Radioactive waste is produced every day in Switzerland. The main source is electricity production at the country's five nuclear power plants, but a certain amount is also produced in the medical, industrial and research sectors. A distinction is made between high-level and low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The combined total volume is around 100,000 cubic metres of material, around 90 percent of which is low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The majority of this will result from the dismantling of the existing nuclear power plants. Depending on the category, this radioactive waste will have to be stored for periods lasting from several tens of thousands up to a million years until the process of radioactive decay has reduced the level of radiation enough so that it no longer poses a threat to human beings and the environment. At present, radioactive waste is being stored in secure, above-ground buildings, which are located on the premises of the nuclear power plants themselves and at two central interim storage sites in the canton of Aargau.
The Federal Council is expected to announce its decision regarding the proposed geological siting areas (Jura Ost, Nördlich Lägern, Zürich Nordost) that are to be examined in greater detail in stage 3 at the end of 2018.