Nagra (the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste) carries out geological investigations in order to further its knowledge of the substructure in potential regions for housing a deep geological repository. In accordance with the Nuclear Energy Act, for carrying out geological investigations a licence has to be granted by the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC).
The drilling of exploration shafts is one form of geological investigation. This type of investigation provides Nagra with more accurate information about the rock formations in the vicinity of a potential repository perimeter. Depending on the nature of the substructure the shafts are drilled to a depth of up to 2,000 metres. This enables Nagra to assess the geological situation in terms of its potential for housing a deep geological repository. There are three possible types of repository: a single facility for storing low and intermediate waste, another for storing high-level waste, and a combined repository for storing all categories of waste.
The drilling of quaternary shafts is another form of geological investigation and it also requires a licence. Here the shaft is not drilled as deeply as exploration shafts and the purpose is to obtain information concerning issues relating to long-term geological evolution.
The SFOE is responsible for the licensing procedure in conjunction with the relevant federal and cantonal authorities. A separate licensing procedure applies for each site. All licence applications are publicised. People affected by planned explorations may lodge an appeal with the SFOE.