Nuclear installations and high-risk technologies

The nuclear age is not over yet. Germany’s last nuclear power plant will not be shut down until 2022, and the task of dismantling its reactors will preoccupy Germany for many decades to come. The safety of nuclear installations in Europe and around the world is also a key issue for the Federal Republic.

The operation of conventional installations and the use of new technologies may also pose substantial risks to the public and, indeed, to sustainable development – we need only look at geo-engineering and genome editing, for instance. Digitalisation also poses risks, for example in terms of power grid vulnerability and prevention of nuclear power plant accidents. An appropriate societal response to the opportunities and risks associated with these technologies is vital.

Safe operation until shutdown

The reactors that are still in operation must continue to meet rigorous and stringent safety standards until Germany’s nuclear power plants are finally shut down. This requires safety assessments, the evaluation of operational experience in German and international nuclear power plants, and further development of regulatory standards.

Nuclear energy in Europe and around the world

Some European countries support a nuclear phase-out; others continue to operate obsolete and unsafe nuclear power plants or are building new nuclear installations with lavish subsidies from the state. Research in this area has not yet come to a halt, even though it is extremely doubtful whether new reactor designs would lead to a breakthrough in safety, proliferation and disposal.

Dismantling nuclear power plants

Dismantling nuclear power plants is a protracted process which requires meticulous care. The handling of radioactive components and parts must comply with rigorous safety standards. Radioactive materials need to be separated carefully from non-hazardous materials, and appropriate interim storage must be guaranteed.

Assessing risks, monitoring processes

The researchers at the Oeko-Institut conduct assessments of the safety of nuclear and conventional installations in Germany and other countries and look at the environmental impacts of dismantling processes. We also analyse risks in other technological fields, such as digitalisation. For example, we look at the impacts of digitalisation on critical infrastructures and explore ways of utilising the opportunities associated with smart power meters with no risk to data privacy. In addition, we organise and monitor citizen participation processes.