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Is Nuclear Waste From Nazi Era Stocked In An Abandoned German Salt Mine?

A report has resurfaced that says radioactive waste from World War II was brought in1967 to a storage facility in Asse, in northern Germany, raising old questions about Hitler's quest for an atomic bomb. But historians dispute that Nazi scientist

Sven Felix Kellerhoff

One of the most controversial places in all of Germany right now is an abandoned salt mine in Asse, just southwest of Braunschweig, where 120,000 containers of weak to middle-strength radioactive waste is stored. And now there is speculation that some of that material could be left over from Nazi atomic experiments.

The catalyst for the speculation is an old report in the Hannoverschen Allgemeinen Zeitung dating from July 29, 1974 that quotes a deputy manager of the Asse storage facility stating that "radioactive waste from the last war" had been put there in 1967.

Specifically, the waste was uranium said to have played a role in "developing the German atomic bomb." The manager allegedly went on to say: "We had to go and get waste from concrete bunkers near Munich, where it had originally been deposited." A radical anti-nuclear power opponent recently came across the forgotten newspaper report and, assuming the information was a major revelation, brought it to the attention of German Green party politicians.

Asked about the speculation that Nazi-era nuclear waste was indeed in Asse, the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) stated that they have no knowledge of waste from Nazi research stocked there. And assuming it were, whether or not some of the material could have been used during the process of developing an atomic bomb could not be ascertained based on available records.

The magnitude of the Nazi atomic bomb project during the Second World War has, in any case, been overstated. It is true that towards the end of the war Hitler and his Minister of Propoganda Joseph Goebbels often mentioned that a new "miracle weapon" would soon be available, yet all internal documents from the period show that their public statements had little real foundation. The top echelons of the Third Reich didn't have a clue how difficult the road to nuclear fission weapons would be.

Compared to the American atomic bomb program known as the "Manhattan Project," the German "Uranium Project" run by Nobel prize winner Werner Heisenberg was a paltry undertaking, with only 12 scientists and insufficient raw materials, in the spring of 1945, to be able to get a reactor going. In late April 1945, when American specialists located the research facility in Haigerloch, Swabia, they found 664 uranium cubes that had been hidden nearby and an empty reactor vessel. No chain reaction had taken place -- and whether research got any further at a site in Gottow, near Berlin, as some have claimed, has never been established.

Economics historian Ernst Peter Fischer says that the claim that German physicists in 1941 were looking at "a clear road to the atomic bomb" did not reflect reality; in fact, "Heisenberg was clearly mistaken and may have been lying to himself as much as he was to his entourage."

At war's end, specialists from the US Army's secret services transported all elements of the German atomic program found in West Germany to the United States -- including many of the physicists who'd been working on it. Whatever was stocked in those bunkers near Munich, it is highly unlikely that it was related to the Nazi "Uranium Project." As long as all we know about supposed Nazi nuclear waste in Asse involves the vague reminiscences of a former storage facility employee, the case will remain very far from a "major revelation."

Read the original article in German


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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Don't Underestimate How Much More Putin Needs Xi Than Xi Needs Putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow was a much-needed favor Vladimir Putin. But make no mistake, Beijing is there to serve Beijing — and holds virtually all the cards.

Photo of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin toasting with glasses of white wine

China's President Xi Jinping and Russia's President Vladimir Putin a state dinner hosted by the Russian president at the Faceted Chamber in the Moscow Kremlin.

Anna Zafesova


Chinese president Xi Jinping’s much-anticipated visit to Moscow begins with a diplomatic mystery. In the first minutes of formal greetings at the Kremlin, Xi congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Russia has achieved significant successes under your leadership. Next year you have elections coming up, and I am convinced that the Russian people will give you their support.”

The Russian president’s candidacy in 2024, officially, is one of the biggest mysteries in Russian politics, as Putin has not yet declared his intentions, even though it is extremely unlikely that he would voluntarily move out of the Kremlin, and even less so after amending the constitution in 2020 to allow himself to enjoy two more six-year terms.

Still, the fact that Russians learned that their president will run again from Xi is extraordinary enough that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters they had "misunderstood."

According to Moscow, the Chinese president said more generally that his Russian “friend” would continue to be supported by Russians next year.

It was hardly a gaffe — not at this level of politics, where every blink is weighed and measured. Maybe it was a translation error, or a courtesy Xi wanted to show Putin, in response to his host's compliments. Putin's welcome speech included the phrase "We envy you a little bit” (for China’s rapid pace of progress), which must have truly pained the Russian leader to say.

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