Radioactive waste must be disposed of safely. The transportation and storage of radioactive materials in special containers are necessary components of a sustainable energy transition. The operators of nuclear power stations and other nuclear installations are responsible for safe disposal – including of the materials from the demolition of power stations. One of BAM's areas of expertise is the implementation, analysis and assessment of drop tests on transport containers for radioactive substances, and of containers that are intended for the interim and final storage of these substances.
Research and development for the safety of containers
BAM occupies a prominent position in the field of safety for the transport of containers, amongst other things. Strict safety requirements apply here, for example to CASTORS®, which are used to transport spent fuel elements from nuclear power plants or other highly radioactive waste. For this purpose, BAM has facilities available that are unique within Germany and even within Europe, including its drop tower for testing the transport and storage containers for radioactive materials in their original dimensions at the Test Site for Technical Safety (TTS) in Horstwalde.
Extended interim storage times require expanded testing methods
Under the provisions of the Atomgesetz [Atomic Energy Act], the German government is required to provide final storage sites for radioactive waste materials. The interim storage times in existing containers are being extended until a suitable final storage site is ready. These extended interim storage times require, for example, further development of testing methods for assessing ageing mechanisms that could influence the safety of containers.
BAM ensures that the highest safety standards are met and researches new testing methods. It is already conducting preliminary examinations of the systems of cover seals and the corresponding metal gaskets, which guarantee the safe containment of radioactive content. In addition, BAM tests the technical safety of final storage containers at their drop test facility and uses computer simulations to analyse various accident scenarios. By doing so, it is not only fulfilling its role in the approval and authorisation process, but is already working on safe solutions for the future.