Stage 3: Site selection and the general licence procedure
(as per Sectoral Plan – Deep Geological Repositories)
In-depth investigation of sites
Before a site can be selected for inclusion in an application for a general licence, the waste producers must expand the geological data for the sites selected at the end of Stage 2. The available data must allow a comparison of site safety based on the basis of verifiable site-specific data (Appendix IV (Conceptual Part – Sectoral Plan)).
In-depth economic investigation
Working with the siting region, the SFOE conducts in-depth economic studies, including a survey of public opinion. The data and information required for decision-making is expanded to allow an assessment of the socio-economic and environment impacts of any deep geological repository.
The siting regions put forward the measures and action required for the implementation of a regional development strategy and prepare the basis for any compensation measures. The siting regions are also required to look at issues relating to knowledge maintenance and the exchange of information with the general public.
Stage 3 also regulates the question of possible compensation. This is the responsibility of the siting cantons and the siting region working in cooperation with the waste producers.
Site selection and preparation of application for general licence
Article 23 and Article 62 of the Nuclear Energy Ordinance list the documents required for applications for a general licence. This includes, in particular a safety and security report, an environmental impact assessment, a report on compliance with spatial planning requirements and a report justifying the site selection. The application must include information on the licence holders, the site, purpose of facility, the main features of the project and the maximum permissible exposure to persons in the vicinity of the facility.
The main features of the project include the approximate size and location of the main structures (surface and underground), type of waste for disposal in repository and the maximum disposal capacity. In addition, the application must define the provisional protection zone together with the criteria, which if not met would result in the rejection of the proposed disposal zone as unsuitable. The general licence application must also include the results of a Stage 1 environmental impact assessment and its coordination with spatial planning requirements.
The waste producers submit the application for a general licence to SFOE and request the inclusion of the selected sites in the Sectoral Plan.
Review by authorities
The competent federal authorities then review the application for a general licence and the request for inclusion of the site in the Sectoral Plan. In particular, the authorities determine whether the applications comply with the design principles specified in Article 11 Paragraph 2 of the Nuclear Energy Ordinance and the requirements of Articles 64 – 69 of the Nuclear Energy Ordinance. The long-term safety of a geological repository is assessed on the basis of the criteria contained in the ENSI Guideline G03. These are explained in Appendix I (Conceptual Part – Sectoral Plan).
Consultations, conciliation procedure and decision by Federal Council
Based on the outcome of the review by the authorities and comments by the cantonal commission and the siting regions, the SFOE issues an overall assessment of the proposals and updates the object sheet. If modifications are required to the structure plan, the FOSD coordinates this process with the siting canton.
The SFOE, working with the cantons is responsible for planning and coordinating the consultations required under the Spatial Planning Act and those required for the general licence procedure under the Nuclear Energy Act.
The SFOE provides the cantons, the relevant federal authorities, neighbouring countries and interested national bodies with copies of the draft results report, the updated object sheet and any other relevant documents for comment. In turn, the cantons and/or the competent cantonal offices invite comment from regional and communal authorities and the general public.
At the end of the consultation period, the results report and the object sheet are updated and submitted to the cantons for final comment. The cantons may ask for a formal conciliation procedure before the results report and object sheet are submitted to the Federal Council for approval.
The procedure for the grant of the general licence and in particular the participation of siting cantons, neighbouring cantons and countries in the immediate vicinity and also for any objections and protests accords with Articles 42-48 of the Nuclear Energy Act.
The general licence, the results report and the updated object sheet for Stage 3 are submitted simultaneously to the Federal Council for approval. The decision by the Federal Council cannot be challenged in a court of law. The Federal Assembly must approve the general licence and its decision is subject to an optional national referendum.