Preventive research for the benefit of society – nuclear safety - The “Nuclear Waste Management, Safety and Radiation Research (NUSAFE)” program

Even though Germany will stop using nuclear energy to produce electricity in 2022, we will continue to face major challenges in this area in the future. The safety of nuclear facilities and the safe disposal of radioactive waste, including final storage, must be ensured for decades to come. This requires excellent research as well as first-class education and training of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The preventative research we conduct in NUSAFE pursues the strategic, long-term goals of assessing the safety of nuclear reactors as well as protecting the population and our environment against exposure to radiation – even once the use of nuclear energy to produce electricity has been phased out in Germany. Specifically, this means, firstly, that Germany’s reactors must maintain the highest levels of safety until they are shut down in 2022. Secondly, nuclear energy will continue to have a long-term future at a global level, given that countries such as China, Russia, and Japan are building new nuclear power plants, and Germany’s neighbors in Europe, including France, continue to rely on nuclear power. For this reason, using our own research to help shape safety standards for these reactors is also in our interests here at home. In light of these factors, the NUSAFE program focuses on issues relating to safety: Which methods could be used to predict the development of incidents with greater precision? How reliable are safety installations such as emergency cooling systems and recombinators? How can accident management systems at nuclear plants be improved?

Disposing of radioactive waste in a responsible manner and storing it safely in final repositories will remain a challenge for a very long time to come. According to legal requirements, final repository systems must be proven to be safe for a period of one million years. The NUSAFE program conducts research into the final storage of radioactive waste. One of its areas of focus consists of fundamental processes that have a significant influence on long-term safety. We examine how radioactive waste changes and behaves over time and how so-called radionuclides – i.e., radioactive substances – can be stored securely in final repositories. We also investigate what further steps will be necessary: What factors need to be taken into account when dismantling nuclear facilities? How should problematic (hazardous) types of waste be dealt with? What other issues arise from the interim storage of spent fuel elements, which is expected to continue for a prolonged period? How should monitoring of nuclear materials be organized?

We work to answer these questions by operating unparalleled laboratory infrastructures at the participating Helmholtz Centers: Forschungszentrum Jülich, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf.

The work we do here establishes the necessary conditions for outstanding research in the field of nuclear safety. In cooperation with universities, we also place a strong focus on training and support for the next generation of scientists. The NUSAFE program is closely involved in international networks and research projects, and we help to provide expert advice to policymakers through our membership in various committees.



  • The NUSAFE program plays a key role in assessing the safety of nuclear reactors as well as protecting the population and our environment against exposure to radiation.
  • Through its research into the safe disposal and final storage of radioactive waste, the program is dedicated to supporting an integral component of the energy transition.
  • The unparalleled Helmholtz laboratory infrastructures establish the necessary conditions for outstanding research in the field of nuclear safety.
  • Another of the program’s areas of focus is the provision of training and support to the next generation of scientists.


  • Nuclear Waste Managment
  • Reactor safety

Participating Helmholtz Centers

Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ)

Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)


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