The third cavern in Brunsbüttel contains a total of 118 barrels. 40 have been inspected this far and 10 show signs of corrosion.
Sandra Kühberger, press spokesperson Vattenfall Germany, comments the finding: "The caverns were originally not intended for long-term storage, but the barrels were destined for Schacht Konrad as a nationwide repository for low and intermediate level radioactive waste. It is important to keep in mind that neither the environment nor the Brunsbüttel staff have been subjected to any kind of danger. Vattenfall co-operates closely with the the nuclear regulator in Schleswig-Holstein."
Kühberger further says: "The caverns are protected against the outside by thick concrete walls. The air flow and the vacuum in the power plant also ensure barriers to hold back radioactivity from the environment."
Third cavern inspected
Vattenfall has completed inspections of two out of the six caverns in Brunnsbüttel. The first cavern with 70 barrels was inspected earlier this year. 18 barrels showed signs of corrosion. The inspection of the second cavern revealed no barrels bearing signs of corrosion.
Vattenfall will continue with the inspection of the remaining caverns in the coming months.
Decision to inspect
On 15 December 2011 a barrel was badly damaged while radioactive content was transferred into new containers at Brunsbüttel. According to the nuclear regulator of Schleswig-Holstein and Vattenfall experts, the safety of employees and the environment was never endangered.
But the incident caused a media storm and upset reactions among Vattenfall's German employees further deteriorating the company's reputation in the country.
The incident resulted in a decision to inspect all approximately 630 barrels stored in six caverns in the power plant.
The content of the barrels in the caverns will be transferred into special containers and then stored at Schacht Konrad - a nationwide repository for low and intermediate radioactive waste.
Schacht Konrad was originally supposed to be completed in the 1990's and a removal of the barrels was planned for this period.
The German Federal Ministry for Environment and Nuclear Safetey currently expects a start for Schacht Konrad around 2021-2025.