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discovered_02_2015 - Editorial

WWW.HZDR.DE discovered 02.15 EDITORIAL DEAR READERS, To date there is no repository facility for highly radioactive and heat-generating waste in Germany. This politically "hot" topic is undeniably a very big, urgent problem in our society. The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers is dedicated to developing scientific solutions for such issues. It looks back on 20 years of history: In 1995 the loosely organized collective bearing the name "Working Association of Large-Scale Research Institutes" (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Großforschungseinrichtungen) became an association of now 18 research centers. These centers collectively work in a total of six research areas. While the HZDR has only belonged to the largest research association in Germany since 2011, repository research was already on the agenda way back when the Rossendorf research center established itself in 1992 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A good enough reason to examine the results from about 20 years of repository research in Dresden in more detail. In this issue of "discovered" we will take an inside look at radiochemical, radiogeological, and microbiological labs, look over the shoulders of researchers using the "Rossendorf Beamline" at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, and descend hundreds of meters into Finnish, Swedish, and Swiss research labs. How do "uranium, plutonium, & co." react with mineral surfaces in environments that are low in oxygen or watery? How do they interact with microorganisms deep underground? And how can host rock or other materials be used as technical barriers to prevent the spread of radioactive substances? In order to answer these and further questions, the researchers of the HZDR use a wide range of spectroscopic methods. They expose test samples to lasers, infrared light, and X-rays or use the fluorescent properties of certain compounds to learn about the behavior of actinides on the molecular and atomic level. The results of this fundamental research constitute multiple individual puzzle pieces that make their way into databanks as tried and tested findings. This information is then freely available to scientists around the world as well as government agencies and future repository operators. In an interview with the editorial staff of "discovered" Michael Sailer, CEO of the German Oeko-Institut: Institute for Applied Ecology, highlights the concern that personnel shortages could be a problem one day when construction is started on the repository for highly radioactive waste. The education of repository experts is therefore an important duty of universities and research institutions. He also emphasizes that with sound knowledge, science could make a significant contribution to an objective discussion of the matter. As you have come to expect from us, we will also be introducing other work currently being carried out by the HZDR and its researchers. I would like to wish you happy reading Christine Bohnet Communications and Media Relations at HZDR COVER ILLUSTRATION: Actinides are highly toxic and radioactive heavy metals whose spread must be safely prevented. HZDR scientists have been focusing on this in their work on repository research. Graphic: AVANGA