#508 - April 9, 1999

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

Activists on roof Barsebäck; closure this summer?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) On March 25, Greenpeace activists from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Slovakia climbed on the roofs of the Barsebäck reactor buildings and the Filtra building. They hung a huge banner on which was written the words "Lukketid"-"closing time".

(508.4999) WISE Amsterdam - With reference to a recently released Probabilistic Safety Analysis (PSA), Greenpeace Denmark's Barsebäck campaigner Tarjei Haaland declared that "the action is intented to remind all parties involved that consideration must be given to the safety of the population of neighboring country which has said no to nuclear energy. According to the PSA report, the Swedish nuclear power plant authority SKI determined on February 24, 1999, that the probability for damages in the reactor core due to failure in the cooling system is "relatively high". "Allowing Barsebäck to continue operations until summer before fundamental safety improvements are made is highly irresponsible," said Halland. The close vicinity of Barsebäck to Copenhagen (Denmark) has prompted the Swedish government to decide that Barsebäck should be closed first.

Sweden has decided to phase out its 12 nuclear power plants in line with a 1980 referendum. The Swedish government decided in February 1998 that reactor unit 1 at the Barsebäck nuclear plant was to shut down before July 1, 1998, and the second reactor--unit 2--must close in 2001. However, Sydkraft, the owners of Barsebäck, filed a complaint to the Swedish Aministrative Court. Unit 1 was allowed to continue operating until the court ruling. The ruling was expected before Christmas 1998, but on December 22 the Court announced that it might ask the European Court of Justice for advice on the matter. This means another two years delay.

The intention of the activists was to stay as long as necessary until the message was clearly understood. Also, 11 activists have chained themselves to the front gate. The police immediately sealed the area. The planned downscaling of the action has been a success, with hours of intervals individual activists climbed down. During the night six activists were still on the roof, and after 30 hours all the 18 activists and two non- Greenpeace cameramen were arrested. They were detained for three to four hours in a police bus outside the plant and in the police station in the nearby town of Lund. They were all charged with severe unlawful trespassing, which could mean two years imprisonment.

According to Nucleonics Week, the "shutdown of Barsebäck-1 is assumed as of July 1" and in 2000 the second unit is also to close. Meanwhile, the managing director of Barsebäck says in an interview with Reuters that the reactor is not profitable at current electricity prices. But at the same time, he claims in an editorial in the industry magazine Nuclear Europe Worldscan that the operation of Barsebaeck is still "succesful despite a political decision to close it".


  • Nucleonics Week, 11 March 1999
  • Nuclear Europe Worldscan, March/April 1999
  • Greenpeace Press release 25 March 1999
  • Reuter, 31 March 1999

Contact: Tarjei Haaland at Greenpeace
Bredgadwe 20
Baghuse 4
1620 Copenhagen
Tel: +45-40553203
E-mail: greenpeace.denmark@diala.greenpeace.org

Australia: Go-ahead for Beverley; protests at Jabiluka owner

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
(April 9, 1999) On March 18, the Australian government gave permission for the exploitation of the Beverley In-situ leaching uranium mine in northern South Australia. Large blockades in Melbourne at the office of Jabiluka owner North Limited resulted in clash with police.

(508.4998) WISE Amsterdam - Police and anti-uranium activists have clashed outside the Melbourne office of North Ltd. on the second day of protests against the Jabiluka mining project. A few days before the blockade North placed newspaper advertisements that described anti-uranium protesters as terrorists.
The protest sealed the head office of mining giant North Ltd, majority owner of the company that operates Jabiluka uranium mine in the Northern Territory. Demonstrators blocked three entrances to keep North staff out. But 60 were smuggled in by bus through a back alley under police guard.
On the second day of the blockade and in contrast to the day before, police cleared a path for motorists in the streets behind the company's offices. Police horses were being used to clear the road. North managing director Malcolm Broomhead accused the activists of intimidation and bullying.

The environmentalists were even more angry because permission was given for the Beverley ISL-uranium mine. In-situ leaching involves pumping sulphuric acid and oxygen underground to dissolve uranium into the groundwater, which is then pumped to the surface and the uranium removed. There are numerous ways in which ISL can lead to significant contamination of surrounding groundwater systems or the wider environment:

Escape of leaching solutions

-water moves from high pressure to low pressure, and thus any hole or opening away from the ore zone could act as a flow path for solutions. These may include features such as leaking boreholes, fault planes running across the aquifer system, old underground workings, or any other similar opportunity for water to flow freely.

Difficulties in geochemistry

-when the solutions are injected into an orebody aquifer to mobilize uranium, many other minerals are dissolved into solutions and many other radionuclides and heavy metals are mobilized also. These can include radium, arsenic, vanadium, molybdenum, cadmium, nickel, lead and others. The subsequent increase in concentrations can be up to a thousand times higher or more.

Precipitation of solids

-due to the nature of the groundwater and orebody chemistry, it is possible to form solid minerals that precipitate from solution and thereby act to reduce or at worst block the flow of solutions through the intended areas. These can include the formation of calcite (calcium cabornate), gypsum (calcium sulphate), jarosite (potassium iron sulphate) and other minerals.

Waste water disposal

-the inherent nature of ISL is that it produces extremely large quantities of waste water and solutions which need to be disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. These are from the bleed water (excess pumping water) and waste solutions from the uranium extraction plant. Typically these solutions are mixed and re-injected into the same groundwater as that being mined, or injection into a deep aquifer remote from other groundwater users of the area or potential environmentally sensitive areas. Extremely high concentrations of radionuclides and heavy metals can be found in these waste waters, and the disposal area chosen also undergoes rehabilitation after the cessation of ISL mining.

High radon exposures

-due to the mobilization of uranium in the groundwater and circulating solutions, high concentrations of radium and radon are often found, leading to possibly high radiation exposures.

Environmentalists vowed to fight the Beverley project by any means possible, saying the in situ leaching process to be used retains waste products underground and threatens important water supply. Environment Minister Robert Hill said the government had been advised that the Beverley acquifer was unsuitable for drinking water or for stock and irrigation purposes and was isolated from other groundwater including the Great Artesian Basin.

Final export and development approvals are still required for Beverley, which has an estimated resource of 21,000 tons of uranium oxide (U3O8), but the government and its owners (US General Atomics) think commercial production would start in early 2000.


  • Reuters, 19 March
  • The Australian, 30 March
  • Out of sight, out of mind, the hidden problems of ISL on: www.sea-us.org.au

Contact: Friends of the Earth
PO Box A474
Sydney South
NSW 2000
Tel: +61-2-9283 2004
Fax: +61-2-9283 2005
Email: nonukes@foesyd.org.au



Austrian minister wants to change Euratom Treaty

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) In connection with a changed European political landscape, specially the new nuclear policy in Germany, Austria now sees a possibility to change the Euratom Treaty. A new perspective for the Coalition of Non-Nuclear Countries?

(508.5002) WISE Amsterdam - Austrian minister Barbara Prammer of Consumer Protection has made a proposal for change in the Euratom treaty, of which the main items are:

  • Promotion of nuclear energy by Euratom must be ended. At the same time standard nuclear safety regulations must be incorporated in European law;
  • The democratic deficit of Euratom must be repaired. The European parliament has to be involved in all future decisions on nuclear issues;
  • Construction and financing of new nuclear power plants will no longer be allowed; and
  • Liability for operators of nuclear reactors will be raised.

Minister Prammer has involved Chancellor Klima in her proposal but not coalition partner ÖVP. Austria also "rethinks" payment to Euratom: they do not want Austrian money to be spent on promotion of nuclear energy. The German Minister Trittin promised to support Prammer's proposal in principle, when Prammer visited Germany.

Austria plans a conference in Autumn 1999 with other countries, which are against or are skeptical about nuclear energy (the so called Coalition of Non-Nuclear Countries), to talk about the proposal. After that meeting, Austria will first present the proposal to the European Parliament and then formally apply in Brussels to change the Euratom Treaty. Finally a Government Conference on this issue should be held.
At the moment, eight from the 15 countries of the European Union (EU) do not use nuclear energy for electricity production. Two other countries, Sweden and Germany, are planning to close their nuclear power plants. No EU country seriously considers to build a new nuclear reactor. This situation more or less signifies the beginning of the end of nuclear power in the EU.

Together with German Minister Trittin, Barbara Prammer made a concrete, attractive offer to the minister of environment, Milos Kuzvart of the Czech Republic, to forego completion of the Temelin nuclear plant. The offer includes energy efficiency measures and common construction of non-nuclear power plants, said Trittin's spokesman Michael Schoeren. The Czech Minister Kuzvart visited Vienna on April 6 to discuss the offer. Discussions on expert and official levels are to be held, too, to concretize the offer. The Czech government has announced a final decision on completion of Temelin for the begin of May.

The Austrian Anti-Atom International (AAI) has welcomed Prammer's proposal to reform Euratom. The AAI underlines that the international conference has to be prepared very well. Otherwise it might meet the same fate as the conference of non-nuclear regions planned last November by the Salzburg region, which had to be cancelled. The organization has to be aware that the nuclear industry will in one way or another try to obstruct the initiative. Senior Austrian govermnent officials met the three main Austrian anti-nuclear organizations (Greenpeace, Global 2000 and the AAI) on April 7 to discuss preparation, strategy and contents of the international autumn conference.

Source: Die Presse, 13/14 and 31 March 1999
Contact: AAI
Volksgartenstr. 1
Tel: +43-1-5229 102
Fax: +43-1-5229 103
Email: AAI@blackbox.at

Finland after the parliamentary elections

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) On March 21, general elections were held in Finland. Important, because the call by the industry and some political parties for the construction of a fifth nuclear power station increased. The position of the finnish greens is clear: no new reactor!

(508.4995) Satu Hassi - In the election the winners were Coalition Party (Conservatives), Center Party, Greens and the small Christian League. Social Democrats lost 12 seats but remain the biggest party in Parliament, and they are going to lead the forming of the next governement. The Greens won 2 seats, having 11 seats now. The support of the Greens grew from 6,5% to 7,3%.

Especially the Coalition party and the reperesentatives of the energy intensive industry have demanded building new nuclear power stations in Finland. The five party governement, headed by prime minister Lipponen (social democrats) where Greens have participated, and which was formed after the elections in 1995, agreed in the beginning that this governement will not take up this issue again in Parliament. This agreement held, although the conservaties made several appempts to brake it.

Now the negotiations about the next governement are going to be started soon. The leader of the Coalition Party, Mr. Niinistö, has several times demanded more nuclear power. The only party, which during the election campaign was explicitly against that was the Greens. The Greens have stated, that they are not going to participate in a governement, which takes building more nuclear power stations into its program. In August last year we wrote that the Greens were hesitating in their anti-nuclear position, but this is clearly not the case.

Among the elected 200 MP's 96 oppose building more nuclear power, 79 are in favour of increasing the nuclear capacity, 25 have not told their opinion. The only party, where the supporters of nuclear power have the majority, is the Coalition party. Among Social Democrats 50% oppose and 50% support nuclear power. In all other parties majority is against nulcear power. The situation is very similar to that after the elections in 1991. The parliament elected then rejected the permission for the 5th nuclear power station.

The present prime minister Lipponen is going to lead the negotiations of the next governement. It is not yet clear, if building new nuclear capacity will be a major issue in these negotiations. If the new govermenement takes increasing nuclear capacity into its program, the final decision will be made by the Parliament, and in that case the propability is rather high that the Parliament will reject the permission as it did in 1993.

Source: Satu Hassi, speaker of the Green League of Finland
Green League of Finland
Eerikinkatu 27A
00180 Helsinki
Email: satu.hassi@eduskunta.fi

First waste at WIPP, but problem not solved

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) As mentioned in the last issue, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant got permission to receive its first shipment of waste. Only a few days later the first truck (of the expected 37,000!) with waste from Los Alamos headed for the facility, surrounded by protests. It is said that WIPP would solve the military waste problem. But is it really?

(508.5001) WISE Amsterdam - When the nuclear debris reached its destination near Carlsbad, New Mexico, at about 4 a.m. on March 26, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson called it "a truly historic moment". The WIPP is the US Department of Energy's proposed deep geologic repository for nuclear weapons-generated transuranic waste (containing radioactive elements heavier than uranium, mostly plutonium). WIPP is being excavated in an ancient salt bed 655 meters below the ground. Still under construction, the WIPP will ultimately contain 24 square km of buried plutonium wastes, including up to 850,000 55-gallon drums (one US gallon is 3.853 liters) entombed in 56 rooms, each 100 meters long by 11 meters wide.

The WIPP site is surrounded by proven oil and gas reserves and potash deposits. Future mining and drilling operations could hit the waste rooms, releasing massive amounts of radioactivity to the surface. Other drilling operations, such as fluid injection, could cause radioactive releases at the WIPP even if the original operation is kept outside the site boundary.
Experts do not understand the groundwater system at the WIPP very well. The Rustler aquifer, which sits above the WIPP waste rooms has fractures and caverns in it that could transport waste, eventually contaminating drinking water supplies. Pressurized brine reservoirs under the WIPP site could bring wastes to the surface as well. These reservoirs contain large amounts of salt water under high pressure.

The DOE is seeking, but does not yet have, a hazardous waste permit from the state of New Mexico. The permit is required because the DOE will dispose of mixed transuranic wastes at the WIPP. These are wastes that are contaminated with both a chemical hazard (like a solvent) and a radioactive element such as plutonium. States can regulate DOE's hazardous (chemical) wastes. Therefore, the WIPP must have an operating permit. However, the DOE is the sole regulator for all the radioactive waste in the weapons complex. DOE is essentially forcing the premature opening of the WIPP by bringing in a shipment of "purely" radioactive waste from Los Alamos.

Never mind that this waste is from NASA activities, and that the WIPP is supposed to be for military wastes only. And never mind that significant controversy exists over whether the Los Alamos waste was classified properly. The DOE's aim was to get waste, any waste, into the WIPP and preempt the state's ability to impose limits through its permitting authority.

Moreover, the WIPP would not come close to solving the country's nuclear waste problems, not by any standard of measurement. The WIPP is designed to handle less than 2% of the existing volume of nuclear bomb-generated radioactive wastes. Even if one calculates the transuranic wastes alone, the WIPP is proposed for only about one-third of the DOE's existing TRU waste.

Yet, Secretary Richardson sent out a press release to say that the WIPP would safely clean up the nuclear weapons complex. So, what gives? Perhaps, the WIPP's main use is not for waste disposal, but rather for its public relations value. If the DOE can convince enough people that it has taken care of its waste problems, then current operational weapons facilities like Livermore Lab would face less pressure to cut down on the future production of nuclear wastes. Transuranic wastes would continue to be generated. And we will put them... where?


  • Citizen's Watch, Tri-Valley CAREs' April 1999 newsletter
  • Reuters, 27 March 1999

Contact: SWNA Action Committee
10011 Hickory Crossing
Dallas TX 15243
Tel: +1-214-2351 467
Fax: +1-214-1831 956

Immediate decommissioning of closed U.S. reactors

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) The Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant (616 MW) was closed definitely in December 1996. In connection with plans to build a gas-fired plant on site, the utility now opts for immediate decommissioning to allow the site to be released from oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for unrestricted use.

(508.4996) WISE Amsterdam - It is planned to complete dismantling of the nuclear reactor around 2004. The latest cost estimate of decommissioning was US$427 million, but it is being revised, as required by the National Regulatory Commission, which will take several months. The owner of Connecticut Yankee is expected to choose in April an engineering company for construction of the gas-fired plant and/or decommissioning. Two US firms have bidded for the job, which includes four options:

  1. construction of a gas-fired plant on site;
  2. construction of a dry cask spent fuel storage;
  3. maintenance of the spent fuel pool;
  4. evaluation of site-cleaning so that releases do not exceed a 10-millirem standard.

(The NRC regulations only call for cleanup to a 25 mrem standard, but the utility asked for cost estimates to reach the lower limit). The winning bidder for construction of the gas plant would probably also get the decommissioning job.

Up to now a gas plant has never been built on the site of a once- operational nuclear reactor with nuclear fuel on site. It has been considered in the UK, but was dismissed as too dangerous because of the risk of gas explosions. The proposal of a group of local residents, officials and plant employees, Repower Advisory Committee (Repac), is to site the gas plant at a parking lot. In that case the spent fuel has to be moved to another part of the site, which covers 525 acres (210 hectare = 2.1 square km) in total.

At the Zion two-unit nuclear plant (2x 1085 MW), closed in January 1998, the option of building a gas plant with nuclear fuel on site is now also being considered. A study of that proposal is being undertaken by Amoco Corp. Decommissioning costs of Zion-2 alone are estimated at US$800 million.
In 1998 another nuclear utility decided to quickly decommission its San Onofre 1, 450-MW nuclear plant, which was closed in 1992 and put at cold storage. It is planned to begin next year and will take about eight years. Its decommissioning costs are estimated at US$460 million. Local residents are not concerned about the costs, but about the possible storage of nuclear wastes, which have to be shipped to the nuclear waste storage at Barnwell. But the reactor parts are too heavy for road or train transport, so they must be cut into pieces or stored on site.


  • AP, 19 February 1999
  • Nucleonics Week, 11 March 1999

Contact: NIRS
1424 16th Street NW #404
Washington DC 20036
Tel: +1-202-328 0002
Fax: +1-202-462 2183
Email: nirsnet@nirs.org

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Campaign against French-German EPR.

(April 9, 1999) The nuclear lobby is currently pushing for the construction of a prototype of the French-German nuclear European Pressurized Reactor (currently in France though Germany had also once been considered) that would be the first one of a series of at least seven or eight additional nuclear reactors. At least a billion francs (US$164 million) have already been spent by Siemens (Germany) and Framatome (France).
The stakes are very high: if the nuclear lobby succeeds in imposing this reactor, a second nuclear program would have begun in Europe. A decision must be made by the French government before the beginning of the year 2000. A vast mobilization throughout all of Europe is thus imperative if we do not want to let this plan take place. We need your help today in order to stop this project from succeeding. (For more information on the EPR, see WISE NC 483/4: 'New Generations: The European Pressurized Water Reactor') The French anti-nuclear network "Sortir du Nucléaire", a federation of 292 organizations, will start a campaign against the construction of the EPR with the publication of a widely distributed brochure as well as a European petition. The objective of this petition is to obtain at least 100,000 signatures.
The official launching of this campaign will take place Sunday, the 25th of April (the day before the 13th anniversary of Chernobyl), at the demon- stration of "The Longest Anti-Nuclear Banner in the World" at Perl-Apach where the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg converge.
Please contact "Sortir du Nucléaire" as soon as possible at: 9, rue Dumenge, Lyon 69004, France Tel: +33-4-7828 2922; Fax: +33-4-7207 7004
Email: rezo@sortirdunucleaire.org
WWW: www.sortirdunucleaire.org

Austria serious in ending nuclear activities. Austria's largest of three nuclear research reactors (the 10-MW Pool type Astra reactor at the Seibersdorf research center) will be closed on July 31 this year. "This means we are definitely ending the production of nuclear energy in Austria,"" according to the head of Seibersdorf research institute. The reactor started in September 1960 when nuclear energy still appeared to have a bright future.
The highly enriched uranium fuel will be transported back to the US, after a few years of cooling on-site. Estimated costs of the decommissioning are between 300 and 600 million Schilling (98 to 196 million US$). Annual costs for running the reactor are 20 million Schilling. The Austrian government will provide funds for shutting down.
Other Seibersdorf nuclear activities are: an isotope lab which is being rebuilt so it can detect nuclear test and which is part of the CTBT verification process, and a radiochemical lab which can research the composition of nuclear isotopes (to detect the origin for instances in case of illegal trafficking). According to press reports, this lab is looking for incorporation by the IAEA. Nuclear fusion research which was conducted at the institute will be redirected to universities.Salzburger Volkszeitung, 19 March 1999

Latest plan to deal with Chernobyl-4 ruins. Ukrainian scientists claim Chernobyl-4 could be buried a kilometer underground rather than dismantled. A Ukrainian group led by science and technology institutes has drawn up a plan to excavate a 1,000-m deep hole for the destroyed reactor and the sarcophagus to "fall in" to, then filling and sealing it. At a cost of US$1.5 billion, the plan's proponents argue, this would be cheaper than the current option of strengthening of replacing the sarcophagus before gradually extracting the contents, and could be done using Ukrainian manpower without the need for foreign experts. Nuclear Engineering International, March 1999, cited in UI News briefing 99.11; 10-16 March 1999

South Korea: 3% more for electricity to pay for N-reactors in DPRK. The government of South Korea has announced plans to underwrite its financial commitment to the KEDO consortium by raising electricity tariff rates by 3%. KEDO (USA, Japan, South Korea and other countries) is responsible for the constuction of two light-water reactors in North Korea. In 1974, the Dutch government announced a 3%-raise of electricity bills to finance the construction of the fast breeder reactor at Kalkar, Germany. Many people refused to pay and this meant the start of the massive popular anti-nuclear movement in The Netherlands, which ultimately resulted in the loss of perspective for the nuclear industry. Good example! Meanwhile, the US and North Korea have reached an agreement on inspections of a suspected nuclear facility. The two countries have agreed to a bilateral agricultural scheme to improve potato production and to supply previously agreed upon food aid instead of "compensation" payments in return of inspection rights. UI News Briefing99.11, 10-16 March 1999 / Financial Times, 17 March 1999

Computer virus on April 26? A Finnish encryption software and computer virus protection group warned that a malicious virus will threaten computers worldwide on April 26. That date is the 13th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The CIH 2.1 virus--also called CIH. 1003--can destroy a computer's hard disk and the contents of memory chips, but the virus would probably not be a problem for those who have anti-virus programs updated in 1999. Reuters, 19 March 1999

Germany: Pension for widow of radiation victim. A German court has given due course to the right to the widow of a nuclear power plant worker. The man died in 1996 of leukemia after he had worked for many years in the plant's Greifswald and Reihnsberg. In the seventies several smaller incidents occurred in these powerplants. The court justified its vote with several expert opinions. One doctor stated considerable traces of radioactivity under all the workers' fingernails were found. This was the first time German courts accepted the causes of radioactivity as an occupational disease. Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 27/28 March 1999

US state fails to benefit victims' radiations experiments. A judge has ruled that the Oregon Department of Corrections has not followed a state law intended to protect the health of former inmates who underwent radiation experiments more than 25 years ago. "There are violations that are substantial and they need to be addressed," said Multnomah County Circuit Judge Michael Marcus.
Marcus said the state of Oregon had failed to adequately notify the former inmates, failed to provide psychological counseling and failed to conduct a study to determine the long-term effects of the testing. Between 1963 and 1973, federal researchers conducted X-ray experiments on an estimated 69 Oregon inmates. A law passed in 1987 required the Department of Corrections to provide for any resulting medical needs of the men. In his ruling, Marcus stopped short of issuing an injunction ordering the state to make changes. Marcus told the two sides to try to come up with a resolution based on his findings. The Oregonian (US), 13 March 1999

Radioactive substances missing. According to David Kyd at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), every year about three or four flasks containing radioactive material get lost or stolen. But, he continues, "the real figure may be higher". Instances of lost or stolen radioactive material in Russia and the former Soviet Union probably at least doubles the final figure, experts believe.
The radioactive isotope which went missing at the Johannesburg Airport, South Africa, on March 2 is encased in a container that weighs 89 kg and is 36 cm high. It was en route to Israel. The IAEA advises the public to inform the relevant authorities if they come across it and not to tamper with the container! The IAEA has classed the loss of the isotope as a level two incident on a scale from zero to seven. Seven refers to a major nuclear accident.
Later in March a man in Peru was reported to be seriously ill after carrying an industrial radioactive source which he found for an estimated eight hours. The IAEA reported the man had received 50 gray of radiation from the iridium-192 source. Reuters, 9 March 1999 / N-Base Briefing 172, 20 March 1999

Scottish cancers increase after Chernobyl. There has been a big increase in thyroid cancer in women in Scotland since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Official figures from the Cancer Registration Statistics Office show an increase of over 45%--there were 250 more cases of thyroid cancer in women than would have been predicted. In total there have been 828 women and 292 men in Scotland who have developed thyroid cancer since 1982. The report states that the increase among women is statistically significant. It is suggested inhaling radioactive iodine from Chernobyl pollution could be the cause, or contaminated milk is another possibility. N-Base Briefing 172, 20 March 1999

Nuclear waste storage in salt: Explosion danger

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) New evidence has been found that salt, if irradiated by nuclear waste, may become a high explosive. Professor H.W. den Hartog from Groningen University, the Netherlands, has studied the behavior of irradiated salt for 15 years. "If irradiated, salt is heated, explosive reactions occur," he said.

(508.4997) Herman Damveld - One of the scientific controversies concerning storage of nuclear waste in underground salt formations is the damage done by irradiation. If salt is irradiated by nuclear waste, it is partly converted into its elements: chlorine and sodium.
Den Hartog wanted to research this process, because much energy is released if the process is reversed. Previous research had led him to the opinion that this could possibly lead to an underground explosion. When the temperature is raised, chlorine and sodium recombine again into salt. The energy released during this reaction may cause the melting and eventually vaporization of the stored casks with nuclear waste. "At the time we did not know what triggered the explosion, but meanwhile we have proven a number of facts. First, much more salt,15 or more percent, is converted into chlorine and sodium as formerly assumed. We proved that in experiments," he states. This means that much more energy is released if the process is reversed.

A second important discovery is the fact that holes are created when the salt is converted into its two elements. The dimensions of the holes are one thousandth of a millimeter. Those holes are unstable and they will implode, Den Hartog found. This causes locally a rapid rise of temperature, which leads to a shock wave. The shock wave in its turn causes the recombination of chlorine and sodium to salt, which process liberates energy and the shockwave is further enforced.

What happens if a cask with nuclear waste, stored in a salt dome in the north of the Netherlands, explodes? Den Hartog is quite sure that the resulting shockwave might well cause the explosion of another cask. Important is that the salt would surround the casks hermetically. Shockwaves would not subdue for that reason. A salt dome would contain many casks. Virgin salt would conduct shockwaves well; one may expect effects on other casks, even at a distance of 50 meters. "The salt dome will not completely explode," emphasizes Den Hartog, "but the calculated explosive force is not small and expensive damage will be the result."
The governmental appointed Commission Storage of Radioactive Waste (CORA) ommissioned Den Hartog to do the research.
"We have to exclude that explosions will occur in salt domes. That's why I want to know the process as best as I can," concludes Den Hartog. He got the impression that not everybody is of this opinion. There are still people who want to store nuclear waste in salt domes as soon as possible.

Source and contact: Herman Damveld
Selwerderdwarsstraat 18
9717 GN Groningen
The Netherlands
Tel & Fax: +31-50-3125612
Email: H.Damveld@hetnet.nl

Nuclear weapons from nuclear waste

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) There is a new generation of nuclear weapons which can be produced from radioactive waste. Washington's Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has detailed how materials found in radioactive waste can be used to make nuclear weapons. However, these materials have no special status under IAEA safeguards.

(508.4994) WISE Amsterdam - In the March 31 issue of Jane Defence Weekly, David Albright, head of ISIS, said there are two man-made elements of particular concern --neptunium 237 and americium 241-- both of which are by-products of nuclear power reactors. Albright believes neptunium 237 may already have been used in nuclear weapons. "There is a strong feeling within the nuclear establishment that both America and France have actually conducted nuclear explosive experiments with neptunium 237, thus proving the suitability of this material for use in nuclear explosives," he said.

As the separation of neptunium 237 and americium 241 was being evaluated by more countries starting in the early 1990s, Washington had no choice but to state openly that these materials could be used in nuclear weapons and that they required more domestic and international controls against misuse. In November last year the US Department of Energy declassified information that nuclear explosives could be made from these materials.

According to Albright, the world inventory of neptunium and americium is estimated to exceed 80 metric tons (enough for more than 2,000 nuclear warheads) and growing by about 10 tons annually. The principal concern is that a civilian reprocessing facility or a waste processing facility anywhere in the world - and in full compliance with its safeguards obligations--could extract neptunium 237 and americium 241 and they would not be subject to any sort of international inspection.

In essence, Albright added, a non-weapon state could accumulate significant quantities of these separated nuclear explosive materials beyond the scope of IAEA verification. At present, only plutonium, or enriched uranium 235 or uranium 233, is required by the IAEA to be safeguarded (in non-nuclear weapon states). To include these new categories as "special fissionable materials" by the IAEA is likely to take time. Nonetheless, the IAEA plans to increase the monitoring of these materials in non-nuclear states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As a result of the belief in partitioning and transmutation the amount of separated neptunium and americium is increasing and could further increase also in non-nuclear weapons states. Through transmutation, it is believed that waste is easier to dispose of, but the process includes the separation of actinites. Since the early 1990s, several key countries, including several non-nuclear weapons states, have stepped up research into the removal of actinites from nuclear waste.

As a result of this, high-level waste has now to be considered proliferation-prone, although plutonium has been separated from it.

Source: Jane's Defence Weekly, 31 March 1999
Contact: WISE Amsterdam

Taiwan announces green light for reactors' construction

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council (AEC) gave the green light to the construction of Taiwan's seventh and eighth nuclear plant on March 24, ending a 17-month examination process. The announcement was followed by two days of student protests, outside the AEC's offices in Taipei. On March 28, more than 3,000 people protested peacefully.

(508.5003) WISE Amsterdam - The nuclear power plant, consisting of two units, to be located on Taiwan's northeast coast in the town of Kungliao, is expected to go on line by June 2005, with a total capacity of 2700 MW. It will bring Taiwan's gross installed nuclear power generating capacity to 7800 MW, about one third of the island's total installed capacity. State-owned Taiwan Power Co, tried to quiet the outcry but said construction would move ahead shortly. The Atomic Energy Council said its nearly two-year review and 9,000 pages of documentation concluded the US$4.8 billion project "adequately ensured public health and safety". US giant General Electric Co. will supply the reactors and generators for US$1.8 billion. Plant superstructure has been under construction for three years.

On the eve of the March 28 mass protest against the decision (and also to commemorate the TMI accident), lawmakers of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called a news conference to reiterate their opposition to a new nuclear power plant. DPP lawmakers accused Taiwan Power Co. of launching construction on the fourth nuclear power plant before receiving a permit by the Taipei County government. Following a fact-finding inspection to the construction site in Kungliao township in Taipei County, the lawmakers said they found that 20% of the construction project has been carried out, including the laying of a foundation 20 stories deep to accommodate the reactor. Under these circumstances and in the absence of adequate government supervision, the Taiwan people will be in great danger, they claimed.

There has been stiff opposition to the building of the two units, called the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, for almost 20 years. Taipower (the state-owned power utility, and sole provider of electricity in Taiwan) drafted a plan for the plant's construction as early as 1980, but protests and negative public opinion have prevented its passage.

Non-binding referendums have been held on the issue in Taipei County, Taipei City, Ilan County and the northern coastal township of Kungliao, where the plant is to be built. All the referendums have shown that a majority of the public opposes the plant's construction. Although the AEC has approved the plant, TaiPower will still have to seek approval from Taipei County. Taipei County chief Su Chen-chang was at the demonstration and said the county government would not issue a construction license for the plant.


  • Anti Nuke Youth Coalition, 27 March
  • CNA, 27 March
  • China News, 29 March
  • Reuters, 18 and 28 March 1999

TEPU (Taiwan Environmental Protection Unit)
5F, No 1-4 Alley 11
Lane 183, Sec. 1
Hoping East Rd
Tel: +886-2-2393 6957
Fax: +886-2-2362 3458
Email: tepu@msl.hinet.net

UK advice: Underground repository for LLW; excess PU should be classified as waste

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) The House of Lord's Select Committee on Science and Technology's Report on UK Nuclear Waste Management Policy, published on March 24, has accepted nuclear industry propaganda on the need for nuclear waste dumps. The industry takes the view that the key problem with developing a nuclear dump site is to persuade the public to accept it.

(508.5004) WISE Amsterdam - The report into the management of nuclear waste has come down in favor of at least one deep repository for low-level wastes. The committee, whose report will form the basis of the UK government review of its nuclear waste policy and new legislation, said present UK policies for managing radioactive waste was "fragmented". The report also recommends that plutonium and uranium which isn't going to be used for fuel--the vast majority--should be classified as waste.

The report proposes a re-examination of the policy of substitution -- returning smaller quantities of high-level waste to overseas customers, with the same quantity of radioactivity as would have been returned in much larger quantities of low-level waste. There is criticism for the Ministry of Defence for its policy towards waste management and its lack of long-term planning. The committee supports continued reprocessing of Magnox fuels and concludes that "reprocessing [advanced-gas-cooled] and [pressurized water reactor] fuel is environmentally neutral compared to direct disposal, but reprocessing of this fuel is not valuable as a waste management method unless the separated plutonium can be recycled and re-used."
However, the report offers little comfort to British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL). It points out that since nuclear reprocessing multiplies the volume of nuclear waste, particularly if plutonium is treated as waste as the Lords recommend, BNFL's plans for Britain to become a major importer of spent nuclear fuel would require a much larger nuclear dump than previously proposed. The government would now have to include its promised review of reprocessing as part of its review of nuclear waste management.

The committee recommends replacing the existing NIREX waste management company and the Radioactive Waste Management Committee with a Radioactive Waste Disposal Company to design, construct, and operate the repository, or repositories, and a Nuclear Waste Management Commission to develop "a comprehensive strategy".

Friends of the Earth has described the report as "taking a wrong turn from page one". The Committee expects the British public to go along with a program to convince them to accept nuclear waste dumps. But the 1996 Nirex Inquiry, which ended in a complete victory for the objectors including FOE, established that we do not have the science to keep nuclear waste isolated from human communities for the hundreds of thousands of years needed for it to become safe.


  • Friends of the Earth press release, 24 March
  • N-Base Briefing 173, 28 March 1999

Contact: Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
London N1 7JQ
Tel: +44-171-490 1555
Fax: +44-171-490 0881 Email: susdec@foe.co.uk

Uranium Institute: Nuclear lobby organisation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
(April 9, 1999) The London-based Uranium Institute has decided to become the world's main nuclear lobby organization. Until now it represented the interests of the world's uranium producers. The UI is proud of its influence on results of the OSPAR Convention agreement; it claims it secured nuclear interests in the fifth's Framework Program of the EU and it also is very active in discussions on the climate-change issue.

(508.5000) WISE Amsterdam - When the Uranium Institute (UI) was funded in 1975, the UI occupied itself with problems around accusations of a uranium cartel and high uranium prices. After 1980, the price drop of uranium and market problems kept them busy. The new lobby strategy is dominated by globalization and the importance of international guidelines. Its new subtitle is now: "The International Association for Nuclear Energy". The new strategy is based on two types of activity -data collection and information circulation, and generation of arguments to influence international policy-making.

Until the UI took on its new role, there was in fact no nuclear industry group lobbying at international institutions. To realize its plans, the UI has sought and found the status of NGO at international bodies like the International Maritime Organization and the OSPAR Convention. In contrast to the early years of the UI, when nuclear programs were determined by national programs, energy and environmental policies are now discussed on an international level. Therefore, the UI wants to steer international decision making like the Kyoto agreement in a direction favorable to nuclear power. Their objective is clear: "revival and growth of nuclear power worldwide by 2010", said chairman Rougeau, who is also president of Foratom, a federation of European atomic fora. The UI will cooperate with other most national nuclear lobby organizations like the US Nuclear Energy Institute, the JAIF from Japan and the KAIF from South Korea. These groups formed the International Nuclear Forum that lobbied in Kyoto.

Successful lobbying
In the runup to the OSPAR Convention agreement, the UI claims it helped to produce a livable compromise for reprocessing industry on reduction of radioactive emissions into the North Atlantic to "close to zero". The preliminary version aimed for zero releases and contained no technical exceptions. Due to footwork by the UI before the meeting they say, the final agreement was so worded that it did not pose major problems for the French and British reprocessing industries, Cogema and BNFL: a close-to- zero reduction in 20 years with several exemptions (see WISE NC 495.4888 on more on OSPAR agreement).
A prime target of lobbying would be the European Union (EU), because several EU countries have cut their nuclear research and the European Commission is now managing the big spending. The UI has fought hard and with success, it claims, to keep nuclear fission and new reactors, like the high-temperature reactor and the Rubia accelarator system, as items in the EU's 5th Framework R&D Program. Lobbying in Europe was the job of Foratom, but given the size of the task, the much bigger UI now supports the small Foratom staff.

On the agenda of UI's 24th annual symposium this September, there is not a word about uranium or the fuel cycle. Instead the main themes will be: nuclear competitiveness, financing, CO2 emission trading and technology development. A new working group will explore the competitiveness of nuclear power. But another new panel will investigate the issue of "non- mine" uranium sources, which by now supply 45% of total uranium supply. Typical non-mine uranium sources: civil inventories, surplus defense materials, enrichment tails and recycled uranium plus plutonium. Both working groups will report by mid-2000. In the year 2000 the UI will celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Source: Nuclear Fuel, 8 March 1999
Contact:Uranium Institute
12th Floor, Bowater House West
114 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LJ
Tel: +44-171-225 0303; +44-171-225 0308
Email: ui@london.org

Ward Valley court case victory; U.S. Ecology surrenders

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) The Colorado River Native Nations Alliance and Ward Valley Coalition celebrate the decision by the US District Court refusing to force a transfer of land to the state of California for a nuclear waste dump and US Ecology's announcement that it would not appeal the decision and, in fact, deem the project over.

(508.4993) WISE Amsterdam - Proponents of the controversial Ward Valley radioactive waste dump lost their lawsuit attempting to force the dump's opening. The lawsuit, brought by then California Gov. Pete Wilson and US Ecology, the company that wanted to operate the nuclear dump 25 km from the Colorado River, had asked that the federal government be ordered to transfer federal land for use as a radioactive waste disposal facility. In the wake of these announcements on April 2, the Colorado River Native Nations Alliance (CRNNA) and Ward Valley Coalition are calling upon Gov. Davis to act immediately to put a final end to this ill-fated project by withdrawing the state's application for the land at Ward Valley. "This is a big victory for the Tribes and for all of the people who have worked so hard and for so many years to stop this project," said Nora Helton, chairwoman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. Joe Nagel, president of American Ecology Corp., which has been seeking to develop the site through the subsidiary US Ecology, said he would not appeal the decision. "And we are not going to press Gov. Davis to appeal," Nagel said. "I think Ward Valley is over, Ward Valley is dead." Although the court decision and US Ecology's announcement are potentially fatal blows to the project, until the land application is withdrawn Ward Valley will not be safe from a nuclear waste site.

Ward Valley was proposed to take low-level radioactive waste, almost all from nuclear reactors, and dump it in unlined trenches. Very long-lived wastes like plutonium, strontium, and cesium would have been dumped there. The proposed operator had a troubled track record, with many of its past dumps having leaked and been closed; one is a Superfund site. Concern that the nearby Colorado River, source of water for much of the southwestern United States, could be contaminated contributed to the widespread public opposition to the project.

The Colorado River Native Nations Alliance, consisting of the Fort Mojave, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Quechan, and Colorado River Indian Tribes, have long opposed the siting of any type of radioactive waste facility on land they hold sacred. Together with environmentalists and activists from all over the world they have maintained a constant presence on the land at Ward Valley for three years and last year occupied the land for 113 days, successfully halting further desecration of the sacred valley.

"Hand in hand, Native and non-Native people from all over the world have worked to win this important battle. This victory proves to us all that truth and justice do have a chance in this world today when the people work together," said Molly Johnson, office coordinator of the Save Ward Valley office in Needles. "We ask Gov. Davis to heed the word of the people, withdraw the land application and finally lay this project to rest."


  • Press release, Save Ward Valley, 2 April
  • Press release, Bridge the Gap, 2 April
  • Associated Press, 3 April 1999

Save Ward Valley
107 F Street
CA 92363
Tel: +1-760-326-6267
Fax: +1-760-326-6268
WWW: www.shundahai.org/SWVAction.html