#501 - November 2, 1998

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Cogema operation fails to recover radioactive waste off coast

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) In the summer of 1997, Cogema scraped out the interior of its 5-km long discharge pipe at its La Hague reprocessing plant. It was only after Greenpeace pressure in September 1997 that Cogema announced that it had "accidentally" dumped the 500 kgs of highly radioactive waste onto the ocean floor and neglected to tell the French safety authorities.

(501.4942) WISE Amsterdam - After the Cogema announcement, the French ministers of the environment and of health instructed Cogema to carry out a cleanup operation.
Now the French plutonium company Cogema has publicized it plans to dredge the sea bed around its La Hague reprocessing plant. The Director of the la Hague plant, Michel Pouilloux, has admitted that the 100-million francs (US$17 million) operation would not even recover all of the dangerous radioactive waste dumped on the sea bed as part of Cogema's pipe "cleaning" operations.
The plans were denounced by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations. Late September, Michel Pouilloux told a meeting of the local Public Information Commission that Cogema "will not be able to recover all of the particles". He sought to blunt criticism by saying that an underwater wall had been installed in order to prevent the illegally dumped radioactive sediment from washing away.

Immediately following the commission meeting, a team of Greenpeace divers inspected the so-called "wall of sand bags" and found that it was no more than a layer of haphazardly placed sand bags that have been left on the sea-floor for a number of months in order to mark the dredging area.
Greenpeace has dismissed as "absurd" Pouilloux's claim that the wall of sand bags would prevent further radioactive particles from being swept away by the area's fierce currents.
"This is yet another hollow publicity statement deployed to mislead people into believing that Cogema has the situation under control," said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace. "The estimated 500 kg of radioactive scrape which was pushed onto the sea floor by Cogema in August of 1997 is only the tip of the radioactive iceberg," added Townsley.

If the French government is serious about forcing this state-controlled company to clean up its act, then it must demand an end to all radioactive discharges, and not just a limited and flawed proposal to dredge the small area of sea bed in the immediate vicinity of the discharge pipe, added Townsley.

While welcoming the admission that a cleanup operation is necessary, Greenpeace has demanded that no further work take place until a full Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposal is carried out.
Greenpeace's view is backed by the former chairman of the British government's Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee, Professor Sir John Knill, who, in a note to the environmental advisor to the states of Jersey, said that "an Environmental Impact Assessment is an essential prerequisite for such an operation". He further warned that "cleanup of a sea floor by dredging can release and distribute contamination". He added: "There is also the problem of handling water in the dredger. If this is discharged after draining from the solids (as is normal), it will re-introduce contamination into the sea water. The water should be taken back to the operational base and processed to remove radioactivity."

Source: Greenpeace press release, 29 September 1998
Contact: Greenpeace France, 21 rue Godot de Mauroy, 75009 Paris France.
Tel: +33-1-5343 8585; Fax: +33-1-4266 5604
Email: greenpeace.france@diala.greenpeace.org

Comed out of U.S. MOX program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998)  In 1995 the United States' Department of Energy asked nuclear utilities if they were interested in using MOX as fuel. The DOE had decided on a dual-track approach towards the problem of surplus military plutonium: use it as nuclear fuel in civil nuclear power plants or mix it with high-level waste and store it after vitrification.

(501.4945) WISE Amsterdam - The utility Commonwealth Edison (Comed) was among those which said yes. But at the last moment it changed its mind and pulled out. On September 3, one day before it had to respond to the request of the DOE, it ended its three-year participation. Several anti-nuclear organizations had tried to put pressure on Comed to quit the MOX program. Comed spokesman Don Kirchoffner said the utility had assumed that the DOE MOX program was safe, acceptable and beneficial to its customers. It entered the program as an interested participant, not as a proponent. After three years of study, the management concluded it would be in the best interest of the company to concentrate energy and resources in other areas. Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute which opposed the MOX program, congratulated Comed on its decision. Comed's new management has done the right thing, he said. He was confident that other nuclear utilities, such as TVA, would come to the same conclusion once it considered the costs and risks of MOX.

Source: Nuclear Fuel, 7 September 1998, p.4,5
Contact: Nuclear Control Institute, Paul Leventhal, 1000 Connecticutt Ave, NW#804, Suite 704, Washington DC 20036, USA.
Tel: +1-202-822 8444; Fax: +1-202-452 0892

French nuclear industry in trouble

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) The French nuclear industry is not feeling well at the moment. Continued problems with the new N4 reactors, reports that nuclear can't survive without subsidies, nuclear sales of EdF are falling, and neighboring Germany saying it would phase out nuclear energy. And on top of it all, Dominique Voynet, the Green minister for environment, saying that France is slowly drifting away from nuclear.

(501.4939) WISE Amsterdam - In an interview with Liberation, Dominique Voynet says France is slowly shifting away from nuclear power and will replace aging reactors with non-nuclear energy, as they become obsolete. But she also said this would be more controversial and more difficult than Germany's. Asked if Prime Minister Lionel Jospin supported her idea of getting out nuclear power in France, she answered: "I cannot feel any ideological attachment to nuclear power in him. I think he possesses the intellectual curiosity and flexibility which make it easy to talk to him about subjects that aren't evident for the socialist party." Does she think that France, without saying it, is moving towards a nuclear phaseout? "I want to be clear," she answered, "there is no other country in the world where nuclear power has such a high percentage in the electricity production. France is steering towards another side, but slowly and with caution."
And the French nuclear industry has more difficulties.

French nuclear exports endangered?
Continued shutdown of nuclear reactors (Belleville 1+2, Chooz B1+2, Civaux 1) has forced Electricité de France (EdF) to reduce exports to the UK and Spain. It even had to import electricity from Spain, Germany and Switzerland. At the start of September, the Spanish utility Iberdrola signed a contract with EdF for the export of 450 MW to France over one year. Not long ago, EdF held a contract for the export of 1000 MW to Spain. It was, however, postponed and cancelled when EdF did not get a license to build a high-voltage power line across the Pyrenees. Exports to the UK via the cross- Channel interconnector dropped substantially this summer. Normally EdF exports about 6000 MegaWatt each day to foreign clients.
This spring it was said that EdF had a large surplus of power stations up to 2010, equaling at least five to seven large nuclear plants.
How come closure of only five of EdF`s 57 nuclear plants causes an electricity shortage? That does not sound very plausible...

EdF wants to show need for nuclear power
The policy of the EdF is pretty clear: it wants to convince the public and the politicians that new nuclear plants are needed urgently and that licenses to start Belleville and Chooz must be given to prevent a predicted winter shortage. It`s a good public relations campaign, but it's not very convincing to people who are informed. Jospin should have decided on the Belleville license by mid-September but the decision was postponed. Minister Voynet wanted them shut until they met "the letter of the law" which would take some time. Jospin, however, decided end of September to license restart of the two Belleville reactors. So Voynet lost this battle. The French safety commission DSIN is to approve the backfit and restart of the Chooz and Civaux reactors "only if we're sure there will be no problem"--so far, DSIN is not sure. In spite of this, the EdF has ordered replacement parts for the Reheater (RHR) and aims to restart Chooz-B1 & B2 by the end of 1998 or early next year.
EdF is taking a business risk, says DSIN, in proceeding with an unapproved design. Meanwhile, DSIN said it would decide in October if the RHR backfit would be acceptable. The EdF cannot yet guarantee the new RHR system for more than a few cycles of operation, but has already begun the backfit work without waiting for DSIN`s approval.

More troubles ahead
DSIN also asked the EdF to investigate whether the 900-MW reactor series (about 35 reactors) might be subject to similar fatigue- induced cracking as the Civaux and Chooz B reactors.
Meanwhile, the EdF has experienced more problems. At the Nogent-1 reactor, a fuel element got stuck during refueling preparations on August 19. The EDF has not managed yet to transfer the deformed element into the spent fuel pool. It is very difficult to get the deformed element through the fuel transfer canal. This was the first such accident in France, and has happened only four to five times in the US. Thus, the EdF consulted Westinghouse which had a tool ready for use in such situations. But the Westinghouse rig eventually proved misadapted to the Nogent situation, and the EdF asked Framatome to develop a specific tool. This episode would add more time to the three months outage period.

No need for new nuclear power
The latest official French energy planning study shows that the share of nuclear power would shrink in all of their three scenarios.
The study says new nuclear power would only be competitive with other options in a scenario with strong government intervention plus low discount rates. In the scenario in which investment decisions are left to the market, with an assumed 12% discount rate, the share of nuclear power in France's electricity supply could drop from 80% today to only 13% by 2020! The share of gas- fired plants would be 62% by 2020. So where is the need for new nuclear power in a liberalized electricity sector? That's a problem Mr. Bataille, the French nuclear expert, recognizes very well. He favors a new surtax on electricity to pay for the stranded costs of the EdF's nuclear program.

Nuclear can't survive without protection
In light of the very low KWh prices for the newest gas-fired combined-cycle power (12 French centimes=$0.02 per KWh), Bataille said "nuclear may be seriously handicapped" in the future market.
He is right: According to Nucleonics Week in March 1997, the EdF average KWh price was more than 40 centimes and average EdF export prices: 23.4 centimes.
The French parliament is to vote early next year on a government proposal to break the EdF`s monopoly, but the draft legislation now made public opens just a crack. It leaves the EdF in control of the national high-voltage grid, maintains government control over electricity regulation and opens the French electricity market only to the minimum allowed under the EU Internal Energy Market Directive. Next year, large customers (over 40 million KW a year) with together about 25% of the market, may buy from other suppliers than the EdF, which they would sure do. Electricity production costs in other countries are lower than in France, thanks to low gas prices and high-efficiency plants. The bill proposes the creation of a "general interest charge fund", to cover expenses borne today solely by the EdF. The fund would cover the EDF`s stranded costs, such as its investments into the Superphenix.

EdF: sales down
Business has not gone well this year. The EdF predicts a large drop in 1998 earnings, thanks to the warm weather and the closure of its five largest reactors. Power sales in 1998 are expected to bring in FF181.5 billion, five billion less than in 1997. Earnings over 1998 of FF 2.6 billion (US$456 million) are expected against FF4 billion last year--a 35% drop! Export sales are predicted at FF18.5 billion. The future does not look rosy for EdF--as long as they go nuclear. The EdF has one hope left: the government does all it can to protect the EdF and the French nuclear industry. On all foreign travels, to Russia, China or whereever on earth, the interests of the French nuclear industry are promoted and pushed on the highest levels.


  • Nucleonics Week 20 March 1997
  • Le Canard Enchaine, 26 August 1998
  • Nucleonics Week, 10, 17, 24 September and 1 October 1998
  • Sortir du Nucleaire, 13 August 1998
  • Reuters, 23 October 1998

Contact: Sortir du Nucleaire 9, rue Dumenge
F-609004 Lyon, France.
Tel: +33-4-7828 2922; Fax: +33-4-7207 7004
WWW: www.sortirdunucleaire.org

French railway workers' doses above limit

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) After it was revealed that many spent fuel casks and rail cars were contaminated far above the international limit of 4 Becquerel/cm2, transports in France were cancelled in May. Already on July 6, the transport resumed, without direct dose measures being carried out by official authorities.

(501.4941) WISE Amsterdam - On September 16, the French radiation protection authorities OPRI and IPSN finally carried out their own measurements to evaluate external doses received by railway personnel working with or near nuclear spent fuel transports at Valognes terminal, close to Cogema's La Hague reprocessing plant. Cogema had measured personnel exposure for years, but this was the first time ever that government agencies did so. OPRI alone also did two sets of measurements at another important railway terminal at Villeneuves-St. Georges near Paris. In the first measurement, OPRI found doses of 0.15 to 25 microsievert per hour. Depending on exposure time, those doses could put railworkers above the annual public limit, which is now 5 millisievert (mSv) but will soon be 1 mSv. Exposure for 45 hours a year to 25 microSv would suffice. (one millisievert is 1000 microsievert). The south-rail trade union has asked to provide radiation counters for all switching stations. It was also proposed to equip all railway personnel, liable to work near spent fuel transports, with personal dosimeters. That would make them more aware of the risks and would give an idea of their real doses either under normal conditions or during emergencies.
OPRI said more work is needed to understand the behavior of rail workers and to make appropriate dosimetry models. The nuclear safety agency DSIN made it a condition for resumption of spent fuel transports, to equip all railway personnel at Valognes with personal film badges.

The French independent organization Crii-Rad already carried out measurements at the Bugey nuclear reactor in June. EdF officials refused to let Crii-Rad take measurements at the Bugey site, but the national railway company SNCF made it possible for Crii-Rad to take measurements at the Bugey switching station. Crii-Rad found gamma and neutron dose levels of 129 microSv/hr, compared with a background dose level of 0.15 microSv/hr. They also controlled doses from casks with uranium hexafluoride, discovering high doses there too: from 13 to 20 microSv/hr. When asked, DSIN and OPRI officials qualified the doses as "unprobable" and declared that in any way the doses were below the official dose limits.

More incidents
Since the resumption of French spent fuel transports, two incidents of excess contamination took place. From July 6 to the end of September 21, spent fuel transports left 12 reactor sites. The first contamination case was a truck with spent fuel from Flamanville to La Hague's reprocessing plant. The cask had been waiting for several months and so escaped the high-pressure jet cleaning which is now applied to all transports by Cogema. Four points were above the norm, the highest at 15 Bq/cm2. The second contaminated cask transported by rail came from Belleville and registered three points above the 4 Bq/cm2 limit with a maximum of 31 Bq/cm2. One point on the rail car measured 74 Bq/cm2.
A truck with five drums of low- and medium-level reactor waste from Chinon to Andra's low-level storage at Soulaines also registered above the limit. At a two-meter distance, a dose rate of 0.12-0.15 milliSv/hr was measured while the limit is 0.1 microSv/hr. The EdF said the incident was caused by improper loading of the truck. DSIN officials said this incident was "more serious" in its nature than the spent fuel contamination incidents.


  • Nuclear Fuel, 21 September 1998
  • Nucleonics Week, 1 October 1998
  • Crii-Rad Press Communique, 16 September 1998
  • Le Monde, 7 July 1998

Contact: Crii-Rad, 471 avenue V.Hugo
26000 Valence, France.
Tel: +33-475-418 251; Fax: +33-475-812 648

Germany after the elections: Nuclear phaseout or not?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) After it won the September 27 general elections, the Social Democratic Party decided to start coalition talks with the "Alliance 90/The Greens" which it need for a majority in the Bundestag, the German parliament. One of the main issues was the phaseout of nuclear energy, which had been an election promise of both parties. However, they both have different ideas about how it should be realized.
Meanwhile, anti-nuclear groups are afraid that the measures now being discussed would only weaken the anti-nuclear struggle without any concrete steps towards a nuclear-free Germany.

(501.5936) WISE Amsterdam - Ahead of the discussion in the coalition, eight members of both parties (three of the Greens, five of SPD) met in October for pre-negotiations on the phaseout. During these talks, it became obvious that the parties, although agreeing to shut down Germanyþs 19 nuclear power stations, do not agree on the question of the time frame in which the phaseout should be executed.
The Greens preferred a fast phaseout within five years without compensation payments to the nuclear plant operators. The SPD, especially Chancellor Schröder and his confidants, in contrast favored the phaseout in a period of 20-30 years, after consensus with the electricity utilities was reached about compensation and closure.
The compromise was the concept of SPD nuclear expert Jüttner and announced on October 15:
It is planned to change the atomic law within a time frame of 100 days. Changes would include:

  • Cancellation of the promotion of nuclear energy,
  • Establishment of a requirement for safety checks within one year,
  • Where there is a reasonable suspicion of danger, the requirement of proof by the operators,
  • Limitation of waste disposal to direct storage (i.e., no further reprocessing),
  • Cancellation of the Atomic Law changes of 1998 (see WISE NC 488.4846: Amendment to German atomic act: An act of kindness to the nuclear industry), with the exception of parts relating to compliance with European Union law, and
  • Raising the amount of insurance coverage (liability).

Parallel to these law changes the coalition would enter so- called consensus talks with the energy producers in an attempt to establish a new energy policy covering the end of atomic plants and the waste question. Such a consensus should be accomplished within one year. Compensation could be paid for loss of capacity to the utilities.

The next step would start after one year if no consensus has been reached. Then the government would make a new law establishing a time frame for ending the use of nuclear energy and regulation of waste disposal (without paying any compensation to the operators).

On the subject of radioactive waste disposal, the coalition parties agreed on the following:

  • The present waste disposal concept is defeated and no longer has any basis for continuance. A new national waste disposal plan should be produced.
  • A single storage site deep underground in a geologic formation would be sufficient for all kinds of waste.
  • The year 2030 is set as the goal for accomplishing the storage of highly radioactive waste.
  • There are doubts as to the use of salt-layer storage at Gorleben. Therefore, the experiments there would be interrupted, and further sites in various geological formations would be examined. After comparing all possibilities, a final decision would be made.
  • Further storage at Morsleben will be ended. Further work there would be confined to closing the site.
  • Basically, operators of nuclear plants must provide temporary storage for their own waste, in or near their own facility. Radioactive fuel rods may only be transported elsewhere when no approved temporary storage place exists and cannot be made available. Such temporary storage is not to be considered permanent.

SPD nuclear expert Wolfgang Jüttner announced on October 21 that the first nuclear power plant should be switched off in the year 2000. In an interview he said: "If we use the next four years properly, then no one is going to take seriously demands for a return to nuclear energy as a source of electricity." He further said that the first round of energy consensus talks with coalition partners and industry chiefs would start in November.

Reaction of the utilities
During their consensus talks, the government is to be confronted with the big enterprise Siemens, and, above all, with the operators of Germany's 19 nuclear power stations. The most powerful utility one is RWE with its nuclear plants Biblis A and B and Gundremmingen B and C. The giant from Essen located in the SPD ruled state of Northrhein Westfalia has an important say in the government due to its strong ties with Northrhein Westfalia's SPD. RWE chief Dietmar Kuhnt and his energy director, Roland Farnung, said they don't want to talk about a phaseout. The second large atomic concern is PreussenElectra. It is based in Hannover, the capital of Lower Saxony, the German state ruled by Schr”der for the last years. PreussenElektra's chief, Hans Dieter Harig, is threatening with enormous compensatory demands if politics will close nuclear reactors earlier than "economically sensible". PreussenElectra is running six nuclear power plants, including the reactors at State and Krümmel, which are heavily questioned because of safety failures.
But the ones who are defending nuclear energy most are working within the utility Bayernwerke. Its chief, Otto Majewski, is to demand compensatory claims of several hundreds of billion DM if the government plans to stop nuclear power plants immediately. Largest shareholder of Bayernwerke is the "free-state" of Bavaria (in special subjects Bavaria is more independent from the federal government than other states.)
In general, the utilities want to run their reactors at least 40 more years. They claim construction costs would be earned back in a few decades and then for the rest of the operation-time, the plants would serve to make money. The last nuclear power reactor constructed in Germany started operating almost 10 years ago.

Reaction of environmental groups
Environmentalists are not satisfied with the coalition's agreement either. Jochen Flasbarth, president of the German Naturschutzbund (one of the largest environmental organizations), declared that although he appreciated the basic agreement (the phaseout of nuclear power), the absence of a time frame is totally unacceptable. He says th SPD and the Greens should agree on a fixed date for closure of the last reactor. And this date should be within this first legislative period (which is four years). Even the Green spokesperson on nuclear issues for the last four years, Ursula Schönberger, called the coalition's agreement "disappointing". According to her, there might well be a new policy of this government towards the nuclear industry and this would certainly result in practical policy, but with this agreement, no atomic phaseout could be realized within the coming years.
During the October 17-18 weekend, a nationwide anti-nuclear conference took place in Berlin. There was hardly any difference in judging the coalition's agreement among the participants. Anti-nuclear initiatives fear that the decision would result in the continuation and modernization of nuclear power instead of a phaseout. They think the establishment of interim storages for radioactive waste in the vicinity to each nuclear power plant (as one of the measures agreed on), would enlarge the possibility of continued operation, because by doing so, owners could avoid the expensive and political hardly feasible atomic waste transports. And because a very large part of the movement is fixed on nuclear transports (the Castor transports to Gorleben, Ahaus) this would weaken it. The movement fears it would be reduced in numbers since many people from the Greens (which foundation was a result of the large anti-nuclear power movement of the 70s) would stop being active because the party is part of the government. "To see the traditional environmental party taking part in the government means for lots of people a sufficient reason not to be forced to be active any longer."
Especially since the waste-disposal agreement is very weak: it is incredible that the Greens think that underground deep geological disposal is a solid option and continue research in that direction. It is even more strange that it is now already agreed upon that the 2030 decision about storage of high-level waste would result in deep underground storage, without considering other options. And what if not all reactors are to be closed at the time a decision should be taken on final disposal?

A comment by the German newspaper "Die Tageszeitung" (die Taz, also a result of the 1970s movement) says the coalition's nuclear phaseout agreement could have been worse. (It is very striking that a "nuclear phaseout agreement could have been worse!"). But the newspaper is rather optimistic. The cancellation of the promotion of nuclear energy, which was in the German law, should not be disdained, it says. It will--even without concrete closure decisions--develop its own political power which would bar a new change towards nuclear power in the future. Additional measures, such as liability, would make atomic energy become more expensive and the operation of a reactor legally more uncertain. These are a solid part of the agreement and also means a contribution towards "nonreversibility" of the policy shift.
Schröder's offer to the nuclear industry to find a mutual phaseout agreement could be seen as rather naive or even faulty: you can't change a society into a vegetarian one in consensus with the butchers. But, in relation with this threatening scenario (one year of negotiations, then law changes fixing phaseout limits), it can become a strategy. And this is, still according to die Taz, what makes the present attempt different from older consensus rounds, which take place for years and years. In former times, the industry could always be sure that in case the talks failed, the government would rule in their (the industry`s) favor. But with the option of changing the law (if the talks fail during the first 12 months), the coalition places more weight on the talks.

Other countries are also affected by the coalition's agreement about nuclear power. These are especially France and the UK with their reprocessing plants. The coalition would outlaw reprocessing and decide to try to cancel existing reprocessing contracts (the limitation of waste disposal to direct storage).
Heinz Laing of Greenpeace Germany mentioned that as Germany was the largest foreign client of Cogema (the operator of la Hague) and the largest European client of BNFL (Sellafield), this decision would likely be the death knell of commercial nuclear reprocessing. The Post-2000 reprocessing contracts are worth some US$1.4 billion: US$750 million with BNFL and US$650 million with Sellafield. Given that the contracts are to be terminated due to a change in the German law, it is expected that the German utilities would not have to pay any penalties for terminating the contracts. This would be an important sign to reprocessing clients in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Spain as well as the UK and France.
The British Atomic Energy Agency UKAEA does not seem to be impressed by the policy change in Germany. It does not assume that it would affect the present contracts with them. An official declared that the German decision would not have any influence on them; they will fulfill the contracts anyway.

The Greens in France (who have been fighting for a nuclear phaseout in France since their foundation) celebrated the German plans. Maybe it means the necessary push to let France get out nuclear power as well? During an October 23 interview, Dominique Voynet, the French minister for environment, said she wished France would take the same path as Germany. According to her, it would be surrealistic if France continues the French-German project to establish the future reactor EPR (European Pressure Reactor) on its own. About the reprocessing facility in La Hague, she went on to explain that the plant made 20% of its profit with Germany. A 1991 law says that radioactive waste which occurred during reprocessing should be sent back to Germany. But to avoid nuclear transports, Germany prefers France to keep the waste. Dominique Voynet opposes this idea. It would be an issue to negotiate about, she said during the interview.
Does she think that France, without saying it, is moving towards a nuclear phaseout? "I want to be clear," she answered. "There is no other country in the world where nuclear power has such a high percentage in the electricity production. France is steering towards another side, but slowly and with caution."
The French President Jaques Chirac has spoken out October 27, against the phase out of nuclear energy. According to him it is clean and cheap.


  • Die Tageszeitung, 12, 16, 17/18, 19 October 1998
  • Greenpeace press release, 16 October
  • press release Les Verts, 16 October
  • Reuters, 22 October
  • email from Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Lüchow, 23 October
  • La Libération, 23 October 1998

Contact: Edmund Meagher, Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz
Drawehner Str. 3
23439 Lüchow, Germany.
Tel: +49-5841-4684; Fax: +49-5841-3197
E-mail: Joerden@aol.com

Webside of the Green Party: www.gruene-fraktion.de/aktuell

Chances for German anti-nuclear foreign policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The new German government should reverse the former pro-nuclear German policy and use its influence in the European Union to change the pro-nuclear EU policy.

Although no nuclear plants has started operation in Germany for 10 years, Germany has been a driving force for the expansion of nuclear power, especially in Central and Eastern European countries and Turkey.
The German government has until now promoted nuclear power in several ways:

  • as Hermes credit guarantees for nuclear projects,
  • as credits by the Credit Bank for Reconstruction,
  • via European Union institutes such as Euratom and EU-assistance programs, on which Germany has a strong influence because it is politically and economically strong, and
  • via the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Greenpeace International has urged the new red-green government to consider these points:

  1. Germany must no longer allow Hermes credit guarantees for foreign nuclear projects in Ukraine, Russia, Slovakia or Turkey. In the past, Siemens and other German nuclear firms received big-scale export credits to finance nuclear projects in many countries: Brazil, Iran, Slovakia, Argentina and Lithuania.
  2. Nuclear safety must be a main criteria for the entry into the EU of new states. As long as high-risk reactors in Lithuania (Ignalina), Slovakia (Mochovce), Bulgaria (Kozloduy) are not closed, those countries should not be allowed to enter the EU. Germany should do its best to stop the financing or upgrading of nuclear reactors or of other nuclear projects in these countries by EU money, be it by PHARE or TACIS assistance programs, by EU pre-accession funds or structural assistance programs.
  3. The new finance minister must do his best to stop the EBRD from financing the completion or construction of nuclear reactors, especially the completion of the Ukrainian Khmelnitsky 2 and Rovno 4 reactors.
  4. Germany should take the initiave inside the EU to reform Euratom in such a way that each Euratom financing has to be agreed on by the EU parliament in the first place. As a second step, Euratom must be abolished or its function changed into a nuclear decommissioning fund.
  5. The new government should investigate the legitimacy of granting Hermes credits to Siemens for work on Mochovce in Slovakia. The former government connected clear conditions to the granting of credits, for example the closure of the high-risk Bohunice reactors, which Slovakia did not observe.
  6. The German EU chairmanship in the first half-year of 1999 must be used to initiate a European nuclear phaseout.

Tobias Münchmayer, Greenpeace International, October 1998

Lights will also shine without nuclear energy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear utilities are scaring the public with a "dark future", loss of many thousands of jobs and an substantial increase in CO2 emissions. However, the lights in Germany will not go out without nuclear power.

As in all its neighboring countries, not too few but too much energy is produced in Germany. There is an installed capacity of 110 GW, and the maximum requirement is only about 80 GW (1 GigaWatt = 1000 MW). This means an overcapacity of 20 to 30 percent. Nuclear power plants produce only 20 GW. So even without the need for any replacement power, all nuclear power plants could be closed at once. In the case that during peak hours more electricity would be needed than produced, it could easily be imported from neighboring states (because of the liberal EU market) which are also dealing with a large overcapacity of energy.

Concerning the argument of job losses, focusing on energy-saving measures and sustainable energy would create more jobs than the capital-intensive atomic power. Every job lost in the nuclear industry could be replaced by two in another energy sector.

Getting out nuclear energy also does not mean an increase in CO2 emissions. The Wuppertal-Institute for climate, environment and traffic released a report showing that not long ago. A nuclear phaseout, combined with a buildup of efficient gas power plants (combined heat and power), investments in energy- saving measures, and promotion of sustainable energies would give rise to a really "sustainable energy supply" with low emissions of greenhouse effect- causing gases.
Getting out nuclear energy could by then become "a motor for climate protection".
die Taz, 20 October 1998

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Start fuel production in Brazil.

(November 2, 1998) At Resende, in Rio de Janeiro state, a nuclear fuel fabrication plant is under construction. It is expected to start end of this year, following the signing of a technology-transfer agreement last month to allow Industreas Nucleares do Brazil (INB) to manufacture Westinghouse 16 x 16 design assemblies for Angra-1. The fabrication of the assemblies is to start with 40 tons of uranium imported from Sweden and is part of the Brazilian policy to become self-supporting. Epoca (Br), 5 October 1998 / UI News Briefing 98/32-8


Russian sailor takes over nuclear sub. A 19-year-old soldier, Alexander Kuzminykh, held a nuclear submarine for almost two days before shooting himself September 12 as an assault was prepared against him. Negotiations with his mother failed. He captured the sub, from the Akula class, near Murmansk. It had a nuclear reactor aboard and might have carried nuclear warheads on torpedoes. Vladimir Prikhodko, chief of the Murmansk federal police, was quoted to said he feared the coasts of Murmansk and Norway could have been contaminated if Alexander had blown up the sub. Sergei Anufriev, spokesman for the Northern Fleet, said Alexander "simply went crazy". Nucleonics Week, 17 September 1998


Pilot study on Gulf War veterans confirms exposure to DU. On September 30 the US-based Military Toxics Project (MTP) released preliminary test results of Persian Gulf veterans, confirming depleted uranium in the veterans urine. It also confirmed that these veterans ingested or inhaled depleted uranium during their service in the Gulf. By calculating from rate of excretion formulas based on what is showing in the urine now, almost eight years after exposure, it was determined that veterans were exposed to anywhere from 1-10 grams of depleted uranium in the Gulf. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission notes that an intake of .01 gram in one week can cause health problems, and that a known or suspected inhalation of this amount of depleted uranium requires automatic medical testing.
The Pentagon admitted in January 1998 that thousands of soldiers might have been exposed in the Gulf. The Veterans Administration admitted in November 1997, and again on September 18, 1998, that is was finding neurocognitive disorders and depleted uranium in the semen of Gulf War veterans. The MTP, along with Swords to Plowshares and the National Gulf War Resource Center, released the Depleted Uranium Case Narrative in March, saying the number could be as high as 400,000 veterans exposed to depleted uranium. Yet, even though the NRC states that exposure to an intake of .01 grams requires automatic medical testing, the Department of Defense has only tested a few dozen veterans for depleted uranium. (See also WISE NC 489.4852: Case Narrative; Depleted Uranium Exposure)
Military Toxics Project, 30 September 1998


Latest on Nikitin trial! The court case against Russian whistleblower Alexandr Nikitin in St. Petersburg started mid October. After five trial days, and more than two hours of deliberation on Thursday October 29, Judge Golets, concluded that the indictment was too unclear and that the court could not accept any of the expert conclusions. He therefore dismissed all the evidence presented in the indictment and sent the case back to the prosecution for further investigations. "This is a major victory for us, and a total defeat for the FSB (the former KGB)," said chief defender Yury Schmidt afterwards. "There are no easy victories to be won against the FSB. The judge has made a courageous decision, although not super courageous. To have Aleksandr declared 'not guilty' would of course have been better, but we must understand the enormous pressure against the judge." Bellona, 29 October 1998


Iran: US$140 million for Busher-1. Iran has earmarked nearly US$140 million for the construction of the Busher nuclear power plant. The state-run Tehran Radio said on October 12 that the Supreme Economic Council, in a meeting headed by President Mohammad Khatami, approved funding of 418.8 billion rials (US$139.6 million) for the first unit.
The council is also said to have approved a request by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to make changes in its contract with Russia for the construction of the power plant. Some Iranian media reports have said Iran is dissatisfied with the pace of construction and is urging Russia to speed it up.
In September, AEOI signed an agreement with Russia to finish Busher-1 within 62 months.
The construction of Busher started in 1975 by German company Siemens, which left the country after the Islamic revolution in 1979. According to industry sources, AEOI is still maneuvering to get the Germans back on the site to finish the plant. Within the European Union several countries seem to be in favor of Western involvement in its completion, now that Iran is moving again towards closer ties with Europe and the US. Reuters, 12 October & Nucleonics Week, 1 October 1998


Demonstration at Israel's Dimona reactor. More than 70 anti-nuclear activists came together near Israel's Dimona nuclear facility on September 22, the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The international demonstrators held signs and banners at the remote desert site calling for nuclear disarmament and for the immediate release of imprisoned nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu.
The demonstration, organized by the Israeli Committee for Mordechai Vanunu and for a Middle East Free of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons, brought together Israeli activists and representatives of the international free-Vanunu campaign from the UK, US, Norway, and Australia. By the side of the road where they gathered, they could see the large dome of the nuclear reactor.
Demonstrators called for the immediate closure of the reactor, asked that it be opened to international supervision and inspection, and demanded an immediate halt to the production by Israel of weapons of mass destruction. Several speakers addressed the gathering. The speakers included Nuri al-Ugbi, representing the Bedouin population in the Negev area. Al-Ugbi called the Dimona reactor "a monster threatening all life in the region". US Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, 6 October 1998

Jail sentences for protest against French N-tests

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) On October 20, a court in Tahiti jailed two activists and gave suspended terms to 58 other people involved in protests over the French resumption of nuclear tests on Moruroa and Fangataufa in 1995.

(501.4940) WISE Amsterdam - The court case at Tahiti started on September 21 (almost exactly three years after the fierce protests) and lasted for a month. Hiro Tefaarere, regarded by the court as one of the ringleaders, was jailed for 18 months with another 18 months suspended and deprived of his civil rights for five years at the end of a month-long trial. Former trade union leader Ronald Terorotua was jailed for a year and deprived of his rights for three years. Tefaarere said he would appeal the sentence which would deprive him of his seat in the French territory's elected assembly.

In July 1995, French President Chirac decided to resume nuclear tests in the Pacific. Protests all over the world started and demonstrations were organized in support of the Maohi people who had been victims of French nuclear tests for over 30 years.
Tahitian civil organizations (churches, political parties, unions and NGOs) protested for several days after the first nuclear test. On September 7, 1995, the local unions organized a demonstration against the first test and occupied the airport of Faa'a. Upon the violent intervention of police forces and the massive use of tear gas, the whole population of Faa'a joined the unions.

The French government puts on trial the victims of the nuclear tests to divert its own responsibility towards the Maohi people. On the contrary it is responsible for contaminating for more than 30 years the livelihood of the Polynesians, polluting their water, soil and subsoil.
Faced with a storm of international protest, France ended its test series ahead of schedule in January 1996, and has since signed a global ban on nuclear testing.


  • Reuters, 20 October 1998
  • Action Alert in support of activists, 9 September 1998

Contact: Hiti Tau, PO Box 4611, Papeete, Tahiti.
Tel: +489-521371; Fax: +689-572880

NGOs demand that EBRD insist on democratic procedures

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) The controversy over the proposed Khmelnitsky-2/Rovno-4 nuclear completion projects in Ukraine is heating up. On September 30, an open letter signed by representatives from 44 non-governmental organizations in 17 countries in Central and Eastern Europe was sent to EBRD President Horst Koehler.

(501.4944) Bankwatch - The letter to EBRD President Koehler points out that K2/R4's project sponsors have not complied with important EBRD environmental and public consultation procedures. Further, it calls for Koehler to suspend the public consultation period until such time as the sponsors have fully complied with these procedures and addressed other grievances enumerated in the letter. At a minimum, it suggests that the deadline for submission of comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documentation be extended until January 19, 1999, taking into account the belated release of a key section of the EIA. The current deadline is December 15.

In the letter, the NGO representatives point out serious problems with public access to documentation, as well as errors and omissions in the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for the projects. For example, the EIA section regarding non-nuclear alternatives to the projects was not made publicly available until a full month after the beginning of the public consultation process, effectively shortening by one-third the time available for the public to comment on the documentation. This addendum discusses only the operation of coal power plants and does not consider measures to increase energy efficiency in Ukraine. Such energy efficiency alternatives could be based on the joint EBRD and World Bank Energy Efficiency Action Plan for Ukraine. The representatives also note that the project sponsors have ignored demands that public hearings be held in regional administrative centers in Ukraine, and that they have yet to provide concrete dates for public hearings. In addition, they point out that the Ukrainian government has refused to follow the requirements of the Espoo Convention, despite an obligation to do so under EBRD environmental procedures. (The text of the letter can be accessed on the internet at www.ecn.cz/k2r4/letter1)
In late September, Ukrainian President Kuchma said it did not need the EBRD loan: Russia would be willing to pay for the completion of the reactors. According to Kuchma, the EBRD is proposing unacceptable conditions on the loan. However, it is likely that this maneuver should increase the pressure on Western governments to go ahead with the loans.

Meanwhile, opposition groups have chosen December 14 as International Day of Protest against the planned EBRD financing


  • Press release Bankwatch, 30 September 1998
  • Nucleonics Week, 1 October 1998

Contact: Petr Hlobil, Energy Coordinator CEE Bankwatch Network. Kratka 26
Praha 10
100 00, Czech Republic.
Tel & Fax: +420-2-781 65 71
WWW: http://peu.ecn.cz and www.geo.ut.ee/bankwatch

Future of a capacity building program for activists working on energy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 


The Free and Applied Internships on Renewables and Efficiency (FAIRE) combines English teaching with energy and NGO management issues to improve the capacity for international cooperation among activists. From 1997 to 1998, 20 people from Eastern and Central Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) took part in the program in Budapest and today the network includes more than 50 people from CEE, CIS and Western European organizations. However, the Energy Club is not going to organize this program on an international scale anymore.



We have developed a handbook (hard copy, later on the web) and are ready to disseminate these to help groups set the program up (depending on funds). So we are looking for local NGOs interested in continuing the program and we can send it to them for free. If your organization is working on renewable energy, energy efficiency and other alternatives to nuclear power, you could be the organizer of FAIRE. If you decide to organize FAIRE, you will have to manage all aspects of it, from fund raising to implementation to reporting.

For more information on the program or the materials we have developed, contact us by e-mail, fax, or postal mail at the following address:
Nathalie Francoeur, Energia Klub, PO Box 411, H-1519 Budapest, Hungary.
Tel/fax:+36-1-466 8866.
Email: mustafa@freemail.c3.hu
The deadline for information is January 15, 1999

Related article : NGOs demand that EBRD insist on democratic procedures

Sellafield as radioactively contaminated as Chernobyl

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) The area around the Sellafield reprocessing plant (UK) is as heavily contaminated with radioactivity as the zone around the stricken Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine. This is the conclusion emerging from the analyses of soil samples from both areas commissioned by Greenpeace to the University of Bremen, Germany.

(501.4938) Greenpeace - In September the University of Bremen analyzed the samples taken by Greenpeace in the area around Chernobyl. A comparison with radioactive pollution in the area around the UK reprocessing plant at Sellafield has led to the alarming conclusion that some of the figures for radioactivity at Sellafield are even higher than those for the Chernobyl area. Pollution with the americium-241 radioactive isotope in a soil sample 800 meters from the reactor in the Chernobyl disaster, for example, is around 1,300 becquerels per kilogram. In soil sampled 11 km away from the Sellafield plant, pollution from this isotope is as much as 30,000 becquerels per kilogram. The analyses also found cobalt-60 values of up to 40 becquerels per kilogram, and pollution from cesium-137 in concentrations of up to 9,400 becquerels per kilogram, 11 km from the UK reprocessing plant. At the same distance from the Chernobyl reactor, on the other hand, fewer than 10 becquerels of cobalt-60, and approximately 7,400 becquerels of cesium-137, were measured per kilogram. "Sellafield is a slow-motion Chernobyl, an accident played out over the last four decades," said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International. "While an area of 30-km radius around Chernobyl is prohibited access for people and any agricultural activity, there are no such restrictions around Sellafield."

People living by the reprocessing plant in Sellafield are today filing a suit against the Federal Export Office in Eschborn, which authorizes nuclear exports abroad in the name of the federal government. The accusation made by the complainants says reprocessing German nuclear waste at Sellafield impairs their right to life and freedom from bodily injury.

On October 20, the English and Welsh Environment Agency met to consider new authorizations for radioactive discharges from Sellafield. It decided that a new license would not be granted until vital questions about radioactive discharges are answered by the UK government.
Greenpeace believes that this latest revelation, combined with the commitments made by the UK government at the OSPAR meeting last July to substantially reduce discharges from reprocessing at Sellafield (see WISE NC495.4888: OSPAR Convention: European reprocessing industry given deadline of year 2000), should serve as a warning that levels of contamination around the Sellafield plant are already so severe that any further contamination presents an unacceptable risk to both current and future generations.

Source: Greenpeace press release, 9 October 1998
Contact: Greenpeace UK
Canonbury Villas
London N1 2PN
Tel: +44-171-865 8100; Fax: +44-171-865 8200

Stranded costs in the Netherlands

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) Electricity companies in the Netherlands will be allowed to pass on the costs of nonprofitable projects to their customers, according to a proposal by Minister of Economic Affairs Annemarie Jorritsma.

(501.4943) WISE Amsterdam - Minister Jorritsma and the electricity utilities have reached a provisional agreement on October 14 about the inclusion of stranded costs in electricity prices. The Dutch government, the Dutch parliament and the European Commission have still to approve the deal. Jorritsma has allowed the utilities to introduce a special levy with a maximum of one Dutch cent (0.5 US cent) per KWh. This levy is contrary to the principle of free competition and therefore European permission is needed. Utilities claimed amounts of over Fl 10 billion (US$5.1 billion) of unprofitable investments, Jorrisma reported to the Dutch parliament. She could not (or would not?) not yet reveal the amount agreed upon.
The unprofitable investments of the Dutch utilities include import contracts with the French utility Electricite de France (EdF). The Netherlands imported 17% of its electricity consumption in 1997, although there was a 100% overcapacity in installed production capacity. The EdF export contracts to the Netherlands amounted to 400 MW annually. As reported earlier, the EdF also incurred a loss by exporting electricity (see WISE NC 497.In brief: "EdF: import to maintain export of electricity"). So if both sides incurred losses, why not cancel the EdF export- contracts to the Netherlands and also to the other countries? Cancelling the contract with the EdF would be more profitable for the EdF, for the Dutch utilities and for Dutch consumers.
Inclusion of these stranded costs into a levy to all customers should not be allowed: for Dutch consumers, it would mean subsidizing French nuclear power. Utilities themselves should pay for their losses and not pass these on to their customers. Liberalization of the energy market in this way is not profitable for customers but only for utilities.


  • Het Financiele Dagblad (Nl), 15 October 1998
  • Annual Report 1997, SEP

Contact: WISE Amsterdam

U.S.: No permit for nuclear waste site in Sierra Blanca

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 2, 1998) For two decades now, Texans have lived with the question of where the state should bury its nuclear waste: at Sierra Blanca or outside Texas at one of the two operating dumps in Richland and Barnwell. The Texas state legislature has ordered that the dump be built on a state-owned ranch five miles east of Sierra Blanca. A crucial decision has thus been made.

(501.4937) WISE Amsterdam - On October 22, 1998, a state commission refused to issue a permit for the proposed dump for low-level nuclear waste in rural Sierre Blanca in Texas, 35 km from the Mexican border. The Texas Natural Conservation Commission voted 3-0 against it.
The dump was intended to hold the low-level waste from the Texas, Maine and Vermont states. The site is situated in the most seismically active region of the state and above a key groundwater source. Dumping of nuclear waste there clearly is a hazard. The Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Authority can request a rehearing from the commission within 20 days. If that fails, it can appeal to a state distict court.
The day before the court decision, the Mexican government had protested about the dump by sending a letter to the US Department of Energy (DOE). Until then, Mexico had said that sufficient precautions were being taken to make the dump safe. But it reversed its opinion. In September, the Mexican Congress had voted unanimously to oppose construction of the dump. Political leaders from every party united in protest marches, petitions and visits to Texas Gov. George Bush Jr., son of former US President George Bush, in Austin. Residents and environmentalists of Sierra Bianca, a mostly poor community, also protested the dump.
On September 17, Greenpeace activists occupied the Texas government office in Mexico City, located in front of the US embassy, for 30 hours to protest the dump. In banners, the younger Bush was called an "environmental racist" because his policy aims to make the Mexican-US border a nuclear and toxics waste dump.


  • Greenpeace press release, 17 September 1998
  • Washington Post, 19 September 1998
  • BBC online, 21 October 1998
  • New York Times, 22 October 1998

Contact: Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund
517 Navasota
Austin TX 78702, USA.
Tel: +1-512-472-0855.
WWW: www.compasionate.org/sbldf