Mr. Habeck, for years it was silent about the search for a repository. That will suddenly change when the first interim report is published on 28 September. Why should it be any different from the Gorleben site, which has been resisted for decades?
There is a risk that there will be a lot of concern about a possible location, yes. But there is a fundamental difference: when we fought Gorleben, we were still fighting for a nuclear phase-out. Now the situation is different: we have the chance to finally end the history of atomic energy. We must: Most nuclear waste is stored in decentralized temporary storage facilities at the sites of the nuclear power plants. These are large surface halls. If there is no solution by then, the nuclear power plants will one day be dismantled, but the stocks are still there. And the high-level radioactive waste is then monitored by the guard and lock company. This is definitely not the safest solution.
The site is still under development. What has the politics learned from Gorleben?
Much different was done this time. A new process has been set up that is scientific and open-ended, ie, a search on the white card, beyond political predestination. First of all, this makes every location possible, Gorleben, but also many others. The process is based on transparency and not someone saying “Whatever comes out, not for us”.
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With the Geology Data Act, to which the Greens recently helped, important data is likely to go unpublished. Transparency suffers as a result.
It is precisely because transparency is so important that we discontinued the draft law in the Federal Council and then implemented improvements in the Conciliation Committee, so that the public interest in providing data now generally weighs more heavily. So we could accept it as a compromise. If during the course of the procedure it turns out that this is not enough, you have to tackle it again.
Citizen initiatives are already being formed in the regions and many in the anti-nuclear energy scene have doubts about the current search process. What conflicts do you expect?
The quest will be with us for many years to come. The more specific it gets, the more difficult the discussions get. But if the process is blocked now, it will fail. I appreciate the political achievements that people have achieved in their lifetime in the initiatives that fought against nuclear energy and denounced the lack of transparency and lobbyism. But the signs have changed, the search for a repository is different – and it deserves its chance because it is phasing out nuclear power. That is why we, as a party, feel so responsible to push this process forward in a constructive way.
In Bavaria, the coalition agreement even states that people are convinced: Bavaria is not a suitable location. Do you also expect new resistance in politics?
Yes. The Bavarian Environment Minister has already begun and openly questions the national consensus. It is decided by the Bundestag and Bundesrat. Bavaria was a great beneficiary of nuclear energy. Avoiding a solution is really harmful and cowardly. If Markus Söder as Prime Minister has any sense of responsibility for the whole state, he should publicly call back his Environment Minister and acknowledge the procedure, ie a white card of the entire republic, including Bavaria. How do you want to take people along when country leaders are already on the other side?
When Bavaria says: “We are not going to participate”, then ultimately others do not want that either. In the worst case, if no more data is provided or the schedule is sabotaged, the search will fail. But the waste remains in the country. I expect a prime minister to play a constructive role in such a difficult process.
How do you want to take people with you?
For many people, experiences with nuclear energy are traumatic and their fears are deep. As a politician, you have to build trust by being approachable, asking critical questions and explaining unpopular decisions. This is the only way to succeed. That will not excite everyone. But it can make people accept the process.
As Minister of the Environment in Schleswig-Holstein, you yourself were responsible for the decommissioning of four nuclear installations. They worked with the people to find dumps for the radiant scrap metal – and they met enormous resistance. What made it so difficult?
Your question already identifies part of the problem: it’s the rubble from the demolition. He was released from nuclear surveillance because it is not currently radioactive nuclear waste. But the mere idea that construction debris comes from a nuclear power plant raises fear. The word “atom” has tremendous emotional explosive power. There was a lot of resistance at the possible landfills, among citizens’ initiatives.
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The process has failed. They went on without the base. What was the insight for processes such as searching for a repository?
The civilian initiatives in the landfills had opposed the landfill, in the end they did not want the nuclear power plants to be dismantled. So no solution. But then we explicitly sought dialogue with those responsible – with landfill managers, municipal associations, environmental associations. They have accepted it as their job to solve the problem – the reactors cannot just stand still. The process is not over yet. But experience shows that you have to take into account the concentrated rejection in the neighborhood. But that’s exactly why you shouldn’t flinch and be willing to take responsibility, even if it’s uncomfortable.
As Minister of the Environment, Jürgen Trittin had to answer for Castor transports to Gorleben – against his own base. As a federal minister, would you force an unpopular location to save the lawsuit?
Yes I would. But not to save the day, but to close the chapter on nuclear energy. When I offered to get casters from the Sellafield reprocessing plant for intermediate storage in Schleswig-Holstein to tie the knot to resume the search for a warehouse, a storm of outrage erupted. A green man who says, “Nuclear waste? Yes please. ”There were debates, a special party conference and calls for resignation. If the regional association had spoken out against accepting the casters, I would have been resigned the next day.