people and animals may also be important information to store somewhere in a “world treasure box” (especially given all of the above).”
    aren’t you here a bit overdramatizing things ?

  2. nad Says:

    well i hope that one won’t need the the human genetic information for the cause that manhood would have had impaired itself so much that it would be necessary to do a “manhood reinstallation”. one cant rule out that possibility either. one could argue that keeping a “human genetic information backup” could actually lower the threshold for manhood impairing activities, but i still think one should take this option into consideration. apart from this i think its not clear yet how much extra information would be needed to recover a human from its genome.

    my main concern is actually less a dramatic one time event than the slow changes. like its unclear how much environmental damages/conditions will alter the human phenotype.

    moreover we are now at a stage where the evolution of mankind is not anymore solely by natural selection, that is medicine is better, like one can do heart surgery with a newborn, one can do a caeserian if a kids head is to big; people can choose their offsprings according to genetic dispositions (like in this case). And this is just the beginning. So may be at one point in the future one may find out that the choices one did were wrong/too limited in variety etc.

    As a side affect knowing that one’s own genome is stored somewhere may or may not take away a bit of the reproductive pressure some people feel.

    and just a quick rough calculation displays that the storage needed for such a task is not that badly big…sequencing the genome of 6 billion people is a bit more of a task though …:). So may be one could take random samples.
    the human genome consists of roughly 3.2 billion DNA base pairs. Given that there are four bases one could read this as 6.4 billion bits of information, i.e. 0.8 billion bytes. So one has 4.8 times 10^18 (10^18= 1 billion times 1 billion) bytes, for 6 billion people, that is 4.8 exa bytes or 4.8 times 1000 peta bytes to store. given that e.g. a tape jukebox may store around 50 peta bytes (according to wikipedia) and would cost around 70.000 $, one would need roughly 100 (i.e. approx. 4.8 times 20) of these jukeboxes i.e. roughly 7.000.000 $, that is 7 million $, if I calculated right…(without a calculator..thus no guarantee) . This is not such a big amount, given the value of the data. one has to think about data management etc. which will impose additional costs, but as said – one could take random samples.

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