Workshop Safety and Uncertainty

Hassel, Thomas; Mintzlaff, Volker; Stahlmann, Joachim; Röhlig, Klaus-Jürgen; Eckhardt, Anne

Uncertainties have a significant influence on the assessment and evaluation of the safety of a repository system for high-level radioactive waste. Significant reasons for uncertainties concerning the safety barriers of a repository are:

Conducting experiments on the long-term behaviour of the repository in real time is impossible due to the long assessment period over which the repository is supposed to ensure safety. The extrapolation of results from time-limited experiments, e.g. on the corrosion of container materials, to other temporal dimensions is associated with uncertainties. Uncertainties also stem from differences between experimental situations, e.g. laboratory experiments, and the real conditions in the repository. The interpretation of empirical results can be ambiguous and therefore associated with uncertainties. The development of future impacts on the barriers can only be predicted to a limited extent. Therefore, the future behaviour of the barriers can only be extrapolated into the future to a limited extent on the basis of experience gained in the past and uncertainties remain.

The construction and operation of the repository will disturb its natural environment. The geological environment in which the repository is embedded behaves differently from a natural geological system, which in turn is associated with uncertainties. A major source of uncertainties is also the natural inhomogeneity of the geological barrier, which can only be investigated on a sample basis. During excavation and other construction work underground, unforeseen situations are to be expected, which make it necessary to act situationally. The complexity of the disposal path where decisions are interlinked, creates further uncertainties. Last but not least, it is uncertain what further findings on the safety of the repository will be obtained in the future along the disposal path.

For safety studies, especially studies on the long-term safety of repository systems, methods and conventions for dealing with uncertainties have become established internationally. In the site selection process, these methods and conventions are questioned and, if necessary, must be further developed so that they ultimately also convince the interested public and scientists from other disciplines.

In the workshop, uncertainties will be examined in particular from the perspectives of a civil engineer and of a materials researcher with introductory presentations. This will be followed by a moderated discussion. The workshop will focus on the preliminary safety investigations; however, the discussion can also refer to later phases of the disposal path.

The aim of the discussion is to arrive at a common synthesis: Where have good practices for dealing with uncertainties already been established? Where is there still a need for research and clarification? What needs to be considered in the dialogue with the interested public?



Hassel, Thomas / Mintzlaff, Volker / Stahlmann, Joachim / et al: Workshop Safety and Uncertainty. 2021. Copernicus Publications.


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