#465 - January 24, 1997

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

A new way to secure male domination?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) A study of workers at the Sellafield reprocessing complex to determine the radiation's effect on the sex of offspring showed remarkable figures.

(465.4627) WISE-Amsterdam -If workers are exposed to a radiation dose of more than 10 miliSievert (1 rem) in the 90 days prior to conception, the likelihood that a male would be the result of that conception increased by 40 to 50 percent. Even with receiving doses smaller than 10 mSv in the 90 days before conception, a greater proportion of boys are born than in the surrounding population, or in England and Wales as a whole.

The University of Newcastle study also found a significantly increased probability of male children in the County of Cumbria as a whole in 1959 and 1960. The researches speculate that this could be the result of the Windscale plutonium fire in October 1957. However, certain factors that might point to this had not been found to be present.

Source: Nucleonics Week, 2 January 1997

Alexandr Nikitin is free!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) Alexandr Nikitin was released from KGB isolation in St. Petersburg on December 14, 5:35 p.m. local time. The release was ordered by the State Attorney in Moscow. The charges against Bellona co-worker Alexandr Nikitin are based on secret decrees to which he is not allowed access. He has been adopted as a prisoner of conscience (PoC) by Amnesty International, as the second person in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Amnesty has made a comprehensive report on the case.

(465.4620) WISE Amsterdam -Nikitin had been in custody since February 6, 1996, accused of high treason through espionage. He had faced the threat of death penalty because of his work within the Bellona Foundation, on the Bellona Report 2:96 "The Russian Northern Fleet. Sources of Radioactive Contamination".

Bellona has been working within Russia since 1989, building a huge network of contacts among people and organizations concerned with environmental issues. The competence of Bellona regarding the environmental situation in the area has received international recognition.

Notwithstanding his release, Nikitin is still under investigation and remains accused of serious crimes. The General Procurator has sent the case back to FSB (the former KGB) for further investigation.

Alexandr Nikitin is not allowed to travel outside St. Petersburg, with his passport confiscated by the FSB. The Bellona Foundation is still denied visas to St. Petersburg.

The Bellona report, "The Russian Northern Fleet. Sources of Radioactive Contamination", is still banned in Russia. Bellona rejoiced over the release of Alexandr Nikitin, but emphasized that the battle is not over yet. This is only the beginning. Now it is very important to put an enormous pressure on the Russian authorities. FSB will not give up. We do not know what will happen next, the only thing we know is that Russian and international pressure is very important. We need your help if we are to win this fight!

Source & Contact: Bellona Foundation, PO Box 8874, Youngstorgot 0028 Oslo, Norway
Tel: +47-22-382401
Fax: +47-22-383862

Candu design flaw discovered: Chretien in South-East Asia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) Engineers at a nuclear plant in eastern Canada have discovered a serious flaw in the Canadian-designed reactor that could cost millions of dollars to repair or force government-owned New Brunswick Power to cut short the life of the plant.

(465.4617) Energy Probe - According to a report produced by New Brunswick Power for the Atomic Energy Control Board, the federal nuclear safety regulator, routine measurements identified the problem. Coolant-carrying pipes, which take superheated heavy water from the reactor core to the steam generators are corroding much faster than expected.

According to local press reports, officials now doubt whether the pipes will last the full 30- year lifespan of the plant.

The 630-MW Point Lepreau plant, which was once considered a flagship for the Canadian nuclear industry, located in the province of New Brunswick, is only 13 years old. Planners justified its Cdn$1.4 billion (US$1.0 billion) construction cost, assuming that the plant would produce power at 80- percent of capacity for 30 years. For the last two years, the plant has produced at less than 50-percent of capacity.

When the plant is running, Point Lepreau supplies the province with one-third of its total electricity supply. If shut down now for repairs, New Brunswick Power faces replacement power costs of Cdn$350,000 (US$257,000) per day.

In the last two years, the plant has been plagued with technical problems, and was shut down for eight months in 1995 for repairs. According to an official with the Atomic Energy Control Board, no one is sure how many feeder pipes are affected - there are 760 pipes but only about 12 have been checked. Due to the location of the pipes right next to the reactor core, the problem can only be monitored when the plant is shut down. Until the discovery of wall thinning was made, the next planned shutdown was not scheduled to begin for several months.

Scientists and engineers are now scrambling to determine the cause of the rapid corrosion in the hope of finding a way to stop it. Iain Lee of the Atomic Energy Control Board said there is evidence of similar problems at other aging Candu reactors across the country, but he was not aware if the problem was noticed at Candu reactors sold to other countries.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien left on January 8 for Southeast Asia as part of a 400-member trade delegation that includes representatives of Canada's nuclear industry vying for Candu export deals in South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines. Canada has sold Candu reactors to India, Pakistan, Argentina, Romania, and South Korea. In November last year, Canada sold two reactors of the Point Lepreau design to China.

Source: Energy Probe, press release, 9 January 1997
Contact: Tom Adams, Executive Director, Energy Probe Research Foundation
Tel: +1-416 964 923 ext. 239.

Criminal Agency: Castor steered by "terrorists"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) In Germany, and internationally, through the nuclear industry magazineNucleonics Week, the "battle of the Castor transports" reached new heights, before the transport actually hit the streets.

(465.4621) WISE-Amsterdam -The transport of high-level radioactive waste to the interim storage facility at Gorleben has been the scene of massive and mainly non-violent actions over the last few years. In a country with a history of repression against left-wing opposition groups, now the Bundesamt fuer Verfassungschutz (BFV, the federal criminal investigation agency) claims that the anti-nuclear protest movement is steered by "terrorists". Not only sabotage actions which took place but also acts of civil disobedience are seen as acts of groups "not motivated by concerns about nuclear energy but rather aim to destroy the German state". Especially anarchist and autonomous groups and the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism, re-formed from the former East German Communist party) should, according to the BFV, be seen as being responsible for violent activities. The great mass of German protesters against transports and radioactive materials are "being misused by so-called "autonomous groups"of seasoned, violent demonstrators whose armed and masked members engage in pitched battles with police". According to the BFV, such groups are able to mobilize about 6,000 members.

Leading persons in the local groups around Gorleben, the so-called Bürgerinitiative Unweltschutz, are under investigation by the federal criminal investigation agency. They are looking into "alledged connections between the group Freies Republic Wendland" (Free Republic of Wendland, the Gorleben Region) and "the legendary Red Army Fraction" the group responsible for "the most spectacular and deadly terrorist strikes in Germany and Europe since the 1970s".

It is a common practice in Germany to try to divide opposition groups into "allowed" and "not-allowed" forms of protest. This strategy was already used in the 1970s when resistance at the nuclear reactors at Brokdorf, Grohnde and Kalkar ended several times in police brutality and militant resistance. In the 1980s, the same strategy was used to try to split the massive resistance against the construction of the reprocessing plant at Wackerdorf. Now, in the 1990s, the division that is being tried to be made between, for instance Greenpeace Germany and the local "autonomous" groups, the Federation of Peaceful Action Groups (which according to BFV plays a leading coordinating role and is described as an "umbrella anarchist body"). The report claims that Greenpeace Germany, due to pressure from Greenpeace International, backed away from open support for the anti-nuclear-transport movement.

The next Castor transport is expected to take place at the first week of March. And, as Nucleonics Week quotes Bonn officials, "BFV has concluded that "autonomous groups" (...) are gearing up to cause still greater damage and expense for the pending shipment of spent fuel from Neckarwestheim and two other reactors."

Source: Nucleonics Week, 2 January 1997 and some personal recollections
Contact: Buergerinitiative Umweltschutz Luechow Dannenberg, Drahwehner Str. 2, 29439 Luechow, Germany;
Tel: +49-58414684
Fax: +49-5841-3197

France: Numerous containment valves found open

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) Containment isolation valves were found open in at least a dozen cases in French nuclear reactors last year. The French nuclear regulatory agency DSIN has asked Electricité de France to determine the cause of the incidents and to propose measures to prevent a recurrence.

(465.4619) WISE Amsterdam -The incidents were collectively classified at Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INIS). According to DSIN, the situation could have compromised containment integrity and core cooling in a primary pipe break, since it might have prevented emergency cooling water from reaching the needed systems. DSIN claims the incidents were of diverse origin, connected mainly with human error during maintenance or confusion between different equipment.

The first open valve was found at reactor number 4 at Bugey, and after tips to other reactors, more and more anomalies were found: in October at two reactors; in November at eight sites, totalling 11 reactors; and in December at tworeactors open valves were discovered. The anomaly at St. Alban was found to have existed since 1988 for unit 2, and since 1989 for unit 1!

However, EDF sees the open-valve episode as proof that the utility's policy of encouraging the plant staff to detect and correct anomalies, and share their experiences with other reactor sites, is working. Carlier, EDF vice-president for generation and transmission, noted that people are not always "totally reliable" and "in some ways are also tempted to circumvent the rules if they have not fully understood their necessity".

Source: Nucleonics Week, 12 & 19 December 1996
Contact: WISE-Paris

Fresh fuel from Greifswald: Lost & found

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) After the nuclear power plant near Greifswald in the former Eastern Germany had been shut down during the unification, there were still 271 fresh fuel assemblies left.

(465.4626) WISE Amsterdam - In May and October last year, they were brought for defabrication to a Framatome Cogema Fuels site in Lynchburg, U.S. The fuel contains 1.6 percent of Uranium-235 and is defabricated for Nukem, whose parent RWE also owns the inheritor of the Greifswald power station, Energiewerke Nord (EWN).

With the first transport in May, 180 assemblies were shipped. As late as November 13, a spokesman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported an "accounting anomaly". One of the assemblies was missing.

The EWN was asked to check whether it could find the lost assembly. On November 14, a senior German official reported that the assembly had been found in one of the returned containers.

The EWN claims to have committed no fault, as they had simply sent the fuel to the U.S. Anyway the returned cargo weighed about 120 kg more than it should - a fact that was recognized neither by the EWN nor anywhere in the U.S.

A German official investigator said that since the fresh fuel emits no above-background radiation, the assembly could not have been detected by routine radiation checks.


  • Nuclear Fuel, 18 November 1996
  • Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 20 November 1996

Contact: Gruene Liga Schwerin, PO Box 010243, 19002 Schwerin, FRG
Tel: +49-385-562918; Fax: +49-385-562922
E-mail: eceat.de@ipn-b.comlink.apc.org

Germany: International anti-nuke conference March 1-3

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
(January 24, 1997) Dear allies in the resistance against any form of nuclear technologies:
With this letter we want to draw your attention to the international meeting of NGOs against nuclear technologies that will take place March 1-3 at the University of Lueneburg (Germany, near Hamburg). It should be used for some networking, and exchange of experiences and informations.

(465.4611) More and more we notice: The use of nuclear technologies is all over the world. The uranium for German nuclear power plants comes from countries like Australia or Canada. It is discussed that the ultimate disposal of atomic waste could de done abroad, and countries try to sell their nuclear technologies to other countries. Those are just some of many examples that can be seen in all countries working with nuclear technologies.

That realization in 1995 gave us the idea for an international meeting. It was going to be a get-together of people from regions all over the world, who can report about their problems as the persons concerned or as activists from environmentalist groups. The aim was to get information about each other, about the problems, but also about strategies to use when the people struggle against the 'giants' of atomic research.

As date for this first meeting we took deliberatly the spring of 1996. After the meeting we were sure about one thing: there should be a second meeting to pick up the discussions again, but also to give a chance to other prospective activists to gather experiences and to contact people.

The meeting 97

The first day should include reports from as many countries as possible. Per report, there will be 15 minutes for a lecture and 10 minutes for questions. It could happen that there isn't enough time for a country report of each international guest, so the reports should include some basic knowledge about the actual situation of the national/regional politics, reference to nuclear technologies, and an exposition on the social, ecological, economical and physical consequences. On the second and third day there will be workshops on all themes that may be of interest, as long as it is possible to organize them. We will prepare some workshops to which we have invited some speakers, but there will be as much flexibility as possible, so that there will be space for your wishes, desires and ideas.

To give the chance for conversations, we planned long pauses and the evenings are free. This is because we think that most of the arrangements for cooperation, ideas and important conversations don't happen in the discussions. This is also the reason why this event is called a 'meeting' and not a 'conference'. The first priority of this meeting is not to exchange higly scientific discoveries or to draw up resolutions. The aim is to meet and get to know one another, exchange information, learn from each other, and go home with pledges of cooperation and international support.

Possibilities after the meeting

The meeting itself will be for three days. But the organizers hope that many of the international groups have time to stay longer to give lectures, talk in schools, meet anti-nuclear and environmental groups in Germany, disseminate information about special themes, find partners for cooperation, or take part in seminars. We will try to organize a program to satisfy your expectations. For this we need to get in contact with you as soon as possible. The sooner you express your wishes, the more likely they can be realized. Every person or group will have a companion (mostly students) who will organize traveling, meals, lodgings, and who can translate, and show one or another object of interest. The companions are mostly in environmental organizations and have knowledge about the country and language of the guests. It is possible to plan tours and trips up to two weeks for the organizers.

Participation and costs

This is an open meeting. Everyone who is critical of nuclear technologies and searches for exchange of information and networking is sincerely invited to take part. There are neither specialized knowledge needed nor you have to represent any organization. International guests can take part in the meeting for free. In arrangement with the organizers, the traveling costs to Germany and back and the costs for studying and work trips could be paid back full or partial. Write down your ideas for a further program.

The organizers are different, mostly regional environmental and anti-nuclear organizations from Germany who are interested in international contacts and networking. Some of them have been working in this area for quite a time. All participating organizations are non-governmental. For the realization of the meeting and the arrangements, they are working together with Buntstift e.V., which is close to 'Buendnis 90/DIE GRUENEN', the German Green Party. The AStA, student association of the University of Lueneburg, is carrying out the international meeting.

Please get in touch with us as soon as possible!

Source & Contact: Achim Riemann, Meeting coordinator. c/o JANUN, Goebenstr 3a, 30161 Hannover, Germany.
Tel: +49-511-3940712 or 3940415
Fax: +49-511-623151.
Email: janun.nds@oln.comlink.apc.org


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Egypt still pursuing N-plant.

(January 24, 1997) Egypt's Electricity Minister Mohammed Maher Abaza told parliament that the country still plans to commence a nuclear reactor at the beginning of the next century. The proposed site, El-Daaba, is located on traditional land of the Sedentary Bedouin tribes, and the project has drawn fierce opposition. But Maher Abaza said on December 23 that the site, 338 kilometers northwest of Cairo between Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh, is the best possible site. He said the site can neither be changed nor reduced. The Nuclear Power Plant Office (NPPO) received a concession for a site covering 45 square kilometers. The government suspended the reactor project after the 1986 Chernobyl accident. NPPO claims it has already paid U.S.$1.47 million to the Bedouins for loss of olive and fig trees, and expects to disburse the same amount in the future. It also does not recognize the claim of ownership of the land presented by 62 individuals.
Nucleonics Week, 2 January 1997

Plutonium "missing in action". According to recently disclosed documents, the United States left about 80 grams of Plutonium in Vietnam when it left the country in 1974 towards the conclusion of the war. The plutonium had been in a research reactor in Dalat in South Vietnam, which had been build in 1959 as part of the "Atoms for Peace" program. In 1975, two American nuclear engineers tried to recover the plutonium, but seized the wrong canister. The U.S. fears the plutonium could have been sold to North Korea or Iran.
The London Times (UK), 17 January 1997

Shooting radwaste to sun. They never disappear: scientists who see shooting nuclear waste to the sun as the ultimate solution for the waste problem. Aretired U.S. Los Alamos scientist, Taylor, claiming to be an anti-nuclear activist, promotes this expensive and dangerous technique. Each launch would carry 45 tons of waste propelled by "ion rockets". Total costs may reach hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars. According to Taylor, the waste containers would survive a launch disaster and even float on water.
UPI 10-12-96

UK: No Nukes at Druridge Bay. Land at Druridge Bay on the coast of Northumberland, earmarked 18 years ago for a nuclear station, is to be sold by the nuclear industry. This signals that Magnox Electric, the company that currently owns the land, no longer has intentions to build a reactor there. The decision is seen as a success for the Druridge Bay Campaign who opposed the eventual building of a nuclear station. The group protested by petitions, letters to the press, demonstrations, contacting politicians, etc.
newsgroup energy.nuclear on Peacenet; Monica Frisch (mfrisch@gn.apc.org); 18 December 1996

Cameco acquires U.S. uranium mine. Cameco Corporation, the world's largest uranium mining company, has announced it is buying the North American uranium holdings of Magnox Electric plc for U.S.$ 105 million in cash. These include a major stake in the highland in-situ leach mine in Wyoming, which produces some 500 tons of uranium per year. The deal increases Cameco's reserves by about 10 percent, with the addition of 16,500 tons of U3O8, plus some highly prospective ground in Canada.
ANSTO Quarterly Review 4/96.

Superphenix set for breeder-to-burner conversion. The Superphenix prototype fast breeder reactor, in southeast France, has been shut down in late December for a period of six months, in preparation for a new dual role as a plutonium burner as well as a breeder. The plant operators, the French-led NERSA consortium, announced that during the outage, fuel assemblies would be moved inside the core, within the framework of the "knowledge acquisition program" planned for the reactor. The reconfiguration of the core is aimed at reducing the fast breeder character of the reactor. NERSA says the restart of the plant would take place in June 1997. Superphenix has recently been operating at 90 percent of full power, the limit authorized by the French nuclear regulators.
NucNet, European Nuclear Society, 20 December 1996

Change in World Bank's anti-nuclear policy? The secretary-general of the London-based Uranium Institute, a nuclear industry umbrella organization, thinks he sees a shift in the anti-nuclear policy of the World Bank. Gerald Clark shared his impression to the UK nuclear industry's 1996 Nuclear Congress in London on December 5. But even industry observers wondered whether Clark was being 'a little optimistic". Clark said: "I went to see them last year and found them " as everybody had predicted " pretty negative. But over the course of the past 12 months, they've seemed to be moving in the right direction." Just for the record, "right direction" means the wrong direction. The president of the World Bank had agreed to have a high-level meeting with the UI executive body in January.
Nuclear Fuel, 16 December 1996

Main Yankee: Safety problems and outside operation management

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) United States: The 24-year-old 940-MW Maine Yankee reactor has a troubled history of safety concerns. In 1995, Maine Yankee was down all year for the very expensive steam generator sleeving and it spent all of 1996 under an Nuclear Regulatory Commission-imposed 10 percent power derating due to safety questions. This was imposed in the beginning of 1996 but only reported by the NRC in the fall of that year. Full power would only be permitted when several safety issues were resolved.

(465.4618) WISE-Amsterdam -Last December the operator Main Yankee Atomic Power Co. (Myapc) said it will spend an extra U.S.$27 million in 1997 to improve peformance and safety. Operating costs for 1997 are to be 27 percent higher than originally planned. In later years costs will increase 10 percent due to extra employees.

According to Charles Frizzle, then president of Myapc, the company agreed with NRC that economic pressures and a complacent workforce caused performance and safety margins to detoriate. He denied that the ownership structure is the cause of the problem. Myapc is owned by 10 entities. The shareholdersþ structure resulted in complex financing matters for investing and revenues. Myapc does not retain earnings and does not set aside funds for unexpected events. So the 10 owners, often on short notice, are asked for investments. The unit was shut down on December 6 when electrical cables were found to lack the required separation. The utility expanded its review to research other reactor protection system cables. On December 11 and 12, the plant faced an unplanned release of radioactivity. About 0.25 Curie (9.5 billion bequerel) escaped through a vent stack, being four to five times more than originally planned for release. The source of radioactivity was unclear.

In January the shutdown was extended to at least mid-February, for further inspections on the integrity of the 217 fuel rod assemblies. Openings in four to six fuel rods may be expected. Through these holes, water can enter the fuel and radioactivity can escape. A slight increase in iodine in the cooling water was detected, but within limits, Myapc said.

After the forced resignation of president Frizzle, announced on December 20, Myapc made so-called nuclear history by selecting an outside company to manage the plant. The utility would be the first U.S. plant to be turned over to an outside operator. The New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. which has been hired, operates already five other plants. According to a spokesman of Entergy, this will be a new trend to solve economic problems and will result in only a few companies operating almost all nuclear plants. Bill Linnell, spokesman of Maine Safe Energy, warns that Main Yankee þis still a decrepit old plantþ.


  • Nucleonics Week, 19 December 1996
  • Reuter, 10 December 1996, 3 January 1997
  • UPI, 8 January 1997

Contact: Don't Waste Maine, RDF 1, Box 137, Lee ME 04455, USA
Tel: +1-207-738 4861


Mars '96 probably fell on Chile and Bolivia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) New facts have been discovered on the failed Russian Mars mission containing 200 grams of plutonium. It was reported that the probe had fallen into the South Pacific near Australia on November 17 (see WISE NC 462.4588). However, according to an article in the U.S. newspaper Boston Globe on December 4, the Mars '96 might have already broken up in the atmosphere and rained down on Chile and southern Bolivia on November 16.

(465.4625) WISE-Amsterdam -First, it was thought that Mars '96 would crash in Australia. But after the object fell into the ocean, Russian officials said it was the booster rocket. The spacecraft would have crashed earlier.

U.S. Space Command, the agency responsible for tracking objects in orbit, waited until November 27 to confirm that pieces might have fallen on Chile and southern Bolivia. Critics said US Space Command should have informed the two nations earlier. According to a White House spokesman, it took 11 days when the evidence was clear enough to take measures. James Oberg, an aerospace engineer and specialist in Russian missions, said that preliminary information should have been sent to South American governments even if the analysis were not complete. According to his research, it was immediately clear from the Russian space agency's internet-site that parts of South America were in the potential pathway for debris.

The possibility that parts of the probe fell on South America is supported by eyewitnesses. John van der Brink, an Australian electronics specialist retired from the European Southern Observatory, and his wife were in the mountains of northern Chile to watch for meteors on November 16. They saw an object moving slowly across the sky, unlike normal meteors. "I had no illusions it was anything else than a piece of space debris," he said. Reconstructing the sighting later, he estimated its trajectory as just the same as the U.S. Space Command's predicted pathway. A family traveling in northern Chile saw the fireball at the same time. They described it as a comet-like meteorite breaking apart and changing colors as it fell.

Sources: The Boston Globe (US), 4 & 5 December 1996
Contact: The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power In Space, P.O. Box 90035, Gainesville, Florida 32607, USA.
Tel: +1-352-468-3295


Mexico: Mothers protest against Laguna Verde Plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) Since the 1989 opening of the Mexican Laguna Verde nuclear power plant, the Veracruz Mothers' Anti-Nuclear Group protested every Saturday in the city of Xalapa, the state capital of Veracruz.

(465.4612) WISE-Amsterdam -On the main square they open parasols, unfurl banners and wait for their message to be heard. Claudia Gutierrez, founder of the organisation, pleads for an independent audit of technical, financial and administrative operations at the plant.

At this moment the plant management is under investigation after the radiology technician Bernardo Salas Mar complained in April about irregularities, abuse of authority and decisions that constitute a health risk. "It's a company that handles lots of money, and the truth is nobody keeps an eye on it," he said. There would be corruption, human error and negligence.

In response, the plant manager Fernandez said Salas Mar had been fired for cause. He is lazy, Fernandez said, and now wants to pour out his bitterness by attacking the plant.

The controversy led the Veracruz Mothers' Anti-Nuclear Group to demand a suspension of operations and an audit of the plant. But people who think Salas has changed his ideas on nuclear energy are wrong; he wants the plant to remain. He thinks that opposition to the plant can be defused by the public presentation of the audit results and corrective measures at the plant. But Salas wants to be reinstated at the Laguna Verde nuclear power station as soon as possible.

Source: UPI, 10 December 1996
Contact: Veracruz Mothers Anti-Nuclear Group, c/o Claudia Gutierrez de Vivanco, Mirlo 22 Frac. Las Animas, CP 91100, Xalapa Verarcruz, Mexico.

Oil threatens cooling system of 15 reactors at Wasaka Bay

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) On January 2, the Russian 13,157-ton oil tanker Nakhoka sank in stormy weather in the Sea of Japan. It was carrying 133,000 barrels of oil, a still unknown amount of which was set free, polluting 285 miles of the Japanese coastline.

(465.4615) WISE Amsterdam - The oil was also approaching Wasaka Bay, where 15 nuclear reactors are situated. The cooling systems of these reactors depend on seawater. The water is sucked in by pipes lying about five meter under water. Still, as the oil gets thicker, it sinks gradually and can clog the pipes. Oil fences were erected, but a shutdown of the reactors was not considered: "If the oil enters the coolant pipes it could lower the cooling effect, but it is unlikely that a large amount of oil would enter the system," a spokesperson of Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates 11 of the 15 reactors, said.

On January 11, oil slicks were as close as three kilometers to Wasaka Bay, alerting the Japanese maritime agency. "About 10 ships spent Sunday gathering oil clumps that had gathered at the oil fences surrounding Wasaka Bay," an agency official told reporters. Finally the measures were successful and no oil reached the pipes.

Source: Reuter, 10, 11 & 12 January 1997
Contact: WISE-Tokyo

People in Kostromo decide against nukes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) In a referendum held on December 8, last year, people in the Kostroma region, northeast of Moscow, voted against the building of a nuclear power plant in the area.

(465.4614) WISE Amsterdam -While the participation rate was only 58.2 percent, 87.44 percent (241,000 people) answered the question "Do you agree with the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Kostroma region?" with a "No."

The local environmental organization, "In the Name of Life", consisting mostly of senior citizens, had been collecting 35,000 signatures, the legally necessary figure to call a referendum. Greenpeace had helped to set up the campaign and has announced plans for any further referendums. "This could be the beginning of the end of nuclear power in Russia. If other communities follow the example of Kostroma, they can stop the construction of nuclear power plants in their district," Eduard Gismatulia of Greenpeace Russia said.

In Russia, the result of a referendum is legally binding upon the government and can be reversed only by another referendum.

In 1983, the construction of a RBMK nuclear power reactor had begun in Kostroma, but as the reactors were of the same type as that in Chernobyl, it was left unfinished in 1986. Recently a new reactor type, WPBER-600, was considered for the site, which had been safeguarded continuously since 1986 by 150 workers.

After the referendum, a spokesman for the Russian Atomic Ministry said there had been no acute plans for a construction, and enough electricity is already being produced in the region. But on January 13, 1997, Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Victor Mikhailov said, referring to the referendum: "We will fight the Greens. They are the most extremist part of the population. No one will stop progress."


  • Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 10 December 1996
  • Reuter, 13 January 1997
  • Greenpeace Press Release, 9 December 1996

Contact: Greenpeace Russia, PO Box 60, 121002 Moscow, Russia
Tel: +7-095-2933261

Proposed U-Mine on land of Navajo Nation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) Concerned about the impact of uranium mining on public health, the Navajo nation declared in 1983 a moratorium on uranium mining on its reservation. In December 1992, former Navaja Nation President Peterson Zah signed an executive order to "reiterate and formally recognize that a moratorium is placed on uranium mining activity until such a time that the Navajo people can be assured that all safety and health hazards related to such activity can be adressed and resolved."

(465.4624) WISE Amsterdam -The people of the Navajo nation know the risks and realities of uranium mining. They live with its toxic legacy, which is found throughout the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah in the form of contaminated wells and mountains of capped tailings. And this toxic legacy is associated with a sickness among the Dine (Navajo) people - cancer.

But regardless of what the moratorium states, the Navajo nation is again struggling with how to respond to a proposed uranium mining project. The moratorium remains in effect until the tribal governmnet chooses to rescind it. It has not yet done so.

A proposal to develop a new type of uranium mining on the reservation in Crowpoint and Church Rock, New Mexico, is now being considered. The proposed mining operation would extract uranium from rock by a process known as in-situ leaching. The company claims that in-situ mining is sufficiently safe to meet the terms of the 1992 Executive Order, but has nevertheless urged the Navajo Nation to lift the ban on uranium mining.

In-situ mining does not involve the open pits and waste rock piles, and the impact on the land appears to be far reduced (for more information on in-situ leaching, see Wise NC439/440: Uranium mining in Europe, in-situ leaching). In this case, a well is drilled through which sodium bicarbonate is injected. Several pumping wells which are used to extract the ore, are situated within a 50-foot (16-17 meters) radius from the injection well. This circulatory pattern of pumping and injection wells is repeated many times over the extend of the ore body.

There are, however, several issues of concern with this technology. Sodium bicarbonate is a powerful chemical. Although it is commonly thought of as baking soda, it can mobilize uranium and a whole host of dangerous minerals, including aluminium, arsenic and lead. If toxic solutions in the aquifer were to escape beyond the pumping wells, drinking water supplies would be contaminated. At Crownspoint, this possibility offers reasons for serious concern. The community drinking water wells at Crownspoint, which are so pure that Dine people travel from 120 km. away to draw water, share the same aquifer as the proposed mine.

The mining company, Hydro Resources Inc. of Dallas, claims that if any uranium-laden solution were to escape the pumping wells, it would be detected by monitoring the wells. The drinking water wells, however, are located only 800 meters (one-half mile) from the proposed mining project, and groundwater flows from the mine site in the direction of the community water wells.

In an effort to control the flow of uranium-laden solution, the company would create a "cone of depression" by pumping in a great amount of groundwater in its processing operations to alter groundwater flow patterns. However, this could also lower the water table and cause local wells to dry up.

Local residents who are opposed to the project have organized to form a citizens' group known as Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM). Mitchell Capitan, ENDAUM's president, worked at one of the pilot in-situ leach mines constructed in Crownpoint more than a decade ago. He and other members of ENDAUM have become technical experts on in-situ leach uranium mining. They hold regular community information sessions, and have carefully reviewed the draft environmental impact statement released more than a year ago by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. All information is translated into Navajo for elders so that everyone has an opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process. ENDAUM and its members are not only concerned about water quality. There are concerns regarding a processing plant that would be located only a half mile from the town of Crownpoint. The prevailing wind direction would carry plant emissions towards churches, schools, and homes.

The question of land ownership has further complicated the proposed mining project. Many maps show Crowpoint to be outside the reservation boundaries. It is more accurate, however, to view the region as a checkerboard - a combination of federal government land, Navajo allotments (held in trust and administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs), and private lands.

The issue of land ownership is essential to determining whether or not the mining company would need to receive permits from the tribal agencies. Hydro Resources claims that dealing with tribal agencies would be duplicative. It has therefore been dealing almost exclusively with the state of New Mexico for its permit. For the Dine people, the proposed in-situ leach mining operation represents a complicated struggle to protect public health and safety. They understand the impact of a new technology, and to resolve complicated issues of sovereignty.

Source: Aimee Boulanger in "Clementine, The Journal of Responsible Mineral Development", Winter 1996-7 (slightly shortened by WISE Amsterdam)
Contact: ENDAUM, P.O.Box 471, Crowpoint, N.M, 87313, USA.
Tel: +1-505-786-5341

Sellafield: Sharp rise in T99 levels in lobsters

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
(January 24, 1997) There has been a dramatic increase of radioactive isotope Technetium 99 (T99) found in lobsters, winkles, limpets, mussels and scampi in the Irish Sea during 1996, according to the English newspaper The Guardian. Levels found in lobsters caught off Sellafield have been measured by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) at 17000 Bq/Kg. T99 is a Beta radiation emitter with a half life of 123,000 years.

(465.4623) WISE Amsterdam -The information was leaked to the trade magazine of the Environmental Date Services organization and subsequently to The Guardian. Such 1996 data would not normally be available until autumn 1977 when MAFF's Annual Monitoring Report is published.

The discharge of T99 from Sellafield, largely due to historic reprocessing wastes held on site pending the start-up of effluent treatment plant in 1994, rose from 3Tbq (1 Terra Bequerel = 1 thousand billion Bequerel) in 1992 to 192Tbq in 1995. The pollution is likely to be highly embarrassing to the government since it emerges from British Nuclear Fuel's 168 million British pounds (US$280 million) EARP plant authorized at the same time as the controversial THORP reprocessing plant. It was supposed to reduce pollution from the reprocessing of fuel from Magnox reactors. BNFL has confirmed, however, that the plant does not remove T99 and, in the absence of any available removal technology, considers it unneccesary to pay for additional storage tanks to contain T99 on site.

The levels found in lobster in 1992 were 170 Bq/kg as compared to today's figure of 17,000 Bq/kg. European Union levels for lobster, set in the event of a nuclear accident, are just 1,250 Bq/kg. MAFF is currently asking the European Union to relax this limit because they consider it too low.


  • The Guardian (UK), 12 December 1996
  • CORE Briefing, 13 December 1996

Contact: Cumbrians Opposing an Radioactive Enviromnent (CORE), 98 Church St., Barrow-in-Furnes, Cumbria LA14 2HT, UK
Tel: +44-229-833851
Fax: +44-229-812239


Taiwan: Radwaste to North Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) The Taiwan Power Company stopped dumping nuclear waste on its only disposal on Lanyu island last July, because of capacity problems. It is now looking for another site, and is considering the offshore island of Matsu, the eastern counties of Hualien and Taitung, and the southern county of Pingtung.

(465.4622) WISE Amsterdam -The utility gave U.S.$1.8 million to each of the local governments to þappreciate their participationþ, and promised U.S.$109 million for the local government and the residents of the final site. After environmental protests, Taiwan Power promised to remove all the nuclear waste from Lanyu until 2002.

In a surprise statement on January 13, Taipower announced it would ship 60,000 barrels of nuclear waste to North Korea within the next two years. The deal was signed on January 11. Under the contract, Taipower has an option to ship a total of up to 200,000 barrels of nuclear waste to North Korea. Company president Hsi Shih-chi would not disclose financial arrangements with impoverished North Korea, which presumably extracted a substantial cash payment in exchange for agreeing to take the waste. According to Taipower, this deal will allow them to remove the waste from Lanyu before 2002. But the company continues to contact the Marshall Island and Russia for further contracts.

Sources: Reuter, 1 & 13 January 1997
Contact: WISE-Tokyo

Ukraine: Sacrophagus and possible restart Unit 2

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) The construction of the sarcophagus started in June 1986, almost two months after the April nuclear disaster: the first 60-cm thick concrete wall was finished on August 8, 1986. The wall sticks 30 meters in the ground to prevent groundwater leakage. At the same time, construction of a new foundation below the molten reactorcore was established.

(465.4616) WISE Amsterdam -However, because of the enormous time pressure under which the building was done (the severe radiation, the haste to finish it before winter, and the haste to restart the three other reactors), many construction errors have been committed. Moreover, the structure was not meant to survive hundreds of years. The sarcophagus cannot resist an earthquake of more than 6 on the Richter scale. Such quakes occur at a frequency of once in a hundred years in the Chernobyl region. One of the walls is slowly tilting to the outside and corrosion is in progress on many sites. One part of the roof is supported by the wrecked reactor. The quality of the concrete and steel is bad in many locations. Trough a number of holes in the structure, rainwater comes in and leakes in the ground. Birds fly in and out.

In the town of Slavutych, Ukrainian officials and experts from G7 (the seven richest countries) held two days of talks about the future of the whole Chernobyl complex: shut down the units still in operation (3 and 1, which were closed on November 30) and the problems generated by the sarcophagus.

At a news conference on December 17, 1996, Ukraineþs Environment Minister Kostenko said the Ukraine needs about 70 years to make the sarcophagus safe. About 15 years are needed to get funds and to get the whole site closed. Then about 50 years will be needed to remove and process the crumbling and disintegrating fuel left in the reactor. The costs are unknown, according to Kostenko.

The international G-7 team of experts present at the conference in Slavutych is not in favor of the English and French plan to construct a new leak-free sarcophagus over the old one because that would cost well over 1 billion dollars. A Russian team of the Kurchatov Institute proposes to fill the structure with concrete and wait several centuries before intervening inside the reactor.

The international experts, asked by the European Commission, propose to extract only accessible fuel-containing materials, and to wait 500 years before taking out the remaining nuclear material. When all this is undertaken in the next 50 years, the experts argue this will cost a few billion dollars. The 500 years could be bridged by embedding reactor 4 in sand rising over 40 meters high. This sand-tomb could be performed within four years, according to the international experts. But Ukraine has rejected this proposal.

According to Nucleonics Week, Ukraine is planning to restart unit 2 after the new rotor of the turbine from the never-finished unit 5 is built in. Unit 2 is off-line since a turbine hall fire in October 1991. On November 16, 1996, the government issued a confidential resolution on start-up of Unit 2, a project estimated to require about $85 million. On November 29, the Ukrainian state nuclear committee GCA said it forsaw the restart of Chernobyl-2 in the fourth quarter of 1997. GCA Chairman Victor Chebrov believes that the operation of unit 2, in addition to unit 3, will generate revenue to fund work on the sarcophagus, as well as work on unit 1. Refurbishment of unit 2 is supposed to be financed from the state budget.


Contact: MAMA 86, Michailovskaya ul. 22-A, 502001 Kiev, Ukraine
Tel: +380-044-2283101


Uranium vs Indigenous Peoples Project 1997

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) The Indigenous Peoples Support Group of For Mother Earth in Belgium decided to work with priority on gathering information on the issue of uranium mining vs. Indigenous People.

(465.4613)WISE Amsterdam -As we all know, uranium was and is the fuel for nuclear testing, nuclear bombs and atomic power. Discovered in 1789, uranium today is portrayed by the nuclear industry and many governments as necessary for our security and welfare. However, we have learned that uranium is a deadly metal: the first step in an evil nuclear chain. Few people have received comprehensive information on the issue of uranium mining. And even fewer people know about the consequences of u-mining for Indigenous People around the globe.

Uranium mining literally creates mountains of nuclear waste. Within the nuclear chain, the most voluminous radioactive waste is produced by uranium mining and milling.

To make a difference we plan to:

  1. Publish a book
    In summer 1997 we wish to publish a book gathering comprehensive information on uranium mining activities around the world vs. Indigenous People, and deepen the work that was started on this issue by the organizers of the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg 1992. An introduction should give the reader some insight on uranium mining, its place in the nuclear cycle, the effects on environment and health, and give an introduction on the global uranium market (supply and demand). In separate chapters, we wish to have a closer look on uranium mining in different continents, and gather facts on the many cases of opposition by the traditional caretakers of the land, the Indigenous Peoples. We are looking for guest writers to make this booka reality. Hopefully, we will find many local people who wish to contribute. Please feel invited to contribute, or make suggestions!
  2. European Indigenous Peoples Uranium Speaking Tour
    On October 10, 1997, a European Indigenous Peoples Speaking Tour will start in Brussels. The tour will last six to eight weeks. The purpose is to organize public events, non-violent actions, meetings with reporters and politicians, and to hear the testimony of Indigenous Peoples' representatives on the land-rights violations, the destruction of the environment and the danger for health. We wish to confront their experiences and views with the European demand for nuclear fuel for nuclear power generation. We plan to invite six Indigenous Peoples' representatives from Africa, Australia, Canada, South America, Tibet, and the United States. In 1996 major uranium mining sites were found on Indigenous Peoples' lands in:
    • Africa: Gabon, Namibia, Niger and South Africa
    • Asia: China, India, Kazakhstan and Tibet
    • Australia: Northern Territories and South Australia
    • Europe: France, Spain and Ukraine
    • North America: Canada and the USA
    • South America: Argentina and Brazil

    We also wish to have a photo exhibition traveling along with the tour. Please send us photographs if you have some available. Please feel free to contact us if you want to become part of it. So far we have received positive responses from the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Finland, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Denmark, France, Italy and Sweden. We suggest that local organizers start today by informing and lobbying their politicians. We also strongly believe that the organizers in the host countries plan non-violent actions to break the silence around the dramatic consequences of uranium mining. Host countries will take care of the transportation to and within their country, as well as food and lodging. A flyer is already available while an organizers' packet should be ready soon. Suggestions for fundraising are hardly needed. Soon stickers, buttons and T-shirts will be available.

  3. Video document
    And finally, after the tour, we wish to compile and produce a video documentary, hopefully of broadcast quality. A new electronic mailing list Yes, an ambitious project. This was also the reason for a new electronic mail-server. We wish to use this mailer to bring people together, to strenghten an 'active' network to oppose uranium mining, especially in relationship to Indigenous Peoples' struggles worldwide. We envision it as a switchboard, to pass on information and to ask for information, feed-back and cooperation.

Source, contact and help: If you want to become part of the speaking tour and/or send pictures, contact For Mother Earth - Speaking Tour Coordinator, p.a. Ria Verjauw, Overstraat 80, 3020 Veltem, Belgium.
Tel: +32-16-480036.
E-mail: rverjauw@dma.be
If you want to contribute to the book, suggest an Indigenous Peoples' speaker, contribute to the video documentary or subscribe to the electronic mailer, contact For Mother Earth, p.a. Pol D'Huyvetter, Lange Steenstraat 16/D, 9000 Gent, Belgium.
Tel: +32-9-2338439; Fax: +32-9-2337302.
E-mail: info@motherearth.org
For financial contributions, send small or larger donations with an international postal cheque to
For Mother Earth, Gewad 15, 9000 Gent, Belgium, Account # 000-1618561-19