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History of the Project

We give here the history of the project from the mid-1990s onwards with a summary of the milestones.

25th anniversary Mont Terri Project

Start of excavation for Gallery 2018 on March 12

Start of excavation works for Gallery 2018
Responsibles from Confederation, Canton Jura and Underground Rock Laboratory (URL) during the start of the extension work

The expansion of the Mont Terri rock laboratory in St-Ursanne has officially started. In just under two years, the research facility will have an additional 600 metres of tunnels and niches for experiments.

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Start of excavation for Gallery 2018

Milestones from 1996 to the present

2016: Twentieth anniversary of the Mont Terri Project. February 10 + 11, 2016: Technical Meeting in Porrentruy attended by 150 people, with a review of the past 20 years. On May 19, 2016, the Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin addresses 100 invited guests. In his talk he underscores the importance of the rock laboratory for research on the deep geological deposition of radioactive waste. The Mont Terri Project Partners present a new research programme and a plan to expand the rock laboratory after 2018. May 21 + 22: conclusion of the anniversary celebrations with some 300 visitors from the surrounding region attending open house days.

Elaboration of the project for the rock laboratory extension, construction application to RCJU, who grants permission for the extension of the rock laboratory by end of 2016.

2017: Public submission of laboratory extension project, 5 offers received, acceptance of best bid by end of 2017.

2018: Start of excavation Gallery 2018 by March 12, expected to be completed by September 2019. Three new Partners join the Mont Terri Project. These are: the German Helmholtz association, the French TOTAL and the Britisch RWM (Radioactive Waste Management organisation). At present, 19 Partners from 9 countries are in the project.

Between 1996 and 2018, a total of 159 experiments were initiated, of which 106 have been completed and 53 are still in progress. To date, Project partners have invested 84.3 million Swiss francs.

2019: On 27 May the breakthrough takes place in the Gallery 2018. Compared to the original planning we have a 2-month delay. The mine-by test in the sandy facies results in excellent hydraulic and mechanical data.

On 1 July 2019, 2 new partners join the Mont Terri research project. These are ETH Zurich (Earth Sciences, Swiss Seismological Service, EAWAG and PSI) and the German BfE (Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management). The German BfE can be compared with the Swiss ENSI. Thus, 21 partners are represented in the research project.

2020: The year is influenced by the Corona pandemic from March. The laboratory and the visitor centre are closed for two months in spring. Afterwards, work can continue in the laboratory under safety precautions, but the visitor centre can only be operated on a limited basis during the summer months, and must be closed again from end of September for the rest of the year.

On 1 July the German BGE (Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung) has become the 22nd partner of the Mont Terri Project. BGE is the equivalent of Nagra in Switzerland.

2021: On 1 January, long-time project manager Christophe Nussbaum was appointed Director of the Mont Terri Project. Paul Bossart had been head of the rock Laboratory since 2005 and dedicated his career almost exclusively to the Mont Terri Project. After a full working life, he has now taken a well-deserved retirement. The position of project manager was taken over by David Jaeggi at the beginning of the year.




Construction of the information pavilion of the Mont Terri visitors centre. September 5: attended by Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer.
By summer 2011, the Partners had invested some CHF 60 million, of which around one third was contributed by Swiss Partners. Since 2000, the EU has supported selected experiments with ca. CHF 10 million. Twenty percent of the total investment remains in the Canton of Jura.


US Department of Energy (Office of Nuclear Energy) becomes a new Mont Terri Project Partner.


We are pleased to announce an increase in the numbers of visitors: more than 4,000 people visit the rock laboratory each year.


After ca. 4 years of preparation and installation, the full-scale emplacement experiment is ready for operation. First heater element put into operation in December. Experiment scheduled to last 15 years, but may be prolonged if required and depending on results.


FANC, the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, signs up as sixteenth Mont Terri Project Partner.


swisstopo (the Federal Office of Topography) takes over management of the project and is now the operator of the laboratory. Partners are reassured that long-term experiments can be carried out.

In spring 2006 the 10th anniversary of the Mont Terri Project is celebrated with a scientific conference in St-Ursanne and a formal ceremony in the chalk factory. This was followed by a visit to the rock laboratory and an open house day.


The Mont Terri partners decide on a major expansion of the rock laboratory with a new research gallery (08) and wider niches with a total length of around 300 m. Tunnel construction is to be funded by Partners ANDRA, BGR, CRIEPI, GRS, HSK (today ENSI), NAGRA and swisstopo.

2007 – 2008

Building permission sought and approval received; building of a the new research gallery and niches. During construction, experiments are carried out to investigate properties of the rock mass and any changes due to excavation.

2008 – 2009

NWMO and CHEVRON become new Mont Terri Partners.


Swiss partners ENSI, NAGRA, and swisstopo found a consortium, the “Mont Terri visitors centre”. with the goal of informing up to 5,000 people a year about the research activities at the Mont Terri rock laboratory and the results affecting the choice of location for the deep geological storage of radioactive waste in Switzerland. In August 2010, the foundations are laid for an information pavilion.

2000 – 2001

The Federal Office for Water and Geology takes over the Swiss National Hydrological and Geological Survey and, in agreement with the Canton of Jura (Convention 01), management of the Mont Terri Project.

2002 – 2003

Plans for a long-term research programme and the necessary expansion of the rock laboratory with a new gallery and wider niches. Agreement on the programme; building permissions sought and approved. HSK joins the Project.


Excavation of research gallery 04.


Start of the long-term research programme with several major experiments.

Marc Thury, founder of the Mont Terri Project, hands over the role of Director to Paul Bossart, who has led the Project as project manager from the beginning.


Start of the Mont Terri Project with the 5 Partners ANDRA, PNC, NAGRA, SCK.CEN and the Swiss National Hydrological and Geological Survey, which takes on patronage of the project. Eight niches built. Start of the drilling and investigation programme with 13 experiments. Collaboration agreement signed. Marc Thury chosen as president. Paul Bossart nominated as project manager.

1997 – 1998

Three new Project Partners: BGR, ENRESA, IRSN. Research gallery 98 built, along with several niches.


Formal inauguration of the Mont Terri rock laboratory. Start of an extensive research programme.

1998 – 2001

Over 40 experiments carried out. GRS and OBAYASHI join as Project Partners. The EU starts financially supporting individual experiments.


In the course of building an exploratory tunnel for the Mont Terri motorway tunnel, the Swiss National Hydrological and Geological Survey and NAGRA carry out detailed geological and hydrogeological tunnel examinations in the Opalinus Clay. The Opalinus Clay appears to have interesting possibilities as a host rock for the storage of radioactive waste.


Marc Thury, head geologist at NAGRA, decides to set up an international research project at Mont Terri. His vision is for a project in which organisations will participate as partners and carry out experiments entirely according to their own requirements and wishes. The project must be organised democratically so that all partners can introduce their own requests. In order for it to be fully accepted by the public, there must be full transparency of information about the programme and its results and it should come under the patronage of a federal organisation. He submits a research proposal to Charles Emmenegger, the Director of the Swiss National Hydrological and Geological Survey, who then submits an exploration request to the local authority, the Canton of Jura.


Following the approval of the exploration application by Minister Pierre Kohler and André Voutat, cantonal engineer, a research programme is developed and presented to the OECD/NEA international working group the “Clay Club”. Interest is considerable and a collaboration agreement is drawn up.

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