Radiation levels at the Gorleben atomic waste repository too high

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The legal annual radiation limit for the Gorleben interim repository for high level radioactive waste is 0.3 mSv/a[1]. The Lower Saxony authority NLWKN on the basis of their measurements of the first half year of 2011 calculated an annual dose of 0.32 mSv[1]. Thus, no additional Castor containers with high level atomic waste could be brought to the repository. The proposed 2011 Castor transport would have to be canceled.

But, as this result doesn't suit the nuclear industry, new measurements were commissioned. The PTB, a federal authority well-known for their pro-nuclear studies in the past, published their results: 0.212 mSv/a[1][2][3]. An additional expertise by the TÜV (another expert organization supporting the nuclear industry) supported the PTB interpretation of the measurements[4]. A Greenpeace expertise calculated an accumulated annual dose of 0.305 mSv in case the proposed eleven Castor containers would be brought to the Gorleben repository in November and blamed the Lower Saxony Ministry of Environment for miscalculations in their data due to a wrong mixture of different measurements[5].

Besides that, the detected neutron radiation in Gorleben, situated 1.9 km from the repository, has been doubled since the beginning of the storage of atomic waste in the facility[6].

The reason for the difference in the interpretation of the measurements is obvious: the pro-nuclear PTB calculates with a "natural background" radiation of 0.63 mSv/a instead of the 0.51 mSv/a the NLWKN uses[1]. This is the amount they have to substract from the detected radiation at the repository[1]. But, the local anti-nuclear activists argue, the used value for the background radiation is wrong[7][2] as the operator uses data measured only after highly radioactive Castor containers had already been brought to Gorleben[8]. Since 1997 according to public GNS reports the radiation at the repository rised continuously after the first Castor containers had been brought there[6].

When the exceeded legal limits were published, the Lower Saxony Ministry of Environment denied the facts[8]. In reaction, the BI Lüchow-Dannenberg presented calculations of their own experts group proofing that the legal limits had been exceeded already since 2003[8]. Thus, they pressed criminal charges against the operator of the repository GNS due to "illegal release of ionizing radiation"[8][9][10]. The operator tried to trick on the detection results by changing the setting of the Castor containers in the plant concentrating them in the center of the hall to reach more distance from the walls and from the measurement devices[8].