#503 - December 4, 1998

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"Nuclear may need climate change more than climate change needs nuclear."
Conclusion of Nucleonics Week of the European Commission meeting about "Nuclear in a changing world", October 1998.
Nucleonics Week, 22 October 1998

European court of auditors: EC wasted millions in inefficient programs

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) In a very clear statement the Greens in the European Parliament (EP) condemned the role of the European Commission in the decisions on the spending of the hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear safety in the former Soviet Union. "Apparently the Commission suffers from a distorted self-perception," the Greens said. "It is not able to learn from its own mistakes".

(503.4962) WISE Amsterdam- The European Union's Court of Auditors in its special report on nuclear safety (released on November 16), heavily criticizes the Commission's Phare and Tacis nuclear safety programs. The evaluation of the Court shows that the Commission's 800 million ECU (US$930 million) programs failed to improve nuclear safety in the East European nuclear plants. The Commission wasted money on useless equipment and far too expensive studies instead of protecting citizens from highly risky reactors.

Stressing the general conclusion, the report is full of clear statements: "No agreement has been concluded between the Commission and the recipients as to which reactors (in Russia) are to be closed down in the short or medium term or on the conditions governing their continued operation. The Commission has made no allowance for the political, social and economic realities in its program and has not acted in a transparent manner, which has caused tensions amongst the recipients (as is the case with the Kozloduy power plant)."

Or what about this one: "The lack of clarity and realism in the strategy, the closed circuit development of the Phare and Tacis programs and the Commission's excessive transfer of responsibility to third parties results in a lack of consistency in the allocations of resources and delays wich undermine the value of EU action."
By the way, these so-called third parties are the Western consultancy firms and experts whose "fees are 10 to 15 times higher than those paid to Eastern European experts with equivalent qualifications."

According to the Greens in the EP, "It seems that the Commission wants to promote nuclear energy in Eastern Europe, when at the same time nuclear energy in the EU is in decline. In 1996 we already tabled a study which criticised the dubious results of the nuclear safety program. It is regrettable that the Court has to confirm this evaluation. It is a real scandal that the Commission in March 1998 still painted a rosy picture of its nuclear safety program when it sent a report to the EP."

"We ask for an independent study on the real state of safety in Eastern European nuclear plants," said Paul Lannoue. "On this basis the Commission then will have to come up with a real concept for nuclear safety."


  • Press release by Greens in European Parliament, 17 November
  • Court of Auditors report "Assessing the Phare and Tacis nuclear safety programmes", released 16 November 1998

Contact: Antony Froggatt
53A Nevill Road
London, N16 8SW
Email: a.froggatt@btinternet.com

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) Asse storage is leaking. From 1967 to 1977, low and intermediate radioactive waste was stored in the former salt mine in Asse, Lower Saxony, Germany. There it is supposed to be stored in dry salt. Now water is seeping through to the waste drums. The environmental ministry of Lower Saxony confirmed the leakage on November 6.
At present about 10 cubic meters of water is pumped away daily. The drums are in danger of rusting. Experts are trying to find solutions to this problem. Since 1995 salt from another Kali-mine close to Hannover has been added to the Asse mine to cover the waste. The leakage of the soapy water (alkaline solution) had first been discovered in 1991, and from 1993 on, it slowly increased. But the environment ministry isn't yet considering 'evacuating' the 127,000 drums to another site. This would only be considered in a "worst case" scenario. Instead, it should be tried to make Asse water-proof again.Die Tageszeitung, 9 November 1998

UK: Millions in compensation. Workers in the nuclear industry have been awarded over GBP3 million (US$1.8 million) in recent years for radiation-related diseases. A total of 75 workers received the awards under a 'voluntary' scheme run by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, British Nuclear Fuels, Nuclear Electric, the Ministry of Defence and the Devonport and Rosyth naval dockyards. Under the scheme, 'voluntary' payments can be made on the condition that the workers do not go to court and it is accepted that the industry does not accept direct responsibility. In this way the industry does not have to admit a direct link between radiation exposure and diseases, mainly cancer.N-Base briefing 157, 22 November 1998

Voters: Campus reactor should move! On November 3, by a final vote of 5,791 to 2,889, a ratio of more than 2 to 1, voters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, voted to move the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) nuclear reactor out of the city. However, seeking to ignore this referendum vote, MIT plans to double the capacity of its nuclear reactor, and to maintain the reactor in this thickly settled residential neighborhood.
"Cambridge Voters have decided that a muclear reactor does not belong among homes, schools, small businesses, playing fields, parks with features for small children, basketball and tennis courts," says attorney David A. Hoicka. "This is a decision that should have been made in the first place by Cambridge residents and voters, not by technocrats and bureaucrats who live elsewhere." Cambridge is at the heart of Metropolitan Boston and has a population of about 2.8 million. Half a million people live within 3.5 km of MIT's nuclear reactor.
The MIT claims its Cambridge nuclear reactor is so safe it has no evacuation plan for Cambridge residents, and relies on its own campus police to notify the Cambridge police in the event of a nuclear-related accident. The MIT reactor is rated at 5 MW, which the MIT claims is not very large. If generating electric power, the MIT reactor would generate nearly one- third of Cambridge's residential power usage. Furthermore, according to published reports, the MIT plans to double the capacity of the nuclear reactor to 10 MW.Email: Committee for Social Justice, 19 November 1998

Belgium MOX. Belgonucleaire has abandoned plans for a major investment in production of MOX from spent fuel. It has been trying to get the necessary permits since 1991, when the original license was issued. However, a series of appeals have led to an annulment of the license on procedural grounds and Belgonucleaire says it would not resubmit its application.UI News Briefings 98.47, 24 November 1998

France's troubled N4 reactors. Fuel reloading at Chooz B-1 has been authorized by DSIN. The unit is one of three new-generation N4 reactors to be temporarily shut down earlier this year after the discovery of a design fault in the residual heat removal system (see WISE NC 495.4891: France: Serious accident at Civaux-1). Chooz B-1 is expected to restart in December, with Chooz B-2 following in January or February, but Civaux-1 is not expected to restart until March because of turbine problems. UI News Briefings98.49, 17 November 1998

Europe: Preparing for the next Chernobyl. On November 24, an Emergency Preparedness Project has been launched as a joint initiative of the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Finland. The aim of the project is to provide information and advice on public health in nuclear emergencies and act as a clearing house for data on the activities of member states. According to Keith Baverstock, who heads the project office, only by education of the public, particularly key members such as doctors, teachers and nurses, can lives be saved and damaging psycho-social effects in the event of another major accident can be minimized.
Said Baverstock: "The maximum likelihood estimate of a further such accident (as Three Mile Island in the US and Chernobyl in the Ukraine) in the following decade is 67 percent." It will most likely take place in Europe: it has 217 operating nuclear reactors and dozens of other nuclear installations.
The project is based at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Post Box 14, 00881 Helsinki in Finland.Inter Press Service, 25 November 1998

France: more hot water in Rhone?The 'Association for information on the Rhone' is demanding a public investigation and a discussion on the issue of the releases of the St. Alban nuclear power plant into the river Rhone. The power plant is asking the authorization of an increase of its release of warm (cooling) water into the Rhone between June and September in order to produce more electricity. The fauna and the flora of the river, however, have been weakened because of the high temperature of the water. And moreover this demand of EdF is against the efforts of other groups to rehabilitate the natural environment of the Rhone.
The operator EdF also demands a modification of its releases of radioactive liquid and gas for the St. Alban reactor.
Association pour l'information Rhodanienne sur L'energie, November 1998

Chernobyl tourist attraction. A tourist agency has confirmed to have obtained a special authorization to organize touristsþ visits to Chernobyl and repeated that there is no danger at all to join the tour.
The visit includes a stop at Pripyat, the phantom city where employees of the plant lived before the disaster, and to Slavutich, the new city at the border of the forbidden area where the new houses are built for the employees. At Chernobyl an excursion is foreseen around the concrete sarcophagus and in the control room of the plant. Also included is a lunch at the plantþs canteen, where employees would explain the operation of the installations. The visit costs US$140 per person (from Kiev, of course) and is cheaper for groups. The agency explained that the formula has been a small success at Kiev among strangers and that the business is expected to grow next summer.
Reuter, 27 November 1998

Explosion in Zaporozha. A minor explosion occurred in an idle reactor at Europe's largest nuclear plant, Ukrainian officials said. The small blast on November 18 at Ukraine's Zaporozha nuclear power plant deformed a tank at a reactor and left a 13-cm crack along a welding joint, the Nuclear Regulation Administration said. The regulatory administration said there were no radiation leaks reported, according to the independent UNIAN news agency. Zaporozha, about 600 km from the capital, Kiev, has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 reactors.USA Today, 20 November 1998

Kepco scrapped all potential new reactor sites. A secret list, prepared in 1997, with nine potential sites for new nuclear reactors was torn up by Young-Sik Chang, the new president of Kepco, the South Korean national nuclear utility. Site selection has to start anew, but now on a voluntary basis.
After officials in the new government leaked three candidate new nuclear sites, opponents began to mobilize against approval of the sites by local authorities. Some pro-nuclear government officials fear it is no longer possible to build 10 new reactors by 2009 as planned. But others disagree: eight new plants could be built at existing nuclear sites, such as Kori and Wolsong. Kepco is discussing a plan to 'compensate' local governments at Kori, with four existing reactors, for building four more nuclear reactors. At Bonngil near Wolsong, where four nuclear plants have been built, four new reactors are also being planned. Unit 4 at Wolsong is to start operations next year. All Wolsong plants are CANDU reactors. Nucleonics Week, 22 October 1998


Japan: Continuous harassment and threats for anti-nuclear activists

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) Anti-nuclear activists in Japan have been the subject of continuous harassment and sometimes even threats by unknown people, implying violence on themselves or their families. Recently, the number of threats to anti-Jabiluka activists in Japan has been increasing again.

(503.4959) Plutonium Action -In July, it was found out that large numbers of activists and anti-nuclear power shareholders of the Chugoku Electric Power Company in Shimane, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima Prefectures were exposed to harassment and threatening letters. That kind of anonymous letters had been sent to them before, but this time, the situation has escalated all the more: some of the letters contained dead insects, and most of them were full of spiteful words and phrases including malicious discrimination against minorities. Anyone with common sense could not even utter such passages.
The most cowardly threat was sent to Mr. Kazumasa Yasumoto, the leader of the group against the Shimane Nuclear Power Plant. In the letter was a threat to rape his daughter. The anti-nuclear group in Shimane prefecture took it very seriously and consulted their lawyer and immediately issued a press release. They also protested to the Chugoku Electric Power Company, though there was no evidence that the company had anything to do with it. The fact is, however, that it happened and the threats multiplied after the general meeting of shareholders of the company on June 26, where anti- nuclear activists demonstrated.
At the same time, there were also new findings about an active fault very close to the nuclear reactors (there are two reactors in Shimane and another one, an ABWR, is being planned). Mr. Yasumoto and his group, as well as other anti-nuclear groupes in Hiroshima, insisted that there be an overall and more detailed investigation of the faults, and that the operation of the reactors should be suspended.
But the CEPCO and the Japanese government, after a very brief 'investigation' at the site, stated that the newly found active fault was only eight kilometers long and there is no concern it could cause an earthquake large enough to trigger a nuclear catastrophe.

At the same time, in Hiroshima where the main office of CEPCO is located, more than a dozen people, all shareholders and activists, were receiving the same kind of harassment. Some of them experienced this for the first time, though they had been active before. Others had seldom received such things. Among the "items" received was stolen mail addressed to other people.

Everyone is convinced this was an organized pressure to the anti-nuclear power movement. The following facts will show why we think in such way:

  1. This kind of harassment and threats have a long history. For example, in 1992 when there was the worldwide protest against the Japanese plutonium shipment from Europe by the ship Akatsuki Maru, the CNIC (Citizen's Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo), reportedly received hundreds of threatening letters. Also numerous very expensive items that no one in the staff had ordered, were sent to their office.
    Some years ago, the same thing happened to the activists around Nagoya City in central Japan. They had been supporting the local struggle against the construction of Ashihama nuclear power plants for more than 30 years.
    A well-known female activist in Shikoku, who lives near Ikata nuclear power plant, said she also got letters enclosing not only dead insects, but also razer blades. She was also astonished to see a huge piece of furniture occupying the front door of her house. She had never asked anyone to bring such furniture to her home.
  2. Very often, included in the letters are lists of anti-nuclear activists or groups, together with lists of left-wing organizations, including Communist groups. The information about persons or groups is sometimes correct and sometimes not. Sometimes the threats include leaflets or reports by the authorities, or police, which show how they are controlling and watching anti-government groups or terrorists.
  3. The letters had been posted in various places in Japan: Tokyo, Yamanashi, Nagano, Hiroshima, Nagoya, etc. Sometimes exactly the same copies were sent from different post offices, located quite far from each other.
  4. Stolen mail of unknown people in Tokyo were sometimes found to be posted in a post office in Hiroshima.

These facts show clearly that all this must have been done not by individuals but by some kind of professional organization. Who else are able to do this? It cannot be done without money and an organization: someone must be paying for such inhuman and mean behavior.

After making the continuous threats public, it seems that such harassment decreased (and ceased in Hiroshima). However, very recent news reveals that it increased again after the 6th No Nukes Asia Forum in Thailand (October 1998). Dr. Hosokawa is an associate professor of Saga University in Japan. He is fighting for protection of the Kakadu National Park in Australia and together with indigenous people there against the proposed Jabiluka mine. Harassments to him, and even violent threats to his family, are increasing now, exactly at the time the UN World Heritage Committee is going to hold its conference in Kyoto, Japan, about putting Kakadu National Park on the World Heritage In Danger list. Representatives of indigenous people are coming to the conference and joint actions are being prepared in Kyoto and Osaka by the Japanese supporting groups, including Dr. Hosokawa.

As already known, the large part of the investment to the uranium mining at Jabiluka comes from Japanese utilities, such as Kansai Electric Power Company, Shikoku Electric Power Company, and Kyushu Electric Power Company. KEPCO rejects meeting representatives from Australian indigenous people. They claim it is an Australian domestic issue.

Source & contact: Satomi Oba
Plutonium Action Hiroshima
1673-17 Ichikawa, Shiraki-cho, Asakita-ku
Hiroshima 739-1411
Tel/fax: +81-82-828 2603
E-mail: dogwood@muc.biglobe.ne.jp

Latest news

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Australia will reject demand Unesco to halt Jabiluka.
On December 1, in its meeting in Kyoto, Japan, the World Heritage Committee, have unanimously asked the Australian government to immediately cease construction of Jabiluka until the next World Heritage Bureau meeting in May 1999, while a series of environmental reviews take place. It has delayed placing Kakadu National park on the 'in danger' list until then.
Of course, it is a far from final victory on Jabiluka. But it is a tremendous step forward, and it is a judgement that the Australian government can't just shrug off - The international community has condemned the Jabiluka project at the very highest level.

The reaction of the Australian government was prompt: Environmental Senator Robert Hill described the report on Kakadu by the World Heritage Mission as "biased, unbalanced and totally lacking in objectivity". He said Australia would ignore the Unesco demand to halt the uranium mine.

Nevertheless the Committee statement is a tribute, amongst other things, to the good sense of people on the Committee. But it is very much a tribute to the very hard work that has been put in by people all accross the world to neutralise the tactics of the Australian government.

ENS, 1 December 1998 and press release Friends of the Earth Australia 1 December 1998.

K2/R4 almost dead?!: Few weeks to go - More action needed!!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) International pressure on the RBRD to take the only-right decision is growing. On December 14, actions will take place in more than 30 capitals all over the world, demanding the Board to reject the loan for the completion of the two proposed nuclear plants for the Ukraine.

(503.4961) WISE Amsterdam -Chances to stop the EBRD-loan are growing, not only because of the economic situation in the Ukraine and the report of the Court of Audit of the European Commission which found out that almost nothing of the financial aid for nuclear safety for the former eastbloc was well-used (see somewhere else in this issue), but also because of the new political winds blowing in Germany. Within the G7, the most important pusher for the completion, this country is crucial.

But, something seems to be changing within the Bank too. In a recent interview with a German financial newspaper, the responsible project manager within the EBRD stated that the Bank is tieing the approvement of the loan not only to the closure of the unsafe Chernobyl nuclear power plants, but to signals for reforms in the energy sector aswell: "It is part of the requirements that the state nuclear operator and borrower Energoatom increases the share of cash payments of its income which is now far under 10%." This is a serious problem for Energoatom. The company has to prove that it is able to return the required financing and the discounts, because otherwise the repayment of the loan is under question. It is also for the first time the EBRD says it will, if anyway, partly finance only one reactor and will "decide later on the other one".

As stressed several times by the leading campaign group against completion, the Bank- watch network, it is crucial to stop funding from the EBRD. If they reject the project it is higly unlikely the additional needed money (from Euratom and G7) will be available. Furthermore, it will become highly unlikely the EBRD will ever consider financing a nuclear project again.
So, it is important to keep pressure on the EBRD on the International Day of Action, December 14, and after that. There is time up till the final EBRD decision, expected somewhere in March 1999. In the next issue reports on the action-day.

Source: Handelsblatt (Germany), 22 November 1998
Contact: CEE Bankwatch
Kratka 26
Praha 10
100 00
Czech Republic
Tel & Fax: +420-2-781 6571
WWW: http://peu.ecn.cz and www.geo.ut.ee/bankwatch

N-waste moves faster in groundwater as expected

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) Radioactive contaminants can migrate in groundwater over long distances faster than originally thought, according to the results of field tests at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, US. The study has broad implications for risk and performance assessments of current and future waste disposal facilities.

(503.4960) WISE Amsterdam -Using non-radioactive surrogates injected into groundwater as tracers, the scientists found that dissolved humic material, naturally formed in soils during decomposition of plant matter, can bind radionuclides and prevent them from being retained in the soil, thereby speeding the migration of the contaminant. "The tracers moved at almost the same velocity as the groundwater," said the report's lead author John McCarthy, Ph.D., of the Oak Ridge facility, and were observed 10 to 80 meters from the injection site within a week or less. "This information opposed the results of laboratory tests that suggested contaminants strongly bind to the soil and move only centimeters a year."

The research is reported in the November 11, Web edition of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
The article will also appear in the journal's December 15, print edition.

"The results have significant implications as to the role that even typically low levels of dissolved humics in groundwater can play in contaminant mobility with respect to existing waste facilities and future repositories," said McCarthy.

There are thousands of waste disposal sites in the U.S. that handle hazardous materials, many of them operated by the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense or Environmental Protection Agency, according to McCarthy. However, "we don't know how ubiquitous this facilitated transport process is because these sorts of studies have not been conducted elsewhere," he cautions. "I don't want to be an alarmist about this study," he adds. Approximately 50 percent of all Americans get their drinking water from groundwater sources, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The testing was carried out in conjunction with researchers from the University of Tennessee and Colorado State University.

Source: Pressrelease American Chemical Society, 11 November 1998
Contact: American Chemical Society, Marvin Coyner, 1155 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20036, USA
Tel: +1-202-872-4600
Email: m_coyner@acs.org
WWW: www.acs.org

Partitioning and transmutation: A hype

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) The Dutch Energy Research Foundation (ECN) in Petten organized a workshop on transmutation of nuclear waste on November 13, 1998. The researchers claimed that results are so favorable that further reprocessing and vitrification of nuclear waste better be stopped: if nuclear waste has been reprocessed and vitrified, transmutation is not possible any longer.

(503.4965) WISE Amsterdam -By transmutation of long-lived radio- isotopes, the ECN researchers claim, it is technically possible to shorten the period of storage to 1,000 years instead of the present 250,000 to 1 million year. If these results are realized in practice, they remark, public acceptance of future nuclear energy would be better. The large inventories of separated civil and military plutonium, more than 250,000 kg worldwide, could also be eliminated by transmutation. Too good to be true?

What is P&T?
Since some decades now, it is claimed by some nuclear researchers that Partitioning and Transmutation (P&T) is the solution for the problem of the storage of nuclear wastes. With successful P&T, this storage period could be brought down to 1,000 or even to 250 years, it is claimed. Partitioning is just another word for reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Transmutation is changing long-lived nuclides into other nuclides through irradiation with neutrons.

The ECN is doing research on partitioning and transmutation since about 1988. An actinide laboratory was built for ƒl 2 million (US$1.1 million). The present program, called Recycling of Actinides & Fission Products (RAS), is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs with ƒl 5.85 million (US$3.21 million) and the European Union (EU). The ECN cooperates mainly with French transmutation researchers. In Marcoule, France, new reprocessing technologies are being developed to separate all important actinides and long-lived fission products from spent fuel.
Two groups of radio-isotopes, ECN says, must undergo P&T:

  • Actinides, most with very long lifetimes,
  • Long-lived fission products (See Table I)

Actinides are formed by neutron irradiation of uranium-238. The group includes plutonium (which is the major actinide) and the minor actinides: neptunium, americium and curium. Spent fuel contains± 1% plutonium and ± 0.1% minor actinides. Fission products represent about 3.4% of spent fuel. The rest (95.5%) are uranium isotopes, mainly uranium-238.
ECN concentrates on life-reduction of actinides. They have experimented with transmutation of americium-241, which seems to be a very cunning choice. Their result: "transmutation of 35% of americium-241 in a uranium-free fuel by `fast neutron' irradiation". It all sounds optimistic, but is it true?

Does it work?
No, and for a number of reasons.

  • The isotope ECN experimented with is not a long-lived one. Americium-241 has a half-life1 of "only" 430 years. Americium-243 should have been a more logical choice: it has a halflife of 7,400 years. The technique of partitioning and transmutation of americium-241 is internationally rather advanced: ECN estimates it would take only some decades before it can be industrialized. Neptunium-237, with a half-time of 2.1 million years or curium-245 with a half-life of 8,500 years, are much more difficult to separate and transmute.
  • The present reprocessing plants don't separate all actinides, only plutonium. New reprocessing technologies which separate all actinides are only in the research stage. It is questionable if such new reprocessing plants would be built. Reprocessing costs are to be much higher than at present, while the trend is that reprocessing costs have to come down significantly if nuclear energy is to compete with other methods of electricity production.
  • Many fission products (28% of them) are long-lived isotopes: zirconium-93, cesium-137, iodine-129, palladium-10. These fission products cannot be separated in present reprocessing plants and will not for at least the next two decades. Moreover, the ECN researchers admit that transmutation of several fission products is not considered feasible.
  • Direct storage of spent fuel at reactor sites is much less dangerous and many times cheaper: less transports; almost no discharges of radioactive elements into the environment; many times less volume of waste and less proliferation risks.
  • Transmutation à la ECN needs the large-scale introduction of fast breeder reactors (FBR) and the development of new types of nuclear fuel, which do not contain uranium-238. In the last decade, almost all FBRs have been closed due to technological and economical problems. The method promoted by Nobel prize winner Rubbia, transmutation in Thorium Accelerated Based Systems, so-called Rubiatrons (or TABS), is only in the paper stage and is also based on Fast Breeders. Realization will take billions of dollars and many decades. The present Light Water Reactors are not suited for transmutation of acinides or long-lived fission products.
  • To reach practical results (almost 100% transmutation of all long-lived radio-isotopes is necessary), long-lived fission products and all actinides must undergo many cycles of reprocessing and transmutation. This has grave environmental, risky and financial consequences: each time spent fuel is reprocessed, much radioactivity is released into the sea and into the air. Reprocessing plants are notorious for their large discharges of radioactivity into the environment.

Spent fuel and reprocessed materials, including plutonium, have to be transported worldwide which endangers people along the routes and has proliferation problems.

  • The planned construction of new reprocessing plants and new fast breeders is neither economically nor politically attainable.
  • An almost 100% separation during reprocessing of all long-lived isotopes is necessary. If only 10% of the isotope stays behind, the storage period of nuclear waste will remain some hundreds of thousands of years. This advanced reprocessing techniques do not yet exist.

The researchers at the ECN admit their research is only directed on the future: to enable expansion of nuclear energy later on. It has no relevance whatsoever for present-day nuclear energy problems. Their claim that transmutation is the solution for the nuclear waste problem is unfounded and sounds like mere fraud.
Their attitude is to get more money for further research.
All over the world, more and more money is spent on transmutation research: mainly in the US, France, Japan.
P&T research began over 20 years ago and many more decades of research is needed, researchers admit. The nuclear lobby presents it as the final nuclear waste solution which would bring about public acceptance of nuclear energy. But even experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are critical.

Drawing conclusions on partitioning & transmutation is easy:

  • Partitioning and transmutation is a hype: the next decades
    it is neither technically nor practically possible, because existing reprocessing plants separate plutonium, but not other actinides or long-lived fission products;
  • For the largest part of spent fuel, it cannot be a solution: P&T presumes reprocessing of spent fuel, but about 2/3 of all spent fuel is not and will not be reprocessed;
  • P&T can only be achieved after building new reprocessing plants, new fast breeder reactors, Rubbia accelerators and designing and making new types of nuclear fuel which would take at least several decades and cost many billions of US dollars; and
  • Even partial transmutation would have very negative safety, environmental and economic consequences.

Partitioning and transmutation is not and cannot be a solution for nuclear waste problems. Therefore all money spent on it is spilled: funding and research should be stopped by the Netherlands and by the European Union.

Tabel I: Half-lifes of some radio-isotopes:

Group Isotope half-life (years)
Plutonium Pu-238 88
  Pu-239 24,000
  Pu-240 6,500
  Pu-241 14.4
  Pu-242 376,050
Some Minor Actinides Np-237 2.14 million
  Am-241 432
  Am-243 7,385
  Cm-245 8,506
  Cm-247 15.6 million
Some Long-Lived Zr-93 1,5 million
Fusion Products Tc-99 210,000
  Pd-107 6.5 million
  Sn-126 100,000
  I-129 16 million
  Cs-135 1.3 million


1] Half-life: Period in which 50% of the isotope atoms decay into other atoms, which are mostly radioactive, too. Short-lived nuclear isotopes can decay into long-lived isotopes. One example: plutonium-241 (T 1/2: 14.4 yr) decays into americium- 241 (T 1/2: 430 yr) which radiates much more. Transmutation can also result in creating long-lived isotopes from short- or medium-lived isotopes.


  • NRC (Nl), 14 November 1998
  • La Gazette Nucléaire, August 1998
  • H. Gruppelaar, ea, Advanced Technologies for Reduction of Nuclear Waste, ECN Netherlands, 1998
  • The Rubbia TABS: Solutions or illusions?, WISE Paris, January 1997
  • Laka Foundation, Fact Sheet on Transmutation, November 1998.

Contact: Laka, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam. The Netherlands.
Tel: +31-20-6168 294; Fax: +31-20-6892 179
Email: laka@antenna.nl


Temelin in 1998

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) If the Temelin project were to have birthdays, this year it would celebrate its fifteens, and the celebration would not by far be a happy one. The only thing Temelin would enjoy is that it is not punished for its past crimes: demolition of villages a thousand years old, flooding a beautiful valley of Vltava river and creation of an ugly megalomaniac sculpture in the landscape have been defended by all governments: seven years for the sake of workers, seven years for the sake of a free-market economy.

(503.4963) WISE Brno -The fifteenth year is not a happy one for Temelin plant. Its director, Vojtech Kotyza, said in the beginning of 1998 that CEZ (the utility) may even abandon the whole project. Westinghouse corporation, hired as a strategic partner for safety upgrades of the Soviet project, vanished this year. The official budget and date of start-up became unrealistic, again. It was the minister of industry, Karel Kuhnl, who tried to stop the increasing doubts. He started with a famous quote, saying that he is not able to say how much Temelin will cost, but that he was sure it would be the least costly and most beneficial option to finish it. Later he found this logic to be too weak, and he ordered CEZ to elaborate an updated version of the budget.

Largest cost overrun
The result was shocking. CEZ announced another increase of budget, this time up to 99 billion CZK (US$3.4 billion). The projected start-up date is now scheduled for May 2001. When we compare these figures to the promises made in 1993, we can see that despite CZK30 billion sunk in Temelin, there was hardly any development. Today, as well as in 1993, CEZ keeps saying that it needs additional CZK35 billion and two more years to finish the power plant. (Just to remind you, in 1993, the government reapproved the construction, stating it would cost CZK69 billion and would be finished in 1995.)

Not only that the latest budget increase is the largest single one of a dozen cost overruns announced during 1990s, with a budget of CZK99 billion, the Temelin project exceeded the critical value of CZK96 billion, calculated as maximum if it should be the least-cost solution. This critical value was quoted by CEZ in December 1997 (see also WISE NC 486.4824: Cost rise and new delays endanger Temelin project). Yet, now when it is exceeded, CEZ started to use- -without any reasonable explanation--a mystical number of CZK156 billion as the least cost critical value.

Biased CEZ study
In order to defend the project even under these circumstances, CEZ prepared and published a "study" in May this year. This is very unusual, because this is the very first time CEZ made any relevant document about Temelin's economy available to the public. In order to prove that finishing Temelin makes sense, the study has been biased in many ways. For example:

  • There are several sources that are cheaper than finishing Temelin, such as gas CHP (combined heat-power). In order to disqualify these alternatives, CEZ presumes that their price would rise by 3% annually between now and 2005. By then, they would become more expensive than Temelin NPP. At the same time, CEZ considers the CZK99 billion budget to be a final one, with no increases in the future. This is very unlikely because the cost of finishing Temelin rose by 20% annually on average during the past five years. And there are still risks for additional cost overruns, admitted even in the CEZ study itself.
  • CEZ says the costs to abandon the project would be higher than to finish it. According to its calculations, only the dismantling of a non-finished plant would cost CZK26.5 billion, and additional billions would add up as damages and fines to the suppliers. The figure for dismantling is absurd. According to the Ministery of Industry, the demolition would cost something like CZK10 billion. A clear indication that something is wrong comes also from the fact that on other occasions, CEZ says the full decomissioning of the plant (after 30 years of operation) would cost only CZK17 billion! CEZ is therefore overestimating the costs linked to cancellation, in order to push for finishing the project. (At the same time, it is probably seriously underestimating decommissioning costs, again to create a picture that Temelin production would be cheap.)
  • In a similar game with numbers, CEZ is disqualifying an option of energy savings. By choosing the least effective and most costly measures (such as efficient light bulbs), CEZ calculates in its study that it would cost CZK124 billion to save 1.6 TWh annually. This would mean that energy savings are almost 100 times more expensive than production! A clear nonsense, if savings are cheaper even in the West, they must be even more beneficial in the Czech Republic where energy intensity is three times higher (compared to the EU average)!
  • CEZ estimates that the demand for electricity would sharply grow in the Czech Republic. This is in contradiction to a continuous drop in demand observed since 1996. Only during the first half of 1998, the electricity demand in households fell by 7%--yet CEZ is ready to claim that household consumption would rise by 25% till 2010!

In order to add the weight to its weak arguments, CEZ is blackmailing the government and the public in its study. Should Temelin be cancelled, writes CEZ, it would bankrupt the whole utility, the state would have to pay over CZK100 billion on damages, no more foreign investors would appear in the Czech Republic, and the prices for electricity in households would be at least be doubled.

Temelin Investigation Team
All the biases were analyzed in a study prepared by Hnuti DUHA/WISE Brno. Experts and advisors decided even to pick up our analysis and gave it to the ministers as one of the few background materials for their discussion.
Fortunately, the then minister of environment, Martin Bursik, had enough courage to oppose CEZ. Thanks to him and several other ministers, it was the first time in history that the government had not passively agreed to what CEZ said was true. Therefore, on the meeting on July 1, the government passed a decision to establish a special independent Investigation Team to assess the Temelin project. Based on objective information gathered by the team, the government would take a final decision whether to cancel or go on with the Temelin construction.

Temelin protest camp
For the first two weeks in July, Hnuti DUHA organized a traditional protest camp at Temelin (for the 6th year already). Unlike in previous years, we have not organized a blockade due to the fact that for the first time, the government was really willing to listen to us and we preferred to focus our energy into this direction. Thus, the camp was rather an ecological-cultural festival. We had a rock festival and numerous other concerts, dozens of workshops, debates and happenings at the plant. Among 250 participants, we also saw two ministers--Martin Bursik (minister of environment) and Vladimir Mlynar (minister responsible for minorities and human rights). We got good media attention, and most people were happy to attend.

Social Democratic government
In the meantime, however, a completely new government was formed by the Social Democrats after the June general elections. The newly appointed minister of industry, Miroslav Gregr, was famous in the past for his opposition to the phase-out of uranium mines, claiming they were the industry for the 21st century. Immediately after entering his position, Gregr said he would not allow any doubts about Temelin. He also said he would propose that the Investigation Team be cancelled. A few weeks after that, Gregr published his idea that besides Temelin, additional new reactors should be built in the Czech Republic. Fortunately, all media and politicians attacked this idea, having in mind that Temelin itself is already a fiasco.

After a dispute between Gregr and Kuzvart, the new minister of environment, the government settled a compromise on the Investigation Team. The original idea was crippled, because the "new" team had limited tasks and an 'unbalanced' staff. Several of its members, appointed by the Social Democratic government, already expressed their opinion that it goes without saying that Temelin must be finished, and that the team would serve only as a tool to fight opponents and convince the public.

Also, the team faces a large delay. Despite that, it should have started in September, but it did not began its work until November 12 because not all positions were appointed. Missing were especially the international representatives, as the European Commission refused to send its staff to the team. Now, the Czech government approached neighboring countries (Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia) instead to participate in the team. This last step can be positive and we welcome it, but unless further changes are made, the team cannot be trusted at all. The teamþs task should clearly include an analysis of the future of electricity market in the Czech Republic; there should be a direct representative of Czech environmental groups in the team; and the input values and figures used for Temelin's economic analysis must be published so that they can be verified by other experts and citizens.

Recent campaigns
Currently, we are campaigning on four levels.

  • First is to deal somehow with the Investigation Team. Because there is a real threat for us if the team comes up with pro-Temelin recommendation, and media with the public still understand it as "objective", it would be a large backlash to our campaign.
  • Second is the international political situation. Especially within the framework of European Enlargement and Agenda 2000 (with conditions for accession countries), we are seeking ways to establish strict principles of nuclear safety for accession countries. Strict safety requirments would certainly kill our reactors.
  • Third is the lobbying and preparation for a referendum. The Social Democrats promised in the past several times that they would not allow Temelin to start up without a referendum. Although many of their politicians would probably rather forget about this, we will do our best to push for it. At the same time, we are working on development of a national network of grassroot activists who could help with information campaigns in case the referendum is announced.
  • Fourth direction is linked to money. CEZ is getting into real financial troubles, which--combined with huge cost overruns at Temelin--make it impossible to cover the costs. Therefore, CEZ would need to borrow large amounts of money abroad. CEZ approached three banks with a request for a DM250 million loan to be used also for Temelin: Deutsche Bank, Bayerische Landesbank and Sumotomo Bank Ltd. Unfortunately, on November 11, the contract for such a loan of DM280 million (CZK5 billion or US$165 million) was signed. So, this battle was lost.

Those who would like to keep updated may order a Temelin Information Service, a newsletter produced weekly on average, reporting and analyzing all important events related to the Temelin nuclear power plant.

Sources: WISE Brno October article and Temelin Information Service, issues 5 & 16 November 1998
Contact: Jan Beranek, WISE Brno
Tel: +420-5-4221 0438
Fax: +420-5-4221 0347
Email: jan.beranek@ecn.cz

Ukraine: Dry storage cheaper than reprocessing in Russia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) Ukraine is considering to use casks for long-term storage of all its spent fuel. Early next year spent fuel from the six Zaporozhia nuclear plants is to be loaded into a storage cask, with the help of Duke Engineering-Sierra Nuclear. Recently, 40 tons of Ukrainian spent fuel from Zaporozhia were refused by the Krasnoyarsk governor.

(503.4964) WISE Amsterdam -The Ukrainian deputy minister of Finance, V.G. Kotko, said that initial cost estimates show that dry storage in casks would be "five to six times cheaper" than sending the spent fuel to Russia (for reprocessing). No decisions have been made yet. The lack of hard currency is only one of the problems. It could take years before US storage equipment receive Ukrainian certification. Russia will not be glad with these developments: it affects their reprocessing portfolio for their RT-1 plant at Mayak, which only works at less than half of its capacity.
The Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy finally decided this November not to complete the nearly-finished reprocessing plant at Krasnoyarsk. This plant should have reprocessed spent fuel from VVER-1000 reactors, like the ones at Zaporozhia. Minatom First Deputy Minister Ivanov said: "There is absolutely zero money" for Krasnoyarsk. Since the early 1990s spent VVER-1000 fuel from Ukraine and Russia has been sent to Krasnoyarsk for interim storage pending completion of the reprocessing plant. In the future, spent VVER-1000 fuel is to be reprocessed at Mayak, using the new molten salt method, which is under development. This will take 10-15 years at least.

Recently, 40 of tons of Ukrainian spent fuel from Zaporozhia were refused by the Krasnoyarsk governor, General Lebed, Itar-Tass and AFP reported. Lebed ordered the Krasnoyarsk reprocessing plant not to accept the spent fuel. The reason: the price for handling the waste was too low: only US$275/kg, against closer to US$1000/kg elsewhere, said Kulenkova, deputy to Governor Lebed. The agreement on nuclear waste storage was made between Russia and Ukraine without consultation with the region. Payments also were often too late. Officials from Zaporozhia said the latest spent fuel had left Ukraine two weeks ago. Every year six transports with each between 20-50 tons spent fuel arrive at the uncompleted Krasnoyarsk reprocessing plant. The next transport is planned to arrive in February 1999, according to Volodir Varankine, an official at the plant.


  • Nucleonics Week, 12 November 1998
  • Nuclear Fuel, 2 November 1998
  • Agence France Presse (AFP), 17 November 1998

Contact: Vladimir Sliviak
WISE Kaliningrad
E-mail: ecodefense@glasnet.ru