Mont Terri Rock Laboratory in the canton of Jura celebrates 25 years of research in the public interest

Wabern, 04.11.2021 - The underground laboratory, located at Mont Terri in St-Ursanne (JU), has been carrying out research into argillaceous rock since 1996. The experiments address the disposal of radioactive waste and the storage of CO2 in deep geological repositories. Today, 4th November 2021, Viola Amherd, Federal Councillor, celebrates this anniversary together with the laboratory’s partners.

The Federal Office of Topography, swisstopo, oversees the scientific programme, runs the laboratory and ensures safety on site. The research carried out here involves no less than 22 national and international partners. The site is owned by the Canton of Jura. The underground laboratory is used exclusively for research purposes; it will never be used to store radioactive waste or CO2. A party comprising the laboratory’s partners, prominent figures from the worlds of science and politics, and the authorities have gathered today.

In her address, Federal Councillor Viola Amherd, the head of the DDPS, cited the im-portance of the laboratory's contribution to research and in particular its work on the storage of CO2. This one of several possible ways of tackling climate change, and marks an important step towards the goal of achieving net-zero emissions.

Laboratory opening in the Opalinus rock formation in 1996

The laboratory is located some 300m underground, adjacent to the rescue gallery of the A16 motorway tunnel below Mont Terri. The first experiments on Opalinus Clay date back to 1996. Their success has contributed to the phased development of the laboratory, which now extends to around 1.2 km of galleries dedicated entirely to re-search. In total, more than 150 experiments have been carried out to date. Here, the hydrogeological, geochemical and geotechnical characteristics of Opalinus Clay are studied with a view to the future storage of radioactive waste in deep geological strata (70% of ongoing experiments), but also for other applications, such as the storage of CO2. The experiments performed here are typically long in duration; a third of them are still ongoing.

Always welcoming new international partners

Its 25 years of existence have enabled the subterranean laboratory to establish a reputation within the international scientific community. New partners regularly join the Mont Terri consortium. The latest of these are Germany's Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE), which joined in 2019, and the Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal (BGE), which joined in 2020.

The 22 partners of the Mont Terri consortium are:

• Federal Office of Topography, swisstopo (Switzerland)
• Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate, ENSI (Switzerland)
• National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, NAGRA (Switzerland)
• Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, ETHZ (Switzerland)
• Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, SCK•CEN (Belgium)
• Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, AFCN (Belgium)
• National Radioactive Waste Management Agency, ANDRA (France)
• Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, IRSN (France)
• TOTALEnergies S.A. (France)
• Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, BGR (Germany)
• Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit, GRS (Germany)
• Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, (Germany)
• Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management, BASE (Germany)
• Federal Company for Radioactive Waste Disposal, BGE (Germany)
• Obayashi Corporation (Japan)
• Japan Atomic Energy Agency, JAEA (Japan)
• Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, CRIEPI (Japan)
• Empresa Nacional de Residuos Radiactivos, ENRESA (Spain)
• Radioactive Waste Management, RWM (United Kingdom)
• Nuclear Waste Management Organization, NWMO (Canada)
• Chevron’s ETC. Drilling and Completions Technology Department (USA)
• U.S. Department of Energy, US DOE (USA)

Address for enquiries

Ruedi Bösch
Communication swisstopo
+41 58 469 01 27


swisstopo – Federal Office of Topography

General Secretariat DDPS