Nuclear power accounted for 39.3 per cent of the electricity generated in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1988. It was produced at twenty-three operating units on nineteen sites, developing a gross generating capacity of 22,597 MW(e). 1
The operation of each of these stations is covered by a licence which requires the reactor operator to guarantee prior provision for the management of spent fuel and other radioactive wastes for a period of at least 6 years. The legal expression of this requirement, the search for ways of meeting it by state and industry under changing political and economic conditions, and the interruptions in that search are the subject of this chapter.
In Germany, as in Sweden, the management of nuclear materials has had a profound effect on the development of nuclear power. Although issues such as reactor safety and the economics of nuclear electricity have been significant in fuelling the nuclear controversy, particularly before 1977, it is the struggles over the back-end of the nuclear-fuel cycle which have been the most palpable constraining influence to nuclear-power development. The Bundesrepublik is also similar to Sweden, but different from the UK, in having a fully articulated policy for the back-end. Unlike Sweden, the debate over the shape and direction of this policy is still very much alive.
To a large degree, the orientation of policy has been determined by a conceptual innovation particular to the German context. The term Entsorgung2 technically encompasses activities in the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including recycling of fissionable materials and decommissioning. It also represents the ideal of safe management of back-end activities according to the principle of the ‘polluter pays’. This dual but unified connotation has taken on a peculiar rhetorical weight, muddied through common usage. The use of idealistic language to describe regulatory tasks in the nuclear industry is not, however, limited to the Bundesrepublik.