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Glossary of terms and abbreviations

A

ARE
Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development

B

Barriers
In a deep geological repository, barriers are used as a passive means of protecting human beings and the environment. Artificial as well as natural (geological) barriers seal the caverns in which radioactive waste is stored, and form multiple barriers that isolate it from the biosphere.

Bentonite
A pale grey clay formed from the weathering of volcanic ash. It was named after Fort Benson in Montana, USA. Due to its high content of montmorillonite (a clay mineral), bentonite has pronounced swelling properties, as well as a high ion exchange and absorption capacity. Thanks to these valuable properties, bentonite is suitable for use in deep geological repositories as a barrier (filler) and for sealing purposes.

C

Commission for Radioactive Waste Disposal
(KNE, German)

Compensation measures
Compensation measures may apply if negative impacts are detected for a given region resulting from the planning, construction or operation of a deep geological repository. These measures are defined in close collaboration with the siting region and siting canton, approved by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and financed by the parties responsible for the disposal of radioactive waste.

Conditioning
Treatment and packaging of radioactive waste.

Consultation procedure
At the end of each stage, the results and detailed plans are submitted to the involved cantons and presented for public inspection for at least 20 days. The consultation procedure normally lasts 3 months (Article 19, Swiss Federal Spatial Planning Act).

Cosmic radiation
Radiation from space.

D

Deep geological repository
A storage site located deep underground. It can be sealed provided it is possible to ensure the permanent protection of human beings and the environment with the aid of passive barriers.

Deep geological repository sectoral plan
The "Deep Geological Repository" sectoral plan concept defines the objectives of the federal State (Swiss Confederation), together with the various procedures and criteria according to which the site selection procedure for deep geological repositories is to be carried out in Switzerland. Here, the long-term protection of human beings and the environment is of the highest priority. Socioeconomic and area planning aspects also play a significant role. These vary from region to region, and can only be developed with the participation of the involved cantons and regions. The sectoral plan concept specifies the procedure for identifying potential sites for deep geological repositories, initially focusing on the entire country and gradually narrowing down the options until a suitable site is chosen, and it also regulates the regional participation procedure.

Demonstration of feasibility
Applicable legislation calls for a demonstration of the fundamental feasibility of disposing of radioactive waste in a specific geological layer. It is intended to demonstrate that there is a high probability of the presence of a sufficient volume of rock in Switzerland with the required properties. A demonstration of feasibility has been provided both for low / intermediate level waste and high-level waste.

Detailed plan
Detailed plans are the core documents in the federal State (Swiss Confederation) sectoral planning process. They contain detailed descriptions of specific projects. A detailed plan comprises maps and texts, and is structured in accordance with uniform criteria:  title, including code number of object; abstract with brief description, processing status and indication of sectoral plan category; list of involved players; description of initial situation, problem, objectives concerning the integration of the object/facility into the area concerned; components, exploration, landscape assessment, compensation measures (regional development outside the site concerned); decisions  (directives concerning harmonisation, co-ordination, next steps, documentation).

DETEC
Department of the 
Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications DETEC

Disposal programme
In accordance with Article 52 of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Ordinance, those responsible for the disposal of radioactive waste are required to provide the following information in the disposal programme: origin, type and quantity of radioactive waste; required deep geological repository, including design concept; allocation of waste to the respective deep geological repositories; plan for the construction of deep geological repositories; duration and required capacity of central and decentralised interim storage facilities; budget for disposal operations up to date of decommissioning of the respective nuclear power plants. In addition, they are required to update the disposal programme every five years. The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) and the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) are responsible for monitoring compliance with the disposal programme.

Disposal
Refers to all forms of disposal of radioactive waste. Encompasses the collection, interim storage, transport and processing of radioactive waste, as well as its end storage in deep geological repositories.

E

EKRA
Expert group for disposal concepts for radioactive waste

End storage
Facility for the permanent maintenance-free storage of radioactive waste (with no plans for recovery).

Evidence of feasibility
Evidence of feasibility has to demonstrate that it is possible to construct and operate a deep geological repository, and subsequently seal it over the long term, in the chosen host rock with the currently available technical resources, while meeting the applicable safety requirements.

Evidence of safety
Evidence of safety has to demonstrate that the defined host rock possesses the necessary geological and hydrological properties, and that the long-term safety of the deep geological repository can be guaranteed through the use of artificial barriers.

Evidence of site suitability
Evidence of site suitability has to demonstrate on the basis of findings from studies that there is a sufficient volume of host rock with the properties called for in the evidence of safety so that the construction of a deep geological repository would appear feasible.

F

FDHA
Federal Department of Home Affairs

Filling process
Process of filling storage caverns and shafts after the receptacles have been deposited (Article 67, Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Ordinance).

Findings and detailed plans
The reports on findings and the detailed plans are the outcome of the respective co-ordination processes. They comprise maps and texts, and describe the extent of the geological siting region, the planning perimeter and, in stages 2 and 3, the sites, the conclusions arising from the safety and feasibility assessments, and relating to area planning and the environment. These documents also include instructions for implementing the next stage, or for the approval of the general licence.

FNSI
Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate

FOEN
Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

FOPH
Swiss Federal Office of Public Health

Fuel element
An arrangement of fuel rods that transfer nuclear fuel into the reactor. In a pressurised water reactor a fuel element contains approximately 530 kilograms of uranium, while in a boiling water reactor it contains around 190 kilograms.

Fuel rod
Geometrical form in which nuclear fuel surrounded by cladding material is inserted into a reactor. Several fuel rods are normally combined to make a fuel element.

FWNW
Swiss Federal Workgroup for Nuclear Waste

G

Geological formation
Rock layers that belong together on the basis of their formation.

Geological siting area
A geological siting area is defined on the basis of the volume of rock deep underground that is suitable for the storage of radioactive waste

Geosphere
Refers to the entirety of geological formations between the hollow storage spaces and the biosphere (including host rock).

H

Half-life
Length of time after which half the originally present quantity of stimulated nuclei have decayed.

High-level waste
Category of radioactive waste that includes spent fuel elements and vitrified fission products resulting from reprocessing. Decaying radioactive material results in the production of intense heat. Abbreviation: HLW

HLW
High-level radioactive waste. Category of radioactive waste that includes spent fuel elements and vitrified fission products resulting from reprocessing. Decaying radioactive material results in the production of intense heat.

Host rock
The term "host rock" refers to the section of the geosphere that is of relevance for protecting technical barriers, restricting inflow of water into the storage facility, and preventing the release of radionuclides. The storage facility itself (i.e. the caverns) is constructed within the host rock.

I

Interim findings
In accordance with the Swiss Federal Spatial Planning Act, an interim report is required that indicates which activities of relevance to area planning have not yet been co-ordinated, and what action needs to be taken in order to secure the necessary degree of co-ordination without delay.

Interim storage site
Specially designed warehouse for storing radioactive waste for a limited period.

Ionising radiation
Radiation that generates ions upon absorption.

Isotope
Atoms of the same chemical element, which differ in terms of the number of neutrons in the atomic nucleus.

K

KEG
Kernenergiegesetz (Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Act dated 21 March 2003): This Act regulates the peaceful use of nuclear energy and specifies the procedure for disposal of radioactive waste.

KEV
Kernenergieverordnung (Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Ordinance dated 10 December 2004).

KKB
Kernkraftwerk Beznau (Beznau nuclear power plant)

KKG
Kernkraftwerk Gösgen (Gösgen nuclear power plant)

KKL
Kernkraftwerk Leibstadt (Leibstadt nuclear power plant)

KKM
Kernkraftwerk Mühleberg (Mühleberg nuclear power plant)

KKW
Kernkraftwerk (nuclear power plant)

L

Long-lived intermediate level waste
Long-lived intermediate level radioactive waste is waste material with a significant content of alpha emitters, resulting from the reprocessing of spent fuel elements. With the entry into effect of the new Nuclear Energy Ordinance, this category of radioactive waste was replaced by the category, "alphatoxic waste".

Long-term safety
The long-term protection of human beings and the environment through the use of barriers and/or other suitable measures.

Low and intermediate level waste
This category of waste primarily contains radioactive matter with a short half-life. Intermediate level waste , which results from the operation and later dismantling of nuclear power plants, and from the healthcare sector, industry and research, requires additional shielding. Intermediate level waste results from the operation and later dismantling of nuclear power plants, and from the healthcare sector, industry and research.

Low and intermediate level waste
This category of waste primarily contains radioactive matter with a short half-life. Intermediate level waste results from the operation and later dismantling of nuclear power plants, and from the healthcare sector, industry and research.

Lower freshwater molasse
The term "molasse" refers to deposits in the foothills of a mountain range. In Switzerland, these are found in the central plateau (Mittelland). During the sedimentation process, deposits of marine material and mainland formations changed places many times, and the resulting layers are referred to as (lower/upper) marine and freshwater molasses. Lower freshwater molasses: basins of nagelfluh stone formed in the foothills of the Alps, while further away in the molasse basin flooding resulted in deposits with sand-filled rivulets.

M

MIF waste
Waste that comes from the healthcare sector, industry and research.

mSv
Millisievert: the sievert is a unit for measuring biological damage resulting from the absorption of ionising radiation (in living cells), and is normally indicated in thousandths (mSv).

N

Nagra
National Co-operative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste. To find a solution to the problem of permanently and safely disposing of nuclear waste, in 1972 the federal State (Swiss Confederation) and the operators of Switzerland's five nuclear power plants formed the National Co-operative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra).

Natural barriers
This term refers to the host rock in the storage zone and surrounding geosphere (host rock and geological surroundings), which in addition to acting as support material also provides long-term protection for artificial barriers.

Natural radiation
Consists of cosmic radiation (on average, approximately 0.35 mSv), uranium decayed products from beneath the ground, in particular radon (between 0.3 and 3 mSv) and potassium-40 (internal radiation from the bones) (average level, 0.4 mSv).

Nuclear fission
Physical process during which an atomic nucleus is split into two or more parts. The fission of heavy atomic nuclei results in the release of energy.

Nuclear radiation
Radiation that results from the decay of stimulated atomic nuclei.

O

Opalinus clay
More than 175 million years ago, very fine mud composed of clay particles settled on the bottom of a shallow basin. This resulted in the formation of opalinus clay, which owes its name to the frequent findings of a fossilised ammonite ("Leioceras opalinum") in the sediment.  Uniform layers of this clay-based sediment exist in extensive areas of northern Switzerland.

P

Planning perimeter
A planning perimeter designates the geographical zone that is defined by the extension of the geological site region, taking account of the potential layout of the required facilities on the surface.

Plutonium
A fissile radioactive element that is produced in nuclear power plants, but is otherwise rare.

Producers of nuclear waste
Those who operate or decommission a nuclear facility are obliged to dispose of all radioactive waste produced at that facility at their own cost (Article 31, Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Act). The federal State (Swiss Confederation) is responsible for the disposal of radioactive waste that has been delivered in accordance with Article 27, paragraph 1 of the Radiation Protection Act (Article 33, Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Act).To find a solution to the problem of permanently and safely disposing of nuclear waste, in 1972 the Swiss Confederation and the operators of Switzerland's five nuclear power plants formed the National Co-operative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra).

Protection against radiation
Organisational and technical measures aimed at minimising the harmful effects of radiation on human beings and the environment.

PSI
Paul Scherrer Institute

R

Radioactive decay
Spontaneous conversion of nuclei that cannot be influenced and results in the emission of nuclear radiation.

Radioactive waste
Solid, liquid or gaseous waste arising from the nuclear fuel cycle or produced in minor quantities in the healthcare sector, industry and research. A distinction is made between low and intermediate level waste, and high-level and long-lived intermediate level waste. A distinction is made between low and intermediate level waste, and high-level and long-lived intermediate level waste.

Radioactivity
Property of certain substances to convert without external influence and emit a characteristic radiation. Radioactivity was discovered for uranium by Becquerel in 1896. Radioactive substances are characterised by their half-life, which refers to the time during which half the atomic nuclei convert in a given quantity. Half-lives may range from several billion years to millionths of a second. The radiation and its energy that is emitted during decay are also characteristic.

Recoverability
This term refers to the possibility of retrieving radioactive waste from an open, partially sealed or fully sealed storage site, with corresponding degrees of operational and financial outlay.

Reprocessing
Use of chemical processes for the purpose of separating fissile material (uranium, plutonium) that is still present in spent fuel elements so that it can be reused. Reprocessing results in the production of radioactive waste of all types.

Rock laboratory Mont Terri (Canton of Jura)
Thirteen organisations from six different countries jointly carry out a research programme in the Mont Terri rock laboratory to determine the properties of Opalinus clay. The 14 project partners have budgeted 3.92 million Swiss francs for research for the 2009/2010 period. Since 1996, investments amounting to 51.4 million Swiss francs have been made in the Mont Terri rock laboratory.

RPG
Raumplanungsgesetz (Swiss Federal Spatial Planning Act dated 22 June 1979).

RPV
Raumplanungsverordnung (Swiss Federal Spatial Planning Ordinance dated 28 June 2000)

S

Sealing
Filling and sealing of all underground sections and the access shaft of a deep geological repository after expiry of the observation period (Article 69, Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Ordinance).

Sectoral plan
Concepts and sectoral plans are area planning tools implemented in accordance with the Swiss Federal Spatial Planning Act. They permit comprehensive planning and co-ordination of federal State (Swiss Confederation) activities impacting on area planning, while taking the defined spatial development of the country into account.

Sediment rock
Sediment layers are secondary rock formations. They are formed from other rocks that are transported and deposited by wind, water or ice, or broken down by chemical processes.

Seismic exploration
In seismic exploration, artificial waves are generated on the surface, which then spread outwards and downwards and are reflected by the various layers of rock. The reflected waves are recorded on the surface and used for producing a detailed depiction of geological formations.

SFNSI
Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate

SFOE
Swiss Federal Office of Energy

Siting canton
A canton with one or more communes in a site region.

Siting commune
Commune beneath the boundaries of which a geological siting region partially or fully lies.

Siting region
A siting region comprises siting communes (and sometimes other communes) that are located partially or entirely within the defined planning perimeter.  In certain justified cases, other communes may also be included in a siting region.

StSG
Strahlenschutzgesetz (Swiss Federal Radiation Protection Act dated 22 March 1991).

StSV
Strahlenschutzverordnung (Swiss Federal Radiation Protection Ordinance dated 22 June 1994).

Surface storage facility
An above-ground interim, permanent, long-term or end storage facility.

Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Act
Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Act of 21 March 2003 (Kernenergiegesetz KEG); This Act regulates the peaceful use of nuclear energy and specifies the procedure for disposal of radioactive waste.

Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Ordinance
Swiss Federal Nuclear Energy Ordinance dated 10 December 2004 (Kernenergieverordnung KEV)

T

Technical (or artificial) barriers
Technical (artificial) barriers include the mould (e.g. glass), the receptacle (e.g. steel canister) and (where applicable) the filling material (e.g. bentonite) for storage caverns and shafts.

Toxicity
Toxicity is the degree to which a given substance can damage an exposed organism.  In the case of radiotoxicity, the degree of damage depends on the nuclide-specific effect of nuclear radiation. The radiotoxicity of a given waste container or storage site is calculated on the basis of the total toxicity of all nuclides contained therein.

Transmutation
Controlled transformation of radioactive isotopes with a long half-life into stable isotopes or isotopes with a short half-life through nuclear reactions. Before this can be done, the radioactive isotopes have to be separated in a complex process.

U

Underground repository
An interim, permanent, long-term or end storage facility in geological layers underground.

Uranium
A fissile radioactive element that occurs in nature.

USG
Umweltschutzgesetz (Swiss Federal Environmental Protection Act dated 7 October 1983).

USM
Unteresüsswassermolasse (lower freshwater molasse)

UVPV
Verordnung vom 19. Oktober 1988 über die Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfung (Swiss Federal Ordinance dated 19 October 1988 on Environmental Impact Reports)

UVP
Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfung (Environmental Impact Report)

V

Vitrification
The radioactive substances resulting from reprocessing have to be transformed into a product that is suitable for storage in a deep geological repository, and vitrification was found to be the most suitable method.

Z

ZWILAG
Zwischenlager Würenlingen (Würenlingen interim storage facility)

ZZL
Zentrales Zwischenlager (central interim storage facility)

Contact: Seraina Branschi
Last update: 30.11.2011


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