GORLEBEN (dpa-AFX) - A protective wall is being erected around the hall containing highly radioactive waste to protect the Gorleben interim storage facility for nuclear waste in Lower Saxony from terrorist attacks, for example. A new security center is also to be built in the next three to three and a half years, as the federally-owned Gesellschaft für Zwischenlagerung (BGZ) announced in response to a dpa inquiry. The "Elbe-Jeetzel-Zeitung" initially reported on the construction preparations.

"The protection of the interim storage facilities against terrorist attacks or criminal acts is constantly being reassessed and adapted to changing threat situations," said a BGZ spokesperson. IT security measures and the conversion of the main access road were also part of the project.

The Lüchow-Dannenberg Citizens' Initiative for Environmental Protection criticized the planned protective wall. The ceiling of the hall, which is only 20 centimetres thick, is the weak point, especially in the event of a plane crash, said the spokesman for the citizens' initiative, Wolfgang Ehmke.

The operator rejected this criticism. The safety of the interim storage facility had also been examined and confirmed by the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Disposal as the responsible licensing authority, it said.

After years of dispute over the Gorleben site, the salt dome in the Lüchow-Dannenberg district was dropped from the search for a final storage site for nuclear waste in 2020. However, it will remain a nuclear waste site for a long time to come: Gorleben has a storage facility for low- and medium-level radioactive waste as well as a storage facility with transport containers containing highly radioactive waste (Castor storage facility). The license for the Gorleben interim storage facility expires in 2034.

Extended interim storage is necessary as the Federal Company for Final Storage does not expect a final storage site for highly radioactive waste to be designated until the 2040s at the earliest, said the BGZ spokesperson. It will then take several decades before the final repository is built and all the containers have been handed over to it. Until then, the containers with the highly radioactive waste will be stored temporarily in Gorleben./cst/DP/zb