#534 - September 15, 2000

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Full issue

To all readers.

(September 15, 2000) As you may have noticed I'm no longer the editor of the WISE News Communique. After 6 years of editing and more than 10 years working on the NC I am rethinking my priorities in the anti nuclear struggle and will contribute to it on a different level. This, however, does not exclude future contributions to the NC again. I will, after all, it is an important tool, but the when and the how I do not know yet.
By this way, I want to thank everybody for co-operating with me in making the News Communique happen over the past years.
Dirk Bannink

For six years Dirk did the excellent and arduous job of editor of the News Communique. To produce twenty issues a year, facing a deadline again and again, is not an easy job. With the arrival of Stuart Field as the new editor, we want also to thank Dirk for having done his job of editor. We really appreciate the work you have done! Thanks!
WISE staff: Robert Jan van den Berg, Joop Boer, Erik Faijer, Stuart Field, Peter Kodde, Peer de Rijk, Myrthe Verweij

When I was awarded a university scholarship by the British power generator CEGB in 1983, I did not realize that the prize included light radioactive contamination. A few weeks of working in the nuclear industry were enough for me to become opposed to it and join the "alternative" movement. Since then I have been involved in organic farming, social banking and the co-operative movement in Britain and the Netherlands. I have joined WISE because I feel that an accurate and reliable source of information for anti-nuclear campaigners is essential. My work as the new editor started 2 weeks ago. This News Communique is the first one I have prepared, and I am looking forward to having plenty of contact with our readers.
Stuart Field

Reproduction of this material is encouraged. Please give credit when reprinting.

Austrian nuclar policy under the ÖVP-FPÖ government

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Little has changed in Austria's nuclear policy since the SPÖ(Social Democrat)-ÖVP(Christian Democrat) coalition was replaced by an ÖVP-FPÖ(Freedom Party) government in February this year.

(534.5200) PLAGE - The real big chance for Austria to influence the course of international nuclear policy was before and at the Helsinki summit on EU enlargement. This unique chance was miserably given away despite excellent preparation. Austria's isolation due to the nationalist "Freedom" Party's entry into government led to a standstill of activity. As the isolation seemed to somewhat fade away, some life is getting back into official Austrian nuclear policy. It is the antinuclear groups as well as regional parliaments and governments that kept "the flame burning" during the standstill. Funding of antinuclear NGO activities has been maintained at about the same level as under the former government.

In recent years, real cornerstones of a consistent official antinuclear policy by the Austrian government had been laid as a result of years of NGO work: in particular, the July 1998 new Nuclear Liability Law; the July 1999 Law for a Nuclear-Free Austria (as a part of the Constitution); and the July 1999 Antinuclear Government Action Plan, i.e. the practical policy guidelines and steps to be taken on the basis of the two laws and of several important all-party parliamentary resolutions (see WISE News Communique 515, AAI Page: "New 'Action Plan' of the Austrian government" ). This provided the Austrian (SPÖ-ÖVP) government with a sufficiently sound, coherent argument to take a sober, but firm position on nuclear issues during the preparatory talks to the December 1999 Helsinki summit on EU enlargement and during the summit itself.

Nuclear power, the FPÖ & Haider

In the seventies, the big governing parties, SPÖ and ÖVP, were advocates of nuclear power and wanted Austria's first nuclear power plant at Zwentendorf. The FPÖ, much smaller in size and still with liberal policies then, was the only party in Parliament that opposed nuclear power. A 1978 referendum had made Zwentendorf the first and last and non-operating NPP with 50.47% "no" votes. In a SPÖ-FPÖ government coalition at the beginning of the 80's, it was Vice-Chancellor Norbert Steger (FPÖ) who upheld the 1978 referendum "no" against heavy pressure from the SPÖ to topple that result through a second referendum. FPÖ party chief Steger, who was clearly more a liberal than a nationalist, was later on defeated and ousted by Jörg Haider.

Under Haider and now under Ms Riess-Passer, the FPÖ has remained strongly antinuclear. But with a few exceptions, FPÖ politicians often seem little interested in arguments, the loud and populist stance prevails. Back in 1983-84, Haider demanded a remake of the 1978 referendum while party leader Steger and active antinuclear groups desperately struggled to keep the floodgates tight against this. At that time, joining the chorus (SPÖ, large ÖVP portions, the Industrialists' Union, the big ÖGB Workers' Union) for a second referendum clearly meant to play the game of the pronuclear lobby (knowing full well that they would not be taken off guard once again and would very likely win thanks to their overwhelming financial resources). That is a very early example of Haider's populist, or opportunist, character, licking the heels of the industry at a time when Austrians as a whole were highly uncertain whether their narrow "no" to Zwentendorf had been the right decision.

Haider and the FPÖ have really become big at a time when the Austrian population, after Chernobyl (1986), was already welded together in antinuclear consensus. And ever since, Haider, too, has taken a strong stand against civil nuclear plants. At present, no other influential Austrian politician puts it so plainly: "Either the Czech Republic won't start up Temelin, or it won't get into the EU." He is of course also playing on nationalist sentiments. On the other hand, SPÖ and ÖVP and their previous coalition government could have taken such a clear, determined stand, too, without playing on the nationalist or xenophobic drum.

However, right after the 1999 Law and Plan had been endorsed by Parliament and the Government, members of the latter started an amazing slalom off the white Alpine slopes: one day it was the Chancellor conceding there would be "certainly no veto to starting EU enlargement negotiations with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Bulgaria if they fail to declare that they will comply with NPP closure dates they formerly promised"; next day it was "Austria does maintain the option of vetoing..." by the Consumers and Nuclear Affairs Minister, of the same coalition party as the Chancellor; and maybe a minister from the other of the two parties saying more or less the opposite; then one official would say one thing in Vienna, while another would say a different thing in Brussels; senior officials were reported to make concessions behind the EU scenes that their ministers, at least officially, hadn't endorsed or allowed. You can imagine the mess.

Thus the anti-nuclear position patiently built up over years was wrecked by the former SPÖ-ÖVP government within weeks. There was a feeling of paralysis creeping around among Austrian antinuclear organizations. It was obvious that there would be next to no sense e.g. in pursuing AAI's (Anti Atom International) Non-Nuclear Countries Coalition (NoNuC) efforts on the official international level in the foreseeable future.

For instance: the Temelin case
That was the situation with the old government. With the new government in February this year, the situation worsened to almost hopeless as far as international antinuclear activities were concerned. While the ÖVP-FPÖ government did declare its commitment to the former coalition's Antinuclear Action Plan, it was nearly paralysed in practical external policy. As the severity of the country's international isolation slowly faded away, the new government gradually scrambled back on its feet, in the nuclear and other fields of international policy. And NGOs, after the stunned initial moment, got back to pressuring the government and the Parliament. After the big Helsinki opportunity to generally tighten EU nuclear safety and operation criteria was given away (see above), we are, however, back to bilateral issues, i.e. conflict about individual nuclear plants.

The most important among these is the Temelin NPP conflict with the Czech Republic. Here, under pressure from public opinion, NGOs and several federal regions (especially Upper Austria which is nearest to Temelin), chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel (ÖVP) finally declared at the end of August that Austria would block the Czech Republic's EU accession negotiations in the energy chapter if long-standing minimum conditions were not fulfilled by the Czech national utility CEZ and the Czech authorities (e.g. access to all relevant safety documents, which has constantly been refused so far; no reactor start-up before the whole Temelin NPP environmental impact assessment procedure is carried out, with a possibility for Austrian citizen and NGO participation; etc.). This strong stand by the government in Vienna comes "one minute before twelve", instead of much earlier, when completion of the Temelin NPP was still a long way off. At that time, as Foreign Affairs minister of the former SPÖ-ÖVP government, Mr Schüssel had repeatedly softened and weakened Austria's official position on the matter. So should Austrians be glad that at long last the present chancellor takes a stand that his predecessor SPÖ chancellor Viktor Klima could and should have taken but didn't, when Schüssel himself didn't take it then, and now does so when it is almost too late?

A mixture of light and dark
So the ÖVP-FPÖ picture is a mixture of light and dark in many other respects of nuclear and energy policy, too - and in this again resembles the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition policy a lot:

  • Like the previous one, the present government unambiguously opposes nuclear power as a solution to the global climate problem: In November in The Hague, Austria will be among the countries that want to exclude nuclear energy from the Clean Development Mechanism.
  • Nuclear power imports have been rapidly growing: ca. 1.5% of Austria's electricity consumption was of nuclear origin before liberalization, and Austria's "clean" hydropower exports then outweighed by far the nuclear portion in overall import. At present, nuclear power imports seem to account for around 12.5% of the country's consumption. While this development is due to a lack of environmental provisions within the EU liberalization framework and not specific of the present ÖVP-FPÖ government, it is a perversity of Austrian antinuclear policy that governments past and present and their coalition partners SPÖ, ÖVP and FPÖ have constantly avoided debating with the NGOs and the Greens, who have warned about this ever since the EU accession debate began in this country more than ten years ago.
  • But again, there is some light on the horizon: the new Austrian electricity law (ElWOG) contains a provision (§13) which allows the government to reject contracts for electricity from power plants outside the European Union that are not "state-of-the-art" (see WISE News Communique 531, In brief: "Luxembourg bans electricity imports from the East"). While this provision is hypocritical in itself since it does not apply to EU power facilities that are not "state-of-the-art", it could at least put a brake on nuclear power dumping from Eastern Europe.
  • However, at least one of the nine regional utilities, Wienstrom, has evaded the ElWOG provision with the complicity of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and is importing nuclear electricity from CEZ. This electricity was declared to be from hydropower, but Czech hydropower is relatively expensive, with generating costs higher than the price Wienstrom was paying. As a result, CEZ was accused of dumping. In reply, the Czech Prime Minister Zeman and CEZ were forced to admit that the electricity actually came from the Dukovany nuclear power plant.
  • Such double-dealing has led to increasing pressure on Austrian utilities and authorities to tackle the long-standing scandal of overt and hidden subsidies for nuclear electricity in the EU. In his answer to a demand by the Salzburg Platform Against Nuclear Perils (PLAGE), the Federation for the Protection of Nature (ÖNB) and others, the head of the supervisory board of the Salzburg City Utility writes that the Austrian utilities are in fact "examining the possibility" of legal proceedings at the EU level against such distortions of competition rules. And more concretely still, and as a spin-off from the anti-Temelin movement, the Upper Austrian public utility Energie AG has announced it will file suit against electricity dumping by the would-be Temelin operator CEZ. Hopefully, this could spark the first broad debate, and conflict, within EU institutions on competition rules, subsidies, privileges and true cost in the electricity sector.

Source and contact: Heinz Stockinger at PLAGE (Plattform gegen Atomgefahren), c/o Arenbergstrasse 10, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Tel: +43-662-643567; Fax: +43-662-643734
Email: plage@salzburg.co.at


COP6 Preparatory Meeting

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 15, 2000) In Lyon, France, from 11 until 15 September government delegations and lobbyists from both environmental and industrial groups met for the preparatory meeting of the official COP6 Climate Conference in The Hague, Netherlands in November. In fact, this preparatory meeting is more a place where the delegations try to make deals on some issues in advance of the main COP6 meeting.

(534.5202) WISE Amsterdam - The nuclear lobby had a strong delegation in Lyon. Groups like the Uranium Institute, Foratom and the European Nuclear Society all had several lobbyists wandering around the "Palace de Congres". They also had a stand with loads of fancy flyers and a big sign saying "Nuclear Energy, a part of the solution". The strategy of the nuclear lobby was subtler than at previous occasions. Several anti-nuclear activists in a Climate Action Network meeting concluded that instead of just saying "Nuclear energy is the solution for climate change" most lobby briefings, like a paper of Foratom, now said: "All CO2 free sources of energy, including nuclear, are needed in the international effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions - and to meet the global demand for electricity which is set to increase dramatically in the decades to come."

Another move that nuclear lobbyists are working on is getting nuclear energy recognized as a sustainable energy source on an international level. Helene Connor from Helio International, a French NGO, warned other Environmental NGO's that nuclear lobbyists are doing a big effort to get nuclear energy on the agenda of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. The UNCSD is a UN Commission with 53 government delegations that are monitoring the various agreements that originated from the Earth Summit in Rio in 1990, concerning climate change, biodiversity and other environmental issues. In the next meeting (UNCSD-9) in April 2001, the commission will meet in New York, US. During the meeting there will be an exhibition on sustainable technology next to the UN building. Currently there is a debate going whether or not Canadian reactor builder Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) will be allowed to take part in that exhibition.

The Ad hoc Intergovernmental Expert Group on Energy within the UNCSD is to discuss potential sustainable energy sources. This expert group, which will meet in February to prepare for UNCSD-9 has been targeted by nuclear lobbyists to include nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source, says Connor. That would pave the way for nuclear energy to get rubber-stamped as sustainable. Helio International is currently gathering a petition among NGO's that calls to exclude nuclear energy from the UNCSD meeting and urges NGO's from member countries to put pressure on their governments to ask for the same.

It looks as if the attempt to get nuclear on the agenda of the UNCSD could be a back-up plan of the nuclear lobby. Their current strategy still is to prevent any technology list to be drafted at the COP6 meeting, rather than to have to accept a positive list without nuclear energy.

The chairing committee of the Lyon meeting made it clear that they want the CDM list to be decided upon at COP6 in November. Whether or not that will happen depends heavily on the position of the US, which has a heavily weighted vote at the climate talks. They tend to oppose any list that specifically excludes certain technologies from CDM. If no list is drawn up at COP6, the discussion will drag on to the next COP meeting.

Source and contact: WISE Amsterdam

Fischer allows export of German MOX plant to Russia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 15, 2000) On 1 September 2000 the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joschka Fischer, from the Greens, made a complete turn-around. The same man who caused the mothballing of a MOX fuel facility in Hanau back in 1995 now allows the same MOX plant to be exported to Russia.

(534.5201) WISE Amsterdam - His argument 5 years ago, as Minister of Environment in the state of Hessen, to halt the plant was mainly because he and his party were against a plutonium economy. His argument now for allowing export of the MOX plant: he has no legal grounds for blocking such an export.

US-Russia agreement
The export of the Hanau facility is part of a US-Russian agreement to dispose each of at least 34 metric tons of weapons plutonium. On 1 September, the US and Russia officially agreed, after many years of negotiations, to each dispose 34 tonnes of military plutonium, when vice-president Gore signed the agreement. The Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov had signed it earlier that week. The US-Russian agreement states that the Russian MOX plant must be operating at least in 2007 and that its initial throughput of 2 tons of plutonium a year should double as soon as possible.

The deal is said to solve the proliferation problems connected with the management and storage of surplus weapon plutonium, both in the US and Russia. The MOX program in Russia is to be financed partly from US Non-Proliferation Policy budgets, partly by the other G8 countries. The US Congress already allocated US$200 million for it. The G8 failed in its Okinawa, Japan, summit to finalize a decision on financing the costs for the new plutonium facilities, which is officially estimated at US$1.74 billion, but could cost more. A decision on financing by the G8 was postponed until next year.

There have been discussions on weapon-plutonium management for about a decade. Nuclear disarmament deals struck between the US and Russia caused a large surplus of weapon plutonium. In 1998 US President Clinton and his Russian counterpart Yeltsin pledged to dispose of 50 tons of military plutonium at each side. The 34 tons agreement is seen as a first step in fulfilling this pledge.

The US-Russian agreement is actually a compromise. The US has pressed Russia for years to agree with a weapon-plutonium agreement, but preferred a dual approach like their own program. This means that one part of the plutonium amount is converted into MOX fuel for nuclear power reactors and the other part is mixed with high-level waste and vitrified for storage. With vitrification, the plutonium is immobilized in glass. Russia however kept refusing to introduce the dual approach and preferred the 100% MOX approach. With this agreement the US has given in: Russia is now allowed to use all 34 tons of plutonium for MOX fuel. The US had to agree with the Russian wishes as the future of its domestic MOX program is conditional on progress of the Russian plutonium disposition program, which was mandated by the US Congress. Russia on her side had to give in for the reason that for any plutonium disposition program it would be dependent on foreign financing.

In the US 25.6 tons of the plutonium will be fabricated into MOX fuel and about 8.4 tons plutonium will be immobilized. The US plans to load MOX fuel into a small number of commercial reactors. The US government has given the order to design and construct MOX and immobilization plants at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. A consortium called "Duke COGEMA Stone & Webster" was given the contract to design, build and operate the MOX facility.

Russia has always preferred to use the plutonium for fuel for Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR's). The reason was that FBR's are able to consume more plutonium than normal Light Water Reactors would do. For them it is a compromise that most of the plutonium will not be loaded into FBR's, but in LWR's. The MOX fuel is to be used in Russia's seven VVER-1000 Pressurized Water Reactors and its two fast-breeders of Beloyarsk BN-600 and BOR-60 at Dimitrovgrad. The VVER-1000's have to be converted for the use of MOX as well as the BN-600, which was designed to use highly enriched uranium. Japan will assist in the BN-600 conversion.

In Hanau two MOX plants were built by Siemens for operation by its subsidiary Alkem. Hanau 1, with a capacity of 25 tonnes a year, operated from 1972 to 1991 and fabricated a total of 158 tonnes of MOX fuel. The plant was plagued by a long series of accidents. Its average annual production was less than 8 tonnes of MOX, less than 25% of its capacity. It was Fischer, then minister of environment in Hessen, who succeeded in finally closing Hanau 1 in 1991 after a series of accidents.

Hanau 2 had a planned annual capacity of 120 tonnes and construction costed DM 1.4 billion (US$0.63 billion). It was 90% complete when it was mothballed in 1995, before it ever operated. This closure was also due to Fischer's opposition. Siemens has kept the plant on stand-by since five years, at a cost of over ten million DM. It sold some parts of the plant to the US and France and some equipment to BNFL, UK. In the past, Siemens had threatened to dismantle the plant if the German government would not allow the facility to be exported.

Already in 1992 Siemens and the German government had proposed to export German MOX technology to Russia, with the argument of lessening proliferation risks. But the proposal fell through.

The shipping and installing of the Hanau 2 equipment will cost Russia US$40 million. The German government, including Fischer, was put under pressure from the US to agree with the export of the Hanau MOX plant to Russia.

Fischer has stated that the government would refuse financial help for the MOX plant export through the government's Hermes export credits, but he had no legal grounds to refuse an export license itself. The German government however was prepared to make financial contributions for the option of immobilization and disposal.

Ironically, Alexander Mueller, a Green spokesman from Hessen, said about the Hanau MOX plant: "if we had not prevented the start of the facility in Hanau at that time, it would have been so radioactive now that Russia would not accept it anymore."

Critical reactions
The US Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) stated that the deal was "premature and dangerous" and that "it would be much easier to resolve safeguards and liability issues if the primary disposition method were to immobilize plutonium in waste rather than turn it into fuel", which would be faster, cheaper and safer.

With an annual production capacity of 2 tons the processing of 34 tons of plutonium into MOX fuel would take 17 years. According to Greenpeace Germany, a vitrification plant could be built as quickly as the MOX plant and the processing of the uranium itself could be done more quickly.

Contact: Nuclear Control Institute, 1000 Connecticut Ave.,NW Suite 804, Washington, DC 20036, USA. Tel. +1-202-822-8444. Fax +1-202-452-0892.
E-mail nci@nci.org.
Web site www.nci.org


  • NuclearFuel, 11 May 1992
  • Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996, D. Albright et. al., 1997
  • NuclearFuel, 9 August 1999
  • Nucleonics Week, 16 September 1999; NuclearFuel, 10 January 2000
  • Press release Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, 24 July 2000
  • Tageszeitung (FRG), 28, 29 and 30 August 2000
  • Agreement between the governments of the US and Russia, 1 September 2000
  • Nuclear Control Institute press release, 1 September 2000
  • Frankfurter Rundschau (FRG), 1 September 2000
  • NuclearFuel, 7 September 2000.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

French nuclear safety body questions vigilance against fire risks.

(September 15, 2000) French nuclear safety authority DSIN said that fire risks are not sufficiently taken into account in French nuclear installations. Statistics show that a fire starts on average once every two years at each French nuclear installation. More than half of these originate in electrical equipment. Fire vigilance at nuclear installations is vital because of the risks that fires can cause releases of radioactive material into the environment, and in the worst-case scenario lead to a meltdown of the reactor itself. However, Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the DSIN, told a news conference that there is a "lack of fire awareness" in French nuclear installations. AFP, 5 September 2000; Reuters, 6 September 2000

Bulgarian accident leads to safety concerns. A recent accident at the Kozloduy nuclear power station has caused the Bulgarian authorities to express concern at a "worrying tendency of worsening safety" at the plant. Between 2 and 5 people were irradiated with a dose 50 times the allowed single dose. The level of radioactivity reached 80 times the permitted safety limits. Radioactivity was discovered in an administrative building several tens of meters from the reactor. The accident occurred during a fuel change, and was described as similar to the one that took place in 1998 (see WISE News Communique 495: In Brief). Kozloduy is the only nuclear power station in Bulgaria, and it produces 40% of the country's electricity needs.
The operator National Elecricity Company (NEK) has also failed to transfer money for decommissioning and dealing with radioactive waste to the special funds set up for this, despite billing electicity consumers for the money. Added to this, it is reported that the basins for spent fuel from Units 5 and 6 are nearly full, and unless some of the spent fuel is removed, the units will not receive an operation license for the next fuel cycle. Email from Centre for Environmental Information & Education, 13 September 2000; AFP, 6 September 2000; BBC News Europe, 6 September 2000

Ukrainian activists demand funds for radioactive waste. On 6 September, hundreds of environmentalists protested against radioactive waste storage sites in the country, demanding more funds for outdated facilities. According to the Green Party, the state-run Radon company that manages the waste facilities has only received Hr 2.5 billion (US$454,000) for this year, while its actual needs are five times higher. The site near Kiev was built in the 1950s and had been filled beyond its capacities. Already in the 1980s it was supposed to undergo reconstruction but no funds were available. Apart from a demonstration in the capital Kiev, demonstrations were simultaneously held at Radon facilities near Kiev, the southern town of Odessa and Kharkiv in the northeast. Kyiv Post, 6 September 2000

Contaminated metal smugglers stopped near Chernobyl. The Ukrainian police arrested six citizens from Belarus on suspicion of trying to steal radioactive contaminated metal from the Chernobyl zone. The six were detained while driving a truck loaded with 1.1 tons of non-ferrous metal. They were stopped within the 30 kilometers "exclusion zone". Thieves who sneak past military cordons have already emptied the zone of most valuables and poor Ukrainians even gather mushrooms and berries there and sell them to unsuspecting customers. Associated Press, 1 September 2000

Grid failure shuts Russian reactors. In the weekend of 9-10 September, several nuclear reactors were forced to shut down due to a failure in the electricity grid. Reactors at the fuel reprocessing plant of Mayak in Chelyabinsk were shut down when the plant was cut off the grid for 45 minutes. At the Beloyarsk nuclear complex, a nuclear power reactor was also shut down Reuters, 12 September 2000

European Union agrees in principle with funding K2/R4. The EU has approved in principle the plans for funding the completion of the Khmelnitski-2 and Rivne-4 reactors in the Ukraine. The commission argued that the loans are part of efforts to improve nuclear safety in Eastern Europe. The EU however stated that it would only do so if the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) also decided to fund the project, which would decide later this year. BBC News, 6 September 2000

Squirrel shuts down nuclear plant. The Wolf Creek nuclear plant in Kansas was shut down on 4 September after a squirrel climbed onto a transformer, electrocuting himself and starting a fire. The fire was put out by an automatic sprinkler system, but the transformer, which supplies power to the plant itself, was damaged by the fire, resulting in the plan's shutdown. The equipment which protects the nuclear power was unaffected, and there were no injuries (except to the squirrel). The incident was described as "a fluke". The Wichita Eagle, 5 September 2000

Japan: US$121 million in compensation. JCO, the owner of a uranium-processing plant, agreed to pay US$121 million in compensation to settle 6,875 cases, after a criticality accident in their plant on Sept. 30, 1999. The cases involve people exposed to radiation, farms, fisheries and service industries that suffered losses. The settlement was reached after eight months of negotiations. JCO has to settle another 150 cases, but declined to disclose the amount of money sought. JCO will use US$9.5 million in insurance plus funds from its parent company, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. The accident in Tokai-mura killed two workers and exposed hundreds of people working and living in the area. Associated Press, 4 September 2000

International conference against depleted uranium weapons. On November 4 and 5, a conference on the use of depleted uranium weapons and its health consequences will be held in Manchester, UK. The conference is organized by the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium. Scientists will present the latest information on the soldiers testing programs and medical and environmental effects. Other workshops include: Gulf War and Balkans, radiation detection, government responses, grassroots campaign strategies. For information contact: CADU, One World Centre, 6 Mount St., Manchester M2 5NS, UK. Email: gmdcnd@gn.apc.org or fax: +44-161-834-8187

NEI: New US nuclear reactor to be ordered within five years

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 15, 2000) What do climate change, the booming US economy and the Internet have in common? They are all excuses which the nuclear industry uses to argue that its current period of stagnation must end and a new wave of expansion must begin.

(534.5203) WISE Amsterdam - "As the digital economy continues to grow the U.S. and the rest of the world will need significant amounts of new baseload generating capacity. Some of this generation will be nuclear." With these words, Joe Colvin, president and chief executive of the U.S. Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), used the boom in telecommunications and the Internet to justify further expansion of nuclear generation.

Speaking at a Uranium Institute symposium on 31 August in London, Colvin said that the NEI and five utility companies are identifying "the conditions necessary" for building a new nuclear unit. Licensing, siting and possible Department Of Energy financial support are being investigated.

Although no particular design is being focused on, Colvin mentioned the potential interest of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in licensing Eskom's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). PECO Energy, which is merging with Commonwealth Edison to form Exelon, has now been confirmed as one of the partners in the South-African PBMR project alongside BNFL and the South African utility Eskom. Together they will produce a feasibility study for a 110-MW model. The PBMR is a modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor that has been billed as ideally suited for developing countries. However, NRC officials have also said that it wouldn't be licensable in the US or other industrialised countries because it doesn't have a containment. (See WISE News Communiquearticles 512.5036, "South Africa to build new nuclear reactors", and533.5195, "South African EIA on new reactors: input requested").

Colvin also talked about lifetime extension of existing US nuclear power plants. Five units have already received NRC approval for another 20 years of operation, which would result in a 60-year lifetime. Three units have applications under review and a further 26 units have informed the NRC of their intention to pursue license renewal. Colvin said he expected almost all of these to renew their licenses.

Climate change was another reason that Colvin gave for choosing nuclear. "Increasingly stringent domestic clean air regulations and the potentially deleterious effects of global climate change make it an environmental imperative". However he did admit that nuclear waste is still a problem, for which the NEI is "working with the government to try and find solutions".


  • Reuters, 1 September 2000
  • Nucleonics Week, 7 September 2000

Contact: Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), 1424 16th Street, #404, Washington, DC 20036, USA
Tel: +1-202-328-0002; Fax: +1-202-462-2183
Email: nirsnet@nirs.org
Internet: www.nirs.org

Temelin: Criticality after 17 years of construction?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 15, 2000) This article brings a brief overview of Temelin's history. Another article will follow in the next issue, summarizing opposition to Temelin and updated, most important arguments.

(534.5199) WISE Brno - Despite serious safety concerns, despite protests from neighboring countries and the EU, despite large overcapacity in the electric grid, despite the fact that its operation will create numerous problems that are extremely costly to solve - the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant is set to be started up soon. A long, troubled history .

The Temelin project was initiated in late 1970's, as a part of a Communist plan to build one nuclear power plant in each of the 6 regions of Czechoslovakia. The originally proposed site in South Bohemia was Malovice, but a geological survey found that place to be unsuitable. Therefore, a replacement locality was chosen in 1980 - the village of Temelin.

The realization plan included four Russian-designed VVER-1000/320 reactors. Costs were estimated to be 35 billion CZK for the whole project (US$2.33 billion at the official exchange rates of the time), and the plant was expected to start operation in November 1992, in order to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Great Communist Revolution.

The construction works started in 1983, and wiped out three historical villages. Later on, three more villages were demolished (they were inside the forbidden 3 km zone around the reactors) and four others were partly destroyed due to a river dam built for cooling water.

After the Communist regime collapsed in 1990 the project was cut to half - construction works continued only on the first two out of four reactor blocks. This was due to loud opposition to the plant combined with the fact that decision-makers were scared not to follow public opinion. On the other hand, many of today's opponents at that time believed in the claims of the state-controlled CEZ (Czech Energy Utility) that the two blocks were needed to secure energy needs during 1990's.

In 1992, CEZ decided to upgrade the safety of the plant, because it was obvious that the Soviet designed project contained too many serious flaws. The contract for most extensive upgrades - instrumentation and control system, and new fuel with core design - was signed with Westinghouse. The fact that this bidding process was manipulated was later confirmed by an Internal Audit, whose results were leaked to the media. The largest role in pushing the construction through was played by Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister, whose wife was a member of the CEZ supervisory board for many years (sic!).

It was also Klaus' government who gave the go-ahead by its unanimous vote in March 1993. The conditions, approved as a part of that decision, were to finish the plant by the end of 1995 at a total cost of 68.8 billion CZK (US$1.7 billion). (28 billion CZK had been spent up until then.) The arguments, written in a governmental paper (that was grounds for that approval), warned that if Temelin were not operational in 1995, then in 1996 there would be "100 days a year of electricity blackouts". Many NGOs wrote an open letter at that time, arguing that this is not the case, and also warning that Temelin will in fact cost over 100 billion CZK and will in no case be finished earlier than in 2000.

In 1994, these arguments were voiced at US Congress and US Ex-Im bank. Unfortunately, they were again ignored - and it was US Ex-Im loan guarantees of US$420 million that allowed CEZ to finance Westinghouse supplies for Temelin upgrades.

Technical problems with combination of Soviet and American technologies, as well as the high-handed behavior of Westinghouse - both anticipated by NGOs and independent experts - soon started to trouble the project. Year by year, CEZ was announcing yet another delay and cost overrun. For many years, the promise given to public was always the same: "Temelin will be finished in two years" and "the plant is almost finished, it would be crazy to abandon the construction".

In 1997, a month before he lost his function as Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus said: "Temelin is a tiny step before completion, and the first block is more than 90 % finished."

However, it took only half a year and in May 1998, CEZ had to admit yet another cost overrun and delay, the largest ever in the 1990's. This admission was a result of a request of the new, interim government (before preliminary elections in June 1998), who refused to play the role of clowns always believing in what CEZ says to them. The price of Temelin officially grew to 98.5 billion CZK and the expected date of fuel load was set as August 2000.

That meant such a blow to the economics of the project that the government reacted by a decision to establish - for the first time in Temelin's history - a team of independent experts to answer the question of whether or not to go on with the construction. The results, published in February 1999, were not surprising (at least not to us): no more electricity is needed, and there is only a little chance that operating Temelin will pay back the construction costs; the team also found that the overall risks of abandoning the project are less than if the construction continues.

In the meantime, Czech government has changed again, this time formed by social-democrats led by Milos Zeman as Prime Minister. His government voted on the continuation of Temelin in May 1999, and by a narrow margin of two votes approved finishing the plant. In fact, ministers voted positively about a proposal raised by the minister of industry, Miroslav Gregr, that was in opposition to the findings of the independent experts - it was once again blindly repeating CEZ figures and arguments; the strongest one, voiced in the debates that time, was surprisingly not anymore that Temelin is necessary or cheap, but that if not finished, it would economically destroy CEZ.

Unlike manipulated ministers, president Havel said clearly that he does not trust CEZ anymore: "I do not think that we fought against the Communist government in order to have it be replaced by some peculiar, more hidden and more inconspicuous dictatorship of a single company, even one as respected as CEZ... CEZ has deceived us nine times. Nine times they quoted us a price¨and start-up date for this power station which later proved to be false. Today CEZ says that roughly 74 billion crowns has been invested into the power station and that the total price will be about 100 billion crowns. I do not have any reason to believe CEZ. I have been lied to 9 times. I do not know why I should believe them in the 10th case."


Border crossings blocked in protest against Temelin

Austrian groups have called a series of blockades of Austrian-Czech border crossings as a protest against Temelin. On Saturday 2nd September at the symbolic time of one minute to twelve, 3000 people and 200 tractors blocked border crossings at Wullowitz, Weigetschlag and Guglwald. The blockade lasted five hours. Josef Pühringer, the chairman of the Upper Austrian parliament, said that the Czech authorities showed contempt for the basic rules of good neighborliness in the Temelin affair. On Friday 8 September, there was another protest in which six border crossings were blocked for one hour, and on Saturday 9 September, German and Austrian protestors gathered at the German-Czech border crossing at Philippsreut-Strazny. Further blockades are planned.
Der Standard (A), 4 September 2000; Centrum ENERGIE (CZ), email, 9 September 2000; Radio Prague, 10 September 2000

Once it was clear that the hopes in rationality of the new government had failed (ministers again followed nuclear lobbies and personal interests), NGOs raised the issue of a referendum, in which citizens should decide about whether Temelin should be put on line or not. This campaign also called on prime minister Milos Zeman to fulfil his promises - he wrote to Hnuti DUHA-FoE CZ a signed letter that he insists on a public referendum about this issue (social democrats, while in opposition, were calling for a referendum on Temelin since 1995). Although the petition for referendum gathered 120,000 signatures during a 3-months' campaign this spring, ministers hesitated to take this opportunity and do what their party promised.

Thus, in the beginning of July 2000, despite many protests, CEZ obtained a license for a fuel load into the 1st reactor. The SUJB (State Office for Nuclear Safety), which in the past years had been actively supporting (rather than independently controlling) the project, behaved in a scandalous way, wiping away even the residuals of its independence. It was a state holiday on 5th of July, and all offices were closed; however, SUJB was given all remaining documentation required for a license from CEZ. It took only a few hours during that holiday day, and SUJB gave the permit for fuel load. More than this, SUJB people personally brought the stamped permit down to the Temelin plant from its Prague headquarters. That very afternoon, CEZ lowered the first fuel rod into reactor. SUJB has broken several rules and laws during this suspicious "licensing process", for which NGOs have filed a lawsuit against it.

Nonetheless, CEZ continued with its work, and is now expected to activate the fuel soon. This is amidst and despite heavy protests not only from Czech NGOs, but also neighboring countries (Austria and Germany) and even the European Union. According to Nucleonics Week of 31 August 2000, the second reactor, Temelin-2, is expected to be ready about 15 months after Temelin-1.

Source and contact: Jan Beranek at WISE Brno

See also the following WISE News Commmunique articles:

  • 511.5027, "Czech government: Finish construction of Temelin"
  • 507.4985, "Final report of Temelin investigation team finshed; final vote expected in May"
  • and 503.4963, "Temelin in 1998".


WISE Amsterdam and NIRS announce affiliation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 15, 2000) On 12 September, WISE-Amsterdam and the US based Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) agreed that the two groups will formally affiliate. The affiliation is the result of a year's worth of discussion and negotiation and was approved unanimously by both the boards of WISE-Amsterdam and NIRS.

WISE-Amsterdam, with a dozen relay offices across the globe, and NIRS, with some 6,000 grassroots members, were both founded in 1978 and have followed parallel tracks over the years, often working closely together on selected issues and events.

The affiliation means that WISE-Amsterdam's and NIRS's activities will be coordinated internationally, which we believe will result in a stronger, more cohesive and effective message.

Over the past years, there has been a wave of mergers and consolidations in the nuclear power industry. The nuclear industry, in many ways a symbol of globalization gone amok, no longer answers to any nation or regulator. The future of the nuclear industry is increasingly being determined at the international level, through treaties, agreements and behind-the-scenes pacts.

The affiliation of WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS means that we will be able to effectively challenge the power of the nuclear industry and be more effective on the international level. By being able to concentrate our resources as needed, we will be more helpful to national groups as well. We think that the affiliation will exceed the sum of the parts.

WISE-Amsterdam currently has a dozen relay offices. WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS has made full funding for these offices a major priority. WISE-Paris, which operates separately from the other WISE offices, does consulting, research and other work on energy and plutonium, and will not be part of the affiliation, although it is highly regarded by us.

The first joint project we are working on is the opposition to the proposed inclusion of nuclear energy as a "Clean Development Mechanism" (CDM) in current international negotiations on the Kyoto climate change Protocol. This climate campaign will reach a head in November in The Hague, Netherlands, where WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS will organize activities. WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS will work on the gamut of nuclear-related issues currently plaguing the globe: from the use of MOX fuel to radioactive "recycling" of low-level waste to nuclear transport issues.

We will use a variety of tactics, ranging from research, legal actions, public education, campaigns, to non-violent civil disobedience, to attain our goals.

P.O. Box 59636
1040 LC Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-20-6126368
Fax: +31-20-6892179
Email: wiseamster@antenna.nl
Internet: www.antenna.nl/wise

1424 16th Street NW, #4
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: +1-202-328-0002
Fax: +1-202-462-2183
Email: nirsnet@nirs.org
Internet: www.nirs.org