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Germany

Gorleben, the power of the periphery

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#874-875
24/04/2019
Andrew Blowers
Article

In the fifth of a series of articles on the local and social legacies of nuclear energy, Andrew Blowers considers the conflict over the nuclear waste facilities at Gorleben, which proved pivotal to the end of nuclear power in Germany.

In the flat middle reaches of the Elbe River in the plains of Northern Germany lies the 'Wendland', a peripheral region of sturdy traditional farms and villages, arable land, forest, heaths and waterland, an area sparsely populated and distant from motorways and big cities. On a straight country road bordered by forest and close to the Elbe is Gorleben, an unremarkable, peaceful village with a most remarkable recent history.

Here, hidden in the nearby woods and ringed by guarded security fences, are two industrial sites. On one site are the headworks, offices and ancillary buildings that serve an excavated salt dome 850 metres below ground, for long explored as the prospective geological disposal facility for Germany's highly active radioactive wastes. Nearby is another complex comprising an interim store for vitrified high-level wastes, a low- and intermediate-level waste store, and a mothballed pilot conditioning plant for preparing wastes in a suitable form for final disposal. Although peacefully secluded now, the mine and the store have been the focus of the most fiercely contested struggle over nuclear energy in Germany, lasting over 40 years. The conflict over nuclear waste at Gorleben ultimately engulfed the whole country, culminating in the phase-out of nuclear energy in Germany. The power of the periphery proved decisive.

In this tranquil land there is still visible evidence of the struggle that has now subsided. On roadsides, in villages and in fields and on farms in the surrounding region, yellow wooden crosses are encountered, the emblem of Gorleben's protest. On walls and on the tall electricity substations graffiti and slogans are daubed, proclaiming 'Stop CASTOR', referring to the huge containers that carried wastes to the interim store. Among other slogans, now fading, are 'Ausstieg' ('Climb down') or 'Wir stellen uns Quer' (roughly, 'We make our stand'), belligerent testimony to the determination of protesters.

In a roadside clearing close to the mine is the astonishing site of a ship, the Beluga, once used by Greenpeace for protests, now erected on dry land to greet workers, protesters and visitors. A history of anti-nuclear protest is posted in an open-air display, while in a clearing there is a wooden building, an information centre and a place where regular services are still held. The spirit of the Gorleben movement appears indomitable and persistent.

In the middle of Germany, in the middle of nowhere

Wendland is a historical and cultural construct. It derives from the Wends, a Slavic tribe who settled in the area during the late Middle Ages, part of the criss-crossing movement of peoples typical of the boundless and borderless North German Plain. In truth little is known of this peasant community of 'tillers and herdsmen living in small villages and raising corn, flax, poultry and cattle'.1 Yet, centuries later, the notion of Wendland has been appropriated by a movement dedicated to defending the integrity and identity of its territory against the disruption and risk of an unfamiliar and dangerous intruder.

The reinvention of Wendland was made vaguely palpable by the invention of its iconic flag, a startling orange pointed sun on a deep green field, and through the issuing of passports to the Republik Freies Wendland (the Free Republic of Wendland). Its territorial extent was ill-defined. Nonetheless, the idea of a nuclear-free Wendland gained traction, inspiring an incipient tourist industry to promote a land of 'peace and seclusion and pure nature' and to prepare a bid for its traditional landscape and buildings to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wendland's cultural identity exists within a shared territorial integrity. On its northern side it is bounded by the Elbe, while the border with the former East Germany continues round its eastern and southern sides. The landscape of the eastern part is the waterlands of the Elbtalaue and the forested heathlands, while to the west the agricultural landscape is dotted with traditional 'rundling' villages with their pie-crust layout.

The Wendland is roughly co-terminous with the Landkreis (county) of Lüchow-Dannenberg. Once a borderland, now, as Peter Ward, a manager at the mine puts it, Wendland is 'in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Germany'. When the salt mine was identified as potentially suitable for a deep repository in the 1970s, its peripheral situation of remoteness, low population and underdevelopment seemed to make it a suitable choice. Without comparative site evaluation or public engagement, in a classic exercise in 'DAD', Gorleben was 'decided and announced and defended', with one side defending the nuclear complex, the other rising in defence of their community.

The battle for Wendland

Over the years, the conflict over Gorleben has ebbed and flowed. In the early period, first on the border, then, after reunification, an internal periphery, Gorleben gradually developed its central position in Germany's nuclear politics. As Susan Matthes of Greenpeace described it to me in 2014, 'For many years the only place was Gorleben. It was the end of the world.' The conflict was confrontational almost from the outset and, over time, became increasingly uncompromising. It was played out against competing and shifting discourses being shaped by and shaping vicissitudinous power relations.

From the outset the Gorleben movement was able to mobilise resources – political, economic and social – that rendered an anti-nuclear discourse mainstream and normative. By contrast, pro-nuclear interests, after their initial incursion and establishment of their presence in the Wendland, eventually became marginalised, defensive and ultimately defeated. The resources available for deployment by the protagonists shifted over time in favour of anti-nuclear interests as the conflict over Gorleben escalated into a far wider conflict over nuclear waste and eventually nuclear power in Germany. But, for Gorleben, the conflict is not yet over, victory is not yet complete.

The Gorleben anti-nuclear movement had its foundation and fountainhead in the community. Its local leadership included a Green MP, an MEP, a count who had refused to surrender his land to the mine, and a pastor, as well as environmental activists drawn to the area. Local citizens and activists were able to mobilise under the aegis of the Burgerinitiativen (BI), a network of local groups set up as part of an effort to expand citizen participation in politics.2

The Lüchow-Dannenberg BI devoted itself to the nuclear issue and to Gorleben specifically. With a wide local membership it engaged in consciousness- raising, networking and organisation, and was the ideological inspiration of the movement. Another vital group were landowners and farmers, adding a conservative but combative approach, fearful that the nuclear presence might harm the image of their produce and intent on maintaining stewardship of land and forest. The farmers provided practical support, blockading roads with tractors, crops and manure in effective disruptions.

Then there were supporters from beyond the Wendland, from cities like Hamburg, radical and willing to engage in actions and demonstrations. The anti-nuclear protests could also draw on regional and national environmental groups.

The Gorleben movement, with its multifarious composition, displayed leadership, determination, organisation and resilience, together with an ability to weld together disparate and cross-cutting groups intent on a single purpose. The protests were on the whole peaceful but forceful, adopting the full panoply of tactics, including rallies, lobbying, demonstrations, marches and sit-ins, supported by pamphlets, petitions and displays of the iconic flag of Free Wendland. Occasionally, a more militant element was attracted in actions attempting to block transports of nuclear casks into Gorleben.

The pro-nuclear interests drew their strength from economic and political sources. The nuclear industry promised jobs and investment in an underdeveloped area. It provided direct financial support, the so-called 'Gorleben Gelder', and indirectly supported the economy through taxes and wages. The workforce, though mainly skilled, was never large, and, according to workers I spoke to, they felt threatened, 'like footballers coming onto a playing field where the opposing team has been playing for some time'. Throughout the conflict, the industry was unable to provide a strong enough presence, and its influence diminished over time as its position weakened both locally and at national level, leaving its workers insecure.

Politically, the nuclear interests could draw on the support of local councils keen to support the project for the economic incentives that it would attract from the federal government. Even so, the strength of political support varied among councils at local, county, regional (Land) and federal levels, often on party-political lines. The pro-nuclear interests were a loose assemblage of industry, workers and politicians, with wavering support from federal government and ultimately no match for the organised, flexible and focused forces ranged against them.

The dynamics of the periphery go some way to explaining the outcome of the conflict. The peripheral location and underdevelopment of the region exerted a pull on an industry being pushed to find a suitable location. At the same time, the community at the periphery found the social and political leverage to push back the invader and eventually pull in external support to halt the project.

With substantial political support at federal and Land (Lower Saxony) level, a mine and an interim store were established. But the local community drew its strength and self-consciousness by reviving its cultural identity to defend its traditional values against modernity in the form of nuclear technology. It was not simply a conservative reaction; it was, too, a rather proactive response – an expression of environmental politics, a claim for local democracy, a rejection of risk, and a campaign for a sustainable environment.

The triumph of protest

During the 1970s the federal government was seeking a site in the state of Lower Saxony for an Integrietes Entsorgungskonzept (Integrated Waste Management Concept) – a combination of reprocessing plant, waste processing and conditioning facility, and a deep geological repository. The search was pre-empted when the Premier of Lower Saxony identified Gorleben, which became the only site for the project. There is an absence of data about the selection, and in Peter Ward's view 'No one knows the real reason why Gorleben was chosen in the first place'.

This was a time when protests against nuclear power were large scale and sometimes violent as communities 'reacted as if they had been handed a rattlesnake'.3 In some cases, as at Wyhl in South West Germany in 1975, the mass protests contributed to the abandonment of nuclear projects. In the absence of public and stakeholder participation and a closed, exclusive and elitist decision-making process of institutional expertise, the contest over nuclear energy became inevitably confrontational. As John Dryzek and colleagues explain: 'The environmental movement in Germany therefore encounters passive exclusion in which opportunities for formal political inclusion are limited and unconventional challenges to governmental authority have been strongly resisted.'4

The first major action was a long trek from Gorleben to Hannover to a mass protest estimated at 100,000, which gathered in March 1979 at the Gorleben International Review at the time of the accident at Three Mile Island. In response, the proposal for a reprocessing plant was withdrawn, and the failure to find another site led to the abandonment of reprocessing elsewhere in Germany and reliance on La Hague (France) and Sellafield (UK).5 With reprocessing eliminated, a critical part of the Entsorgungskonzept was forfeited, and opponents could focus on the other remaining two components of the project. For the first decade or so, their target was the mine, where various actions were staged, mostly peaceful, others more intimidatory, and all pursued with characteristic inventiveness.

By the mid-1990s attention switched to the interim store and attempts to prevent the giant CASTOR flasks filled with high-level wastes being transported to Gorleben from La Hague in France. The annual protests against the transport were most spectacular around the turn of the century, with large numbers of protesters intent on disrupting the railways and blocking the roads matched by green uniformed police deployments armed with water cannon, riot gear, helicopters, and tanks. As one protester, Thomas Hauswaldt, observed to me at one of the demonstrations: 'In November, everywhere the leaves have fallen. But, in our forests the leaves are still green – there are so many police.'

By the early years of the new century it appeared that the objectives of the Gorleben movement had been achieved. The Red-Green (Social Democrat- Greens) coalition in federal government passed the Atomic Energy Act of 2002, which reflected a consensus achieved on nuclear policy. Under this there would be:

  • a gradual phase-out of nuclear power;
  • the abandonment of reprocessing once the contracts with France and the UK had been fulfilled;
  • construction of interim spent-fuel stores at power plants; and
  • a review of nuclear waste policy.

As a consequence of the review, exploratory work at the Gorleben mine would be suspended for between three and ten years and, in view of continuing protests, shipments of casks to Gorleben even from France and the UK eventually ceased.

The Gorleben conflict had now become intertwined with the wider conflict over the future of nuclear energy in Germany. With the reversion to a more pro-nuclear CDU/FDP (Conservative/Liberal) coalition in federal government in 2009, proposals to slow down the phase-out of nuclear energy kindled spectacular protests across the country during 2010-11, including a 120-kilometre human chain of 120,000 people linking two power stations and passing through Hamburg. There were demonstrations at other power stations and in major cities, and a human chain and rally in Stuttgart. Gorleben, too, became swept up in the national protests when an estimated 50,000 demonstrators came to the Wendland to rally against nuclear power. With forgivable hyperbole, Anika Limbach of AntiAtomBonn, told me: 'In Germany never before and afterwards had there been mass demonstrations of this dimension.'

The opposition covered a broad spectrum, and opposition, already heavily against any further nuclear power, became almost universal in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident in March 2011. The Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, took due note of the political weather and, two months after Fukushima, announced a phase-out of nuclear energy by 2022 and ushered in the Energiewende, an energy transition committed fundamentally to renewables and energy efficiency. The policy had been informed and justified by an Ethics Commission which argued that nuclear energy had 'poisoned [the] atmosphere in society at large' and, accordingly, the focus must be on energy supply 'that dispenses with nuclear power as soon as possible and that promotes Germany's path towards a sustainable development and new models of prosperity'.6

A new beginning?

Gorleben, for long on the periphery, had been swept up into a broader conflict. The moratorium at the mine had been lifted in 2009, although it was virtually under siege from the vigorous protests intent on disrupting the resumption of exploratory work. The reprieve was brief, and in 2012 the mine was shut and left in a condition of care and maintenance. After more than three decades of struggle, all that remained of the Entsorgungskonzept was a mothballed conditioning plant, a closed interim waste store, and a shut-down salt mine. The triumph of the Gorleben movement was, almost, complete. But while nuclear energy faced its demise, its legacy of wastes remained. And while the Gorleben mine was closed, it had not yet been finally abandoned, and so its continuing presence could not be entirely ignored in the search for a solution to the problem of the long-term management of highly active wastes.

The geography of the legacy of wastes in Germany is complex, a product of incremental pragmatism and premature opportunism. Some projects, deemed unsafe, have been abandoned.

A low-level waste repository developed near the old border in Morsleben in the former German Democratic Republic is one of several facilities, including power stations, that were closed down and are undergoing decommissioning post-reunification. Not far away, on the other side of the former border in Lower Saxony, in a deep salt and potash mine at Asse, drums of low- and intermediate-level waste have been stored. Flooding and brine seepage and the poor conditions of drum storage make this the most serious legacy issue facing the country. Retrieval is difficult, and it would be practically impossible to clear all the drums. Alternatively, if the drums are left in situ, the mine becomes an impromptu, unplanned repository where leakages will inevitably occur at some point.

A rather more pragmatic and planned solution in the same region is Schacht Konrad, a very deep former iron ore mine, where long-lived, non-heat- generating intermediate-level wastes will be buried at a depth of up to 1,300 metres. The mine was long mired in licensing and planning procedures and is currently undergoing conversion to a repository.

Thus Germany has three incomplete repository projects all within a small region straddling the former border: one, Morsleben, under closure; a second, Asse, where the future is uncertain and controversial; and a third, Konrad, destined to be a permanent deep repository. Around a hundred miles further north of these three sites is the now abandoned deep repository at Gorleben. Until a long-term solution is found, intermediate- and high-level wastes and spent fuel, including wastes retrieved from Asse or repatriated from reprocessing in France and the UK, will be stored in interim stores at reactor sites, decommissioning sites such as Greifswald on the Baltic, research centres (such as Jülich) and purpose-built stores at Ahaus in the north west and at Gorleben, less than a third full before closure.

Finding a solution

With the suspension of the Gorleben mine at the beginning of the century, the way seemed open for a consensual approach to finding a long-term disposal solution. An interdisciplinary expert Committee on a Site Selection Procedure for Repository Sites (popularly known as AkEnd) was established in 1999 and reported to its sponsor, the Red/Green coalition government, in 2002. Its remit was to develop a process for finding a site for deep disposal of high- level wastes. The process would be comparative, on the basis of a 'white map' of Germany, unconstrained by specific geology or preferred location.

AkEnd's approach was truly innovative and imaginative, based on an array of geo-scientific and socio-economic criteria, and introducing concepts such as 'potential analysis' for regional development built upon self-realisation through citizen participation. Its progenitor, the late Detlef Ipsen, described it to me as 'an integrated sociological concept', adding 'if regional building is a process then it cannot be determined in advance'. The whole approach was 'a combination of vision and volunteering', with citizens and councils indicating a willingness to participate in site selection. The emphasis on devolution and participative democracy was remarkable in the context of legalistic and rule-bound German governance. But, as AkEnd commented, 'the civil self-organisation is not only an alternative to the representative democracy, but is only politically effective through and in reference to it'.7

Once published, the AkEnd report sank out of sight, but not entirely out of mind. A decade later, in the propitious circumstances of the post-Fukushima settlement on nuclear phase-out, the ideas and approach of AkEnd were resuscitated, as a new commission was established in 2013 to develop criteria and a process for selecting a site for a 'final repository mine with reversibility'.

The commission comprised 32 members in four equal sector groups – federal government, the Länder, science, and civil society. As with AkEnd, it began with an entirely clean sheet, or rather a 'white map' of Germany, in which all options were open. The AkEnd criteria-based approach would again be used progressively to eliminate areas until a few sites (two or three) would be subject to comparative assessment through underground investigation to find the 'best' site in terms of safety for a period of a million years. And the concept of applying effective intergenerational compensation to achieve the development potential of the selected region was also adopted.

There was, too, an emphasis on the need for public participation throughout a staged process organised by a new federal implementing body responsible for site identification, since it was assumed that no community would volunteer a site. The challenge was a familiar one: to find 'a solution that is based on broad social consensus and can ultimately also be tolerated by the immediately affected population'.8

Under the Atomic Energy Act, no site is ruled in and none is ruled out. Gorleben, though frozen, is not yet irrevocably shut and remains a divisive issue. The industry, in its weakened position, will be in no position to underwrite another location. As Georg Arens, a civil servant with the environment ministry BMUB remarked to me: 'Site selection will be funded by the operators but all the time Gorleben is still there. Gorleben is not officially given up but everyone recognises the low probability that Gorleben will be realised.'

For the workforce committed to the project there was a painful sense of loss and regret. Peter Ward summed up the bitter feelings of defeat: 'To tear the heart out of the project – when nobody is left who will speak up for the project; then it is finished – whether or not it is a suitable site. A victory in conflict is never the end of the story.'

The Gorleben movement is not triumphant, but remains wary and unlikely to relax its vigilance. Its continuing purpose derives from the social dimension of peripherality – that shared sense of identity, of longstanding comradeship and common purpose deeply embedded in the older generation and passed down the generations. Wolfgang Ehmke, one of the leaders of the movement, summed up the struggle: 'Our resistance has never been broken. It is a little bit of a miracle that we have struggled on for more than a generation.' It is a resistance that has resonated beyond the Wendland, inspiring a wider anti-nuclear movement that has brought an end to nuclear power in Germany and opened up the issue of how to deal with its legacy of nuclear waste. The transformative power of the Gorleben movement still casts its long shadow over the legacy of nuclear power in Germany.

Notes

1. E. Christiansen: The Northern Crusades. Second Edition. Penguin, 1998, pp.27-28 (first published 1980)

2. B. Doherty: Ideas and Action in the Green Movement. Routledge, 2002

3. R. Dominick: The Environmental Movement in Germany: Prophets and Pioneers1871-1971. Indiana University Press, 1992, p.167

4. J. Dryzeck, D. Downes, C. Hunold, D. Schlosberg and H-K Hernes: Green States and Social Movements: Environmentalism in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Norway. Oxford University Press, 2003, p.41

5. Subsequent efforts to find a site for a reprocessing plant were thwarted by protests, notably at Wackersdorf in Bavaria. This resulted in Germany sending its spent fuel for reprocessing in France and the UK. In 1994 the requirement for reprocessing was dropped, and then abandoned altogether in 2002. It was the necessity to repatriate the high-level wastes from reprocessing in France and the UK that led to protests against the shipments to Gorleben

6. Germany's Energy Turnaround – A Collective Effort for the Future. Ethics Commission on a Safe Energy Supply, May 2011. English translation available at http://stophinkley.org/EngRevu/ENERGY%20TURNAROUND.pdf

7. Site Selection Procedure for Repository Sites. Recommendations of the AkEnd – Committee on a Site Selection Procedure for Repository Sites. AkEnd (Arbeitkreis Auswahlverfahren Endlagerstandorte,

Dec. 2002, p.53. English translation available at www.cienciaensocietat.org/upimages/File/Deliberativa_2/10-Site%20Selecti...

8. Report of the German Commission on the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Wastes. Summary. Commission on the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Wastes, July 2016, p.13. English translation available at www.nuclear-transparency-watch.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Summary_Rep...

Germany: Renewables hit record high in first half of 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#864
4742
13/07/2018
Article

Renewable energy sources provided a record 41.5% of Germany's power supply in the first half of 2018 according to Energy Charts, a website run by research institute Fraunhofer ISE.1

With a total net output of 113 terawatt-hours (TWh) since January, the renewables share was nearly 9% higher than during the same period last year and over a third higher than in 2014. In the first half of 2018, wind turbines produced 55.2 TWh, second only to lignite plants, which produced 66.7 TWh. Offshore wind power fed 9.1 TWh into the grid, solar power plants 22.3 TWh, hydropower 12.5 TWh, and bioenergy plants 23 TWh.

Despite the growth of renewables, problems loom. Andreas Löschel from Fraunhofer ISE told Clean Energy Wire: "If you look at the developments throughout the last year, it becomes clear that today the energy transition is not assigned the same political priority as it used to have some years ago."2

Löschel warned the Energiewende must not lose public acceptance due to its costs and limited success in emissions reduction to date. Germany's emissions have stagnated in recent years, partly due to a sustained period of economic growth and partly due to increasing transport emissions. Germany exported a total of 22 TWh of electricity in the first half of 2018, and was a net exporter 86% of the time.

Securing a stable power supply hinges on the development of grid capacities and storage technology, as Germany's renewable power capacity expansion continues.

Dave Elliott, emeritus professor at the Open University, UK, wrote about the Energiewende in May 2018:

"Public support remains very high. In a poll, 95% of the sample saw expansion of renewables as important or extremely important – up from 93% in 2016. But there are still some big policy issues. While renewables are growing, so has coal use. Although national-level use of energy from coal is now falling, gas imports are rising, with Russia keen to help.

"Gas plants can be used to balance variable renewables, so there is a case for them, but there is a push towards the use of green gas, generated from wastes or via Power to Gas conversion of surplus renewable electricity. With CCS all but abandoned, the continued use of carbon-intense coal is much more provocative, given Germany's climate protection ambitions. However, it is lucrative. With renewables taking some of the market, Germany now has regular surpluses of power, despite the phase-out of nuclear, and that surplus, mostly in effect from coal plants, is being exported very profitably.

"Coal use is being fought by environmentalists, and indeed was a key issue in the initial phase of the post-election negotiations, with the Greens requiring action on it as the price of their membership of a coalition with Merkel. Sadly, that didn't work out. Phasing out coal use and coal mining is certainly a tough call, although it is happening.

"However, despite these setbacks, it does not seem to be the case, as some insist, that Germany is replacing nuclear with coal, so that emissions are rising. The 2017 World Nuclear Industry Status report notes that, between 2010, the last year prior to the post-3/11 shutdown of the eight oldest nuclear plants, and 2016, 'the increase of renewable electricity generation (+84.4 TWh) and the noticeable reduction in domestic consumption (–20.6 TWh) were more than sufficient to compensate the planned reduction of nuclear generation (–56 TWh), enabling also a slight reduction in power generation from fossil fuels (–13 TWh) and a threefold increase in net exports'.

"Though it is the case that German emissions have been growing slightly, that's mainly due to increases from transport. That clearly needs attention. ...

"What does not seem to be in contention is the nuclear phase-out. With Gundremmingen B now closed, there are 7 plants left – all to go by 2022. But some nuclear plants are meanwhile trying to ramp up and down to stay in the game i.e. by offering balancing services. Though that can have its problems.

"With renewables expanding, there is no shortage of issues – upgrading grids to help with balancing being key, especially given local opposition to new lines. Although some bold plans are still going ahead. There are limits being imposed on biomass use, but renewables supplied over 36% of annual electricity needs in 2017, 40% of it from wind, 36% from biosources."

References:

1. www.energy-charts.de/index.htm

2. Benjamin Wehrmann, 2 July 2018, 'Renewables hit record as concerns over German govt quarrels grow', www.cleanenergywire.org/news/renewables-hit-record-concerns-over-german-...

3. Dave Elliott, 24 May 2018, 'Germany stays on track', https://physicsworld.com/a/germany-stays-on-track/

Energy Charter Treaty pitting parliament against nuclear profits – Vattenfall vs. Germany

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#863
4737
22/06/2018
Article

A new report from the Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute exposes how the little-known Energy Charter Treaty gives corporations the power to obstruct the transition towards renewable energy and how it is being expanded, threatening to bind yet more countries to corporate-friendly energy policies. Brief excerpts reproduced below outline the problems and one of the case studies presented in the report: Vattenfall's claim against the German government resulting from the 2011 nuclear phase-out decision.

Two decades ago, an obscure international agreement entered into force, the Energy Charter Treaty. It grants corporations enormous powers over energy systems including the ability to sue governments, which could obstruct the transition towards renewable energy. And the Treaty is in the process of expansion, threatening to bind yet more countries to corporate-friendly energy policies. Today the ECT applies to nearly 50 countries stretching from Western Europe through Central Asia to Japan.

Among its many provisions, those regarding foreign investments in the energy sector – also known under the infamous acronym ISDS or investor-state dispute settlement – are the Treaty' cornerstone. The ISDS provisions give foreign investors in the energy sector sweeping rights to directly sue states in international tribunals of three private lawyers, the arbitrators. Companies can be awarded dizzying sums in compensation for government actions that have allegedly damaged their investments, either directly through 'expropriation' or indirectly through regulations of virtually any kind.

Energy giant Vattenfall, for example, has sued Germany over environmental restrictions on a coal-fired power plant and for phasing out nuclear power. Oil and gas company Rockhopper is suing Italy over a ban on offshore oil drilling. Several utility companies are pursuing the EU's poorest member state, Bulgaria, after the government reduced soaring electricity costs for consumers.

Vattenfall sued Germany in 2012, seeking €4.3 billion plus interest for lost profits related to two of its nuclear power plants. The legal action came after the German Parliament decided to speed up the phase-out of nuclear energy following the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and countrywide anti-nuclear protests. Amongst other things parliamentarians ordered the immediate and permanent shutdown of Germany's oldest reactors, including Vattenfall's Krümmel and Brunsbüttel plants. Due to several breakdowns, both had already been out of service for several years. The case is ongoing at the time of writing (June 2018).

The case is interesting because it shows how the Energy Charter Treaty:

1. Puts a lot of taxpayers' money at stake: Vattenfall's €4.3 billion claim – the equivalent of one quarter of Germany's entire 2017 health budget – is one of the largest in the history of investor-state arbitration. By April 2018 the German Government had spent more than €15 million in legal and administrative costs to defend the case. Furthermore, Vattenfall has spent €26 million on its lawyers which it also claims from Germany.

2. Leaves citizens in the dark: Experts have slammed the German Government for "intentionally leaving the German public out in dark" about the details of Vattenfall's claim. Despite billions in taxpayers' money at stake, not a single case document has been publicly released. A small group of elected parliamentarians have access to Germany's arguments in the proceedings, but only in a high-security building and they are not allowed to reveal anything they see to anyone. While the Government did agree to livestream a 10-day hearing in October 2016, experts questioned the usefulness of that exercise: permanent recordings were only made available for two days while notes were not prepared at all (so people had to watch 8 hours per day for 10 successive days) and viewers had to follow the complex oral arguments without any of the written materials.

3. Creates VIP rights for foreign investors: Together with German energy giants E.ON and RWE, Vattenfall also sued Germany in its constitutional court. In 2016 the latter upheld the nuclear exit, but condemned the fact that its acceleration did not allow the companies to use formerly allocated electricity output allowances, ordering Germany to find a solution for this problem. Even though Vattenfall obtained justice in German courts, it still continues its parallel Energy Charter Treaty claim – possibly counting on a much larger amount of taxpayer money in compensation than would ever be available under German law. Germany's largest association of judges and public prosecutors has criticised parallel justice systems such as those found in the Energy Charter Treaty, which are exclusively available to foreign investors, stating that "the creation of special courts for certain groups of litigants is the wrong way forward".

The English-language report is online, as are summaries in French, German, Spanish, and Italian.

Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute, June 2018, 'One Treaty to rule them all: The ever-expanding Energy Charter Treaty and the power it gives corporations to halt the energy transition', https://corporateeurope.org/international-trade/2018/06/one-treaty-rule-...

German court rules on reactor shut-down compensation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#836
4608
16/12/2016
Diet Simon
Article

German taxpayers should pay nuclear power companies "appropriate compensation" for the government order to shut them down by 2022, the country's highest court ruled on December 6.

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) didn't put a figure on the compensation entitlement, but the industry talks about €19 billion (US$19.8 bn). Eon said the accelerated nuclear phase-out policy will cost it €8 billion, RWE did not provide any information but analysts estimate its claim at €6 billion euros, while Vattenfall claimed €4.7 billion.

The companies did not argue that they should be allowed to operate reactors for longer, but that they should be compensated. About 70% of Germans regularly reject nuclear power in opinion polls.

After the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the government of Angela Merkel, backed by the then opposition Social Democrats and Greens, rescinded the longer reactor operating lifespans approved in December 2010 and set earlier closure dates for each of the 17 power reactors. Eight closed immediately, nine are due to close by 2022.

The power companies argued that this is an unconstitutional expropriation. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the decision to reduce reactor lifespans was constitutional and that it did not constitute expropriation, but that it amounted to a restriction of the companies' property rights and that compensation should therefore be paid.

Eon, RWE und Vattenfall, the companies that brought the case, may prefer to use the entitlement as a bargaining chip in the ongoing acrimonious dispute over who pays for disposing of nuclear waste, the producers of it or the public. That is, credit the entitlement against whatever waste disposal cost is set.

Public money helped set up nuclear power and, one way or another, public money will also pay for the 'clean-up', if that's possible, of the nuclear waste.

On December 15, Germany's coalition government, with the support of the Greens, passed a law regulating the long-term costs of nuclear waste management. As discussed in Nuclear Monitor #833, power companies will pay €23 billion into a government-controlled fund and they will be off the hook for any future cost increases. A leading regional newspaper blasted the deal as "a nasty deal at the taxpayers' expense". 140,000 people have so far signed a petition: 'We're not paying for your waste'.

Activists are especially mad at Jürgen Trittin, a senior Green and former environment minister, who co-headed the group that wrote the law. Trittin knows that the clean-up funds fall far short of what's needed, wrote Jochen Stay, a leading activist.

Parliament will vote on scrapping a tax on nuclear fuel on 1 January 2017. The Social Democrats have said they'll campaign in next year's election to bring the tax back in, but if they have to share government with the conservatives again, that's likely to gurgle down the drain again like it did in the present coalition.

Stay's .ausgestrahlt group said in a December 15 statement: "The Bundestag will decide today that in future the general public will have to pay for the nuclear waste, and not those who for years made billions with their nuclear power stations. The power companies can buy themselves out with a once-only payment. At the same time the parliament is highly likely to throw out a motion to extend the tax on nuclear fuel."

Germany: nuclear waste controversies and protests

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#833
4598
08/11/2016
Diet Simon
Article

On October 20, the German coalition government of Social Democrats and Conservatives passed a new law on nuclear waste. The law was defended by a leader of the opposition Greens and former environment minister, Jürgen Trittin, outraging activists.

Trittin argued on national television that it is reasonable ("sinnvoll") for operators of nuclear power stations to pay €24 billion into a fund and after that to be cleared of all responsibility for the growing mountain of nuclear waste that will radiate for all eternity. All other costs are to be borne by society.

In the year 2000, Trittin negotiated the first nuclear power phase-out with energy utilities. This time, he's agreed with them on the €24 billion.

A Münster-based activist group wrote: "We're asking ourselves: Is that supposed to be Green nuclear policy for the population or the anti-nuclear movement? Shame on him who thinks that this might be about possible government coalitions to be formed in 2017 [when federal elections are held] or possible employers after Trittin's time as an MP ends." 

A leading anti-nuclear campaigner, Jochen Stay of .ausgestrahlt, sees the law enabling the nuclear operators to buy their way out of their responsibility "while the general public will bear the predictable cost increases in waste storage – this is the exit from the polluter pays principle". A leading regional newspaper, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, commented: "Rotten deal at taxpayers' expense".

Stay writes that Trittin touted the deal as if he were a government spokesperson: "Anyone hearing that asks themselves when was the last time the Greens raised a critical voice in nuclear policy decisions. What better can happen to a government than when it makes a highly controversial law and one of the most important opposition politicians talks it up on national television? That'll make the power companies happy, whose share prices rose steeply due to the law. For the stock exchange rates the risk ‒ now shifting from RWE, Eon and others to the public ‒ as much more serious than Jürgen Trittin does."

In the neighbouring state of North-Rhine Westphalia, Greens nuclear policy also looks dismal. Social Democrats and Greens share government there. In the Greens draft election program for next year, there are only simplistic descriptions of nuclear problems. The uranium enrichment plant at Ahaus, the only one in Germany, doesn't even get a mention. Nor is there a plainly expressed rejection of road transportation of waste caskets from Jülich to Ahaus, and the fact that the state government has already approved such transports also doesn't get a mention. The draft lacks specific demands, exit dates, and possible ways to make a nuclear exit complete. All of which leaves the electoral program falling far short of the decisions taken by the last Greens national congress.

Another worry for the anti-nuclear movement is the federal government's plan to stop taxing the power companies' nuclear fuel supplies. That's due to happen at the start of 2017. But the activist group .ausgestrahlt has found out that the companies are already tricking their way out of paying the tax, which would lose the federal coffers nearly €750 million this year. The finance ministry website notes that expected revenue from the fuel element tax this year is €1.1 billion, but only €355 million has been raised so far. The activist group called for protest action in Berlin directed at finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble as he was due to present his tax estimate. Calling for urgent signatures to a petition, .ausgestrahlt wants the minister to keep the fuel tax for at least another year.

Waste storage

On November 2, a vigil was held outside a nuclear research facility in Jülich to protest against trucking Castor waste caskets to Ahaus or for shipment to the USA. The supervisory board was meeting inside at the time.

Depending on the route chosen, the waste would roll on busy highways, through densely populated areas for 180‒190 kms to Ahaus. Activists want the waste kept in Jülich.

A protest resolution to stop the Jülich to Ahaus shipments ‒ the West Castor Resolution ‒ has been signed by 68 groups, with more likely. They include International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Greens branch in Jülich. Activists demand the new construction of the safest possible interim storage in Jülich, a definite rejection of casket transports to Ahaus or the USA and the taking of responsibility by the nuclear industry. The resolution in German is posted at www.sofa-ms.de.

On Wednesday 2 November, the energy committee of the North-Rhine Westphalia state parliament discussed keeping the 152 Castor waste caskets in Jülich, where the waste was produced by an experimental reactor. It was decided to keep them in Jülich at least until the end of 2017, when there will be federal and several state elections. The Red-Green coalition government of North-Rhine Westphalia will be relieved that the controversial transport won't happen in a year when there will be elections in both the state and the nation.

"Under no circumstances" would it be possible to transport the waste by the end of next year, said Rudolf Printz, the technical manager of the Jülich-based nuclear facility disposal enterprise (Entsorgungsgesellschaft für Nuklearanlagen), because many issues remain unresolved. The company is responsible for dismantling the reactor.

The committee debated with experts about the future of the nuclear waste. Experts testified that all options for managing the waste pose risks. Outcome: no solution in sight.

Experts have been wrestling for years with the question of what to do with the Jülich waste. The storage in Jülich has to be emptied because it is regarded as potentially vulnerable to earthquakes. That has caused three other options to be examined. Storage in what is officially just a temporary repository in Ahaus, shipment to the USA, or new construction of a quake-proof repository in Jülich. It became clear in the committee session that all three options pose problems.

Transportation to Ahaus failed just before it was to be implemented, at least for the interim. In July this year, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS) licensed the operator of the Jülich repository to store the waste in Ahaus. But according to Printz, tighter new safety regulations for temporary holding of atomic waste rule Ahaus out. Among other things, an additional wall needed to be built there to secure it against terror attack and plane crashes. "Ahaus is obsolete," reactor safety expert Rainer Moormann told the MPs.

Shipping the spent fuel to the USA has been discussed for years. The US energy authority had signalled that nuclear fuel which had been made available to other countries for research could be taken back to the USA to prevent any danger of it being spread further. But the devil is in the detail. How should the transportation be done? How would irradiation of the population be prevented? What would all that cost? Moreover, it is uncertain that the next US president will honour the promise to take the waste back.

A third option, building a new quake-proof repository in Jülich, would take especially long. It would take at least 10 years to have such a facility operable, explained Christian Küppers, expert in nuclear technology and reactor safety with the Freiburg-based NGO Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut). That makes the plan look unrealistic to many.

Social Democrat Garrelt Duin, North-Rhine Westphalia economics minister who is politically responsible for nuclear supervision, did not present to the committee. Nor was he asked anything.

Opposition Conservatives (CDU) and Liberals (FDP) demanded speedier action by the government. The nuclear supervision of the ministry said they're looking "for the earliest possible solution" because the 152 Castors were only "tolerated" in Jülich for now.

Disposal of high-level waste

As reported in Nuclear Monitor #827 in July 2016, after more than two years of work, a commission considering the storage of Germany's high-level nuclear waste submitted its final report to the government in late June. Repository projects like Gorleben, Morsleben and Asse have failed, and the waste commission was supposed to map out a path forward. But it failed to do so: it evades all decisive issues or is so vaguely worded that the nuclear lobby can already rejoice over its interpretational wriggle room.

The commission hopes that a decision on a site can be reached by 2031 and the repository opened in 2050 ‒ but even that decades-long timetable was described by commission president Michael Mueller as "ambitious", and the commission's report says that the repository might not open until "the next century".

Protests and more protests

About 700 anti-nuclear activists demonstrated on Saturday October 29 in the German town of Lingen, where French-owned Areva produces nuclear fuel for power stations worldwide (www.lingen-demo.de). They demanded immediate closure of nuclear power stations in Lingen, Grohnde (in Germany), Tihange, Doel (Belgium), Fessenheim, Cattenom (France) and all others.

Another main demand was immediate closure of the Areva fuel element factory in Lingen and Germany's only uranium enrichment plant in Ahaus, trinationally owned by Germany, Netherlands and Britain.

It was the biggest anti-nuclear protest in Lingen in years and activists said they were very happy with the turnout. Around 100 activist groups called out to participate. Aktionsbündnis Münsterland gegen Atomanlagen, the major mobilisers, said "the mood was good and there was broad media coverage", including by the major national TV news, The Tagesschau.

The activists see the demo as another important step towards exiting nuclear power, still produced by eight of the original 17 power stations. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on May 30, 2011, that all 17 would be shut down by 2022, in a policy reversal following Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

"We're going to stay on it so that uranium enrichment and fuel element production will also have to be ended," wrote the Münster-based group.

An expert opinion by lawyer Cornelia Ziehm, commissioned by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), argued in July that it is illegal under German law to export fuel elements from Lingen to the fault-prone reactors at Doel, Cattenom and Fessenheim. Ziehm refuted the contrary legal stance of the federal government point by point. The IPPNW and allied civic action groups are demanding that the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, a Social Democrat, take action at last.

"Deny your approval of export of the fuel elements to the unsafe power station close to the border. The lives and health of us citizens here in Germany and in Belgium and France have to take priority over any entrepreneurial interests," declared Dr. Angelika Claussen of IPPNW in a communication to the minister.

On Sunday November 6, activists against the uranium enrichment plant at Ahaus, near Münster, celebrated the 30th anniversary of their "Sunday stroll" around the plant. Since 1986 the protest walk has taken place on the first Sunday of every month at 2 p.m. "The object remains immediate closure of the plant," the activists said. 

And on Sunday November 12, a very unusual anti-nuclear action will start at 2pm in Aachen, where Belgium, Netherlands and Germany abut. The Alemannia Aachen soccer club will dedicate its home game against the second team of FC Cologne to opposition to the nearby Belgian nuclear power plant at Tihange. Both teams will have "Stop-Tihange" written on their jerseys and profits will flow to anti-nuclear protests. Up to 33,000 people fit into the stadium and all involved are hoping for a full house. 

Startling news for reactor communities: radiation spikes during refueling

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4290
18/12/2012
Article

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) reported in August 2012 on some sleuth work by its affiliate in Germany that turned up documentation of a short-term spike 200--500 higher amounts of radioactive gases being released from the Gundremmingen reactor site in Southern Germany. The investigators established that this rise was associated with the opening of the reactor vessel, as is routinely done for reactor refueling and inspections. Further, the group reported that the elevation of radioactive pollution persisted for the next week, well above usual levels during ongoing operations.

The numbers for concentrations of noble gases reported by IPPNW are: 3 Bq/m3 for usual operations; the spikes were 700 Bq/m3 increasing to a peak of 1470 Bq/m3 in the initial hours after the vessel was opened, then tapering down to an average of 100 Bq/m3 for the next week. 

Every reactor generates radioactive gases during normal operation, including noble gases, tritium, carbon-14, iodine and small amounts of volatile cesium and strontium. Reactor vessels are not designed to capture the gases that are present in the core prior to opening for activities like refueling or maintenance and inspections. When the core is opened, these gases escape.

The IPPNW's Reinhold Theil points out that these airborne emissions are of particular risk for women and pregnant women in the vicinity since women are at elevated risk for cancer, and the embryo and fetus suffer the greatest impacts from radiation exposure during gestation; the female fetus is at the highest risk. Tritium has the potential to cross the placental barrier to enter the fetus directly. Gamma emissions from noble gases are also a threat since these inert elements, if inhaled, are likely to be stored in fat deposits of the mother, typically near to the abdomen.

This situation has remained secret, or at the least invisible for the last six decades of reactor operation worldwide because the regulators allow self-reporting of emissions rather than publicly available real-time monitoring, and because regulations allow averaging over the reporting period. Since the NRC requires only annual reports, that allows the US reactor operators to hide these 500 times higher spikes above "usual" by leveling it in the typically lower levels of release.

Source: 
http://www.ippnw-europe.org/print/en/nuclear-energy-and- security.html?expa nd=707&cHash=8752881e4a

About: 
IPPNWGundremmingen KRB-AGundremmingen-BGundremmingen-C

Startling News for Reactor Communities: Radiation Spikes During Refueling

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4280
18/12/2012
IPPNW
Article

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) reported in august 2012 on some sleuth work by its affiliate in Germany that turned up documentation of a short-term spike 200--500 higher amounts of radioactive gases being released from the Gundremmingen reactor site in Southern Germany. the investigators established that this rise was associated with the opening of the reactor vessel, as is routinely done for reactor refueling and inspections. Further, the group reported that the elevation of radioactive pollution persisted for the next week, well above usual levels during ongoing operations.

The numbers for concentrations of noble gases reported by IPPNW are: 3 Bq/m3 for usual operations; the spikes were 700 Bq/m3 increasing to a peak of 1470 Bq/m3 in the initial hours after the vessel was opened, then tapering down to an average of 100 Bq/m3 for the next week.

Every reactor generates radioactive gases during normal operation, including noble gases, tritium, carbon-14, iodine and small amounts of volatile cesium and strontium. Reactor vessels are not designed to capture the gases that are present in the core prior to opening for activities like refueling or maintenance and inspections. When the core is opened, these gases escape.

The IPPNW's Reinhold Theil points out that these airborne emissions are of particular risk for women and pregnant women in the vicinity since women are at elevated risk for cancer, and the embryo and fetus suffer the greatest impacts from radiation exposure during gestation; the female fetus is at the highest risk. Tritium has the potential to cross the placental barrier to enter the fetus directly. Gamma emissions from noble gases are also a threat since these inert elements, if inhaled, are likely to be stored in fat deposits of the mother, typically near to the abdomen.

This situation has remained secret, or at the least invisible for the last six decades of reactor operation worldwide because the regulators allow self-reporting of emissions rather than publicly available real-time monitoring, and because regulations allow averaging over the reporting period. Since the NRC requires only annual reports, that allows the US reactor operators to hide these 500 times higher spikes above "usual" by leveling it in the typically lower levels of release.

Source: 
http://www.ippnw-europe.org/print/en/nuclear-energy-and- security.html?expand=707&cHash=8752881e4a

About: 
IPPNW

Sellafield's German PU 'cut and pasted' to France by UK government

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#753
4265
03/08/2012
Article

In a move that overturns one of the major contractual obligations of Sellafield’s overseas reprocessing customers, the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced a deal that will see German-owned plutonium already stored at Sellafield transferred into the UK stockpile rather than being repatriated to German utilities as required under the original contracts.

These contracts, in which customers committed to having their spent nuclear fuel reprocessed in the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP), specifically required the physical repatriation of recovered plutonium to the country of origin. Such contracts, until now, have been robustly defended by Government as being sacrosanct with no leeway for renegotiation.

In what many will see as a significant U-turn by Government on customers’ obligations, the new deal will inevitably raise questions as to why, with a click of a computer mouse, similar arrangements cannot now be made for other foreign owned materials stockpiled at Sellafield, thus eliminating the need for further contentious shipments of highly radioactive materials to be undertaken to overseas customers. These stockpiled materials include the vitrified high level waste (HLW) scheduled for repatriation to Germany and at least 12 tons of Japanese-owned plutonium.

The 13th July 2012 announcement by DECC’s Minister of State for Energy Charles Hendry refers to ‘around 4 tons’ of German plutonium being involved in the deal, some of which had previously been earmarked for conversion to mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in the now defunct Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP). For commercial and security reasons, details of the ‘financial benefits’ to the UK under the new arrangement are not disclosed but are considered by the Government to be sufficient to pay for the estimated costs of managing the plutonium long-term in the UK.

The commercial arrangements of the deal – agreed between the Nuclear De-commissioning Authority (NDA), Fran-ce’s Areva and the German utilities – will allow the utilities to take ownership of an equivalent tonnage of plutonium held at French reprocessing facilities, and to have MOX fuel fabricated in France for their reactors in advance of Germany’s approaching national reactor shut-down. In a move that clearly recognizes the political, security and logistical problems of physically transporting prime terrorist material to Europe, this paper-swap of German plutonium holdings to the UK stockpile also fits conveniently into the Government and NDA’s ‘prefer-red option’ of reusing plutonium in the form of MOX fuel, even though the NDA appears to be having second thoughts with its belated appraisal of GE Hitachi’s PRISM fast breeder reactor to consume the plutonium as an alternative to its reuse as MOX fuel.

The new deal hastens the end the German utilities’ less than happy ex-perience of dealing with Sellafield and THORP. When the plant opened in 1994, Sellafield had secured over 1400 tons of spent fuel reprocessing business from Germany – the plant’s second largest overseas customer.

By 2005 however, when the ban on spent fuel transports from Europe came into force and with some contracts al-ready cancelled, a total of just 850 tons of German spent fuel had actually been delivered to Sellafield. Originally scheduled for completion by 2010, some of this spent fuel still awaits reprocessing today. With other European customers, German utilities have in the past voiced their frustration at Sellafield’s inability to make THORP work properly and vented their anger at the additional reproces-sing costs they consider to have been unfairly passed on to them over the years. 

Whilst DECC’s announcement does not make it clear whether the ‘around 4 tons’ swapped under the new deal accounts for Sellafield’s total holdings of German plutonium, figures from international sources suggests that it does not. They show, for example, that the reprocessing at THORP of 850 tons of German spent nuclear fuel would have resulted in a total of just over 7 tons of plutonium being recovered - including at least 4.5 tons of fissile material. Of this 7-ton total, a small quantity will already have been returned to German customers via a shipment of 4 MOX fuel assemblies from Sellafield in 1996 containing 120kg plutonium, and a further shipment of 16 MOX fuel assemblies - expected to be made in the near future - containing around 450kg of plutonium. The former MOX was fabricated at Sellafield’s MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF – the forerunner to SMP) and the latter at SMP.

Further, in May 2008, an estimated 300kg of plutonium (in dioxide powder form) was shipped from Sellafield to France as repayment for French plutonium used in making MOX fuel orders that had been subcontracted to France by the failing SMP. Of these subcontracted orders a number are confirmed to have been for German utilities and this 2008 shipment is likely therefore to account for a further amount of plutonium having been repatriated to Germany. At most, this shipment together with the 2 MOX shipments would account for a total of up to 875kg of plutonium having been exported from Sellafield’s 7-ton German stockpile. With a further 4 tons now ’exported’ under the new deal, there would appear to be at least 2 tons of German-owned plutonium still remaining at Sellafield.

Source: CORE Briefing 2/12, 15 July 2012
Contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, U.K.
Tel: +44 1229 716523
Email: info[at]corecumbria.co.uk
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#752
13/07/2012
Shorts

Nuclear power? No way!
Olkiluoto Blockade Camp 6th - 13th August 2012

Olkiluoto Blockade Camp in Eurajoki, western Finland, will bring together people from the anti-nuclear movements in Finland and internationally. The camp will be an opportunity to discuss nuclear power projects, including uranium mining, and to share experiences, skills and tools for struggles against the nuclear energy industry and for encouraging truly sustainable, decentralized forms of energy.     

On August 11, Olkiluoto Blockade action day, people are invited to come and block the roads to the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant by civil disobedience. Year 2012 will mark the third annual blockade. Previous years have seen people blocking the roads using banners, drumming, performances and peaceful civil disobedience. You can join the demonstration in any way you like, with no obligation to participate in civil disobedience.

The Olkiluoto power plant consists of two reactors owned by Teollisuuden Voima (TVO). Additionally, TVO and French Areva are currently building a third reactor, which will be the world's largest and first EPR reactor. Despite the countless problems with the EPR's construction so far, the Finnish parliament has granted the company a license to build a fourth reactor at the site. Another pioneer project in Olkiluoto is Onkalo ("the Cave"), the world's first permanent underground storage for highly radioactive waste.   

Nuclear power cannot solve the climate crises, but rather it feeds the economic system where short-term profit-making sacrifices common safety and environmental issues.  

While many European countries are phasing out nuclear power after the disaster in Fukushima, the Finnish government is grasping the opportunity to increase nuclear power production in Finland. Join us in action and send a strong message to the state and the industries: you will not turn Finland into a nuclear power reservation! Uranium mining, nuclear power plants and waste disposal projects will be met with growing and determined resistance, on a local and international level.       
Get more information, or give your ideas for the program at http://olkiluotoblockade.info


RWE abandoning nuclear power (well…, new construction). 
RWE AG, Germany's second-biggest utility, is abandoning plans to build new nuclear power plants outside its home market, where the government decided last year to phase out nuclear power. "We will not invest in new nuclear power plants," incoming Chief Executive Peter Terium said. Like E.ON and peer EnBW, RWE had to close nuclear power plants after Fukushima and by the German government's decision to phase out nuclear power generation, which, actually was a turn back to the year 2000 phase out schedule. "We can no longer afford the financial risks and the surrounding conditions for nuclear power plants." 
Meanwhile, RWE is one of the four German utilities that are going to the Federal Constitutional Court  (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in order to get a 15 billion euro 'compensation' for the nuclear phase out. Remember: the same four utilities agreed to this phase out plan on June 14, 2000. The Court will examine the compensation claims in the coming weeks. Its decision is not expected until late 2013, after Germany's next federal parliamentary election. It will first consult with both houses of the German parliament as well as 63 other organizations, including Greenpeace and the Federation of German Industry (BDI). The constitutional court must then decide whether Germany's exit from nuclear energy violated the constitution before civil courts can rule on possible damages.
Deutsche Welle, 13 June 2012 / Reuters 17th June 2012 


Siemens can return to nuclear in 2012, EC rules. The European Commission has closed an antitrust investigation of the arrangement that prevents Siemens from selling nuclear products and services, following its withdrawal from the Areva NP business. The Commission has accepted an agreement between the two companies to allow Siemens to sell core products and services later this year. In 2001, Areva and Siemens created the joint venture Areva NP and agreed on a specific non-compete obligation. This obligation was meant to apply for up to 11 years beyond the duration of the joint venture itself. The joint venture came to an end following Siemens' exit in 2009, when Areva acquired sole control over Areva NP. In December 2011, the European Commission expressed concerns that the non-compete obligation and a confidentiality clause may infringe EU antitrust rules. In response to the Commission's concerns, Siemens and Areva offered commitments. They agreed to limit the duration of the clause to three years following Areva's acquisition of sole control over Areva NP in relation to the joint venture's core products and services. They also agreed to remove it completely for all other products and services. The same commitments apply to the confidentiality clause.
Now, the European Commission has made these commitments legally-binding after market-testing them, and has closed its investigation. However, Siemens' next move is unclear, as it publicly announced in 2011 that it had pulled out of the nuclear market altogether.
Nuclear Engineering International News, 22 June 2012

Nuclear waste nightmares: USA, Germany, France

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#819
4542
26/02/2016
Article

On Valentine's Day 2014, a drum of packaged waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) ruptured 2,150 feet (655 metres) underground in New Mexico's nuclear waste repository known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) which is carved from ancient salt beds. The incident was described as a heat-generating chemical reaction – the US Department of Energy (DOE) called it a deflagration rather than an explosion.

Explosion or not, the chemical reaction compromised the integrity of a barrel and spread contaminants through more than 3,000 feet of tunnels, up the exhaust shaft, into the environment, and to air monitoring equipment approximately 3,000 feet north-west of the exhaust shaft. The accident resulted in 21 workers receiving low-level internal radiation exposure.

It later transpired that LANL had improperly packaged hundreds of waste drums with a combustible mix of nitrate salts – a byproduct of nuclear weapons production – and organic cat litter, causing a hot reaction in one drum that cracked the lid. The rupture released americium and plutonium into the deep salt mine and, in small amounts, into the environment.1 The repository is still closed two years later, and a March 2016 date for re-opening has been pushed back to later this year.

"These accidents during the first 15 years of operation really illustrate the challenge of predicting the behavior of the repository over 10,000 years," said Rod Ewing, the Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation.

The Stanford experts also suggest more attention should be paid to how the buried materials may interact with each other, particularly with salty brine, over centuries. A single storage drum may contain a variety of materials, such as lab coats, gloves and laboratory instruments; thus, the chemistry is complex. Ewing said that the complacency that led to the accidents at WIPP can also occur in the safety analysis. Therefore, he advises, it is important to carefully review the safety analysis as new proposals for more plutonium disposal are considered.2

Asse, Germany

Now, 500 metres beneath the forests of northern Germany, in an old salt mine, another nightmare is playing out, according to Fred Pearce in the New Scientist. Enough plutonium bearing radioactive waste is stored here to fill 20 Olympic swimming pools. When engineers backfilled the chambers containing 126,000 drums in the 1970s, they thought they had put it out of harm's way forever. But now, the walls of the Asse mine are collapsing and cracks forming, thanks to pressure from surrounding rocks. So the race is on to dig it all up before radioactive residues are flushed to the surface. It could take decades to resolve. In the meantime, excavations needed to extract the drums could cause new collapses and make the problem worse.3

Some 300,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate-level waste, including the waste dug from the Asse mine, is earmarked for final burial at the Konrad iron mine in Lower Saxony. But Germany still has no plan for dealing with high-level waste and spent fuel. Later this year, a Final Storage Commission of politicians and scientists will advise on criteria for choosing a site where deep burial or long-term storage should be under way by 2050.

But its own chairman, veteran parliamentarian Michael Muller, says that timetable is unlikely to be met. "We all believe deep geology is the best option, but I'm not sure if there is enough [public] trust to get the job done," he says. Many anti-nuclear groups are boycotting the Commission. The problems at the Asse salt mine have led to further distrust of engineers and their solutions.

The problems at Asse became public knowledge in 2008. Despite hurried backfilling of much of the mine, the degradation continues. Brine seeps in at a rate of around 12,000 litres a day, threatening to flush radioactive material to the surface. In 2011, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) ruled that the waste had to be removed. But this is likely to take decades.

Just checking the state of the 13 chambers holding the waste drums is painfully slow. Engineers drilling to reach them through 20 metres of rock don't know whether the drums have leaked, and of course they cannot risk a release of radioactivity. And unless care is taken to keep clear of the geological barrier, the excavations risk allowing more water in, and flooding of the mine can't be ruled out.

Nothing will be moved until at least 2033. Meanwhile the bill keeps rising. It costs €140 million a year just to keep the mine safe for work to continue. The final bill will run into many billions. Is it worth it? Many experts fear that digging up the drums, with consequent risks of radioactive leaks, could create a much greater hazard than leaving them where they are.

Tunnel collapse and fatality at French repository site

Meanwhile one worker has been killed and another injured in a tunnel collapse at France's planned nuclear waste repository at Bure, in north-eastern France. According to French waste management agency Andra, geophysical surveys were being carried out at the time of the collapse and the rockfall is believed to have happened as drilling was taking place. Scheduled for an authorization decree in 2018 and industrial commissioning in 2025, the facility – if approved – is expected to bury France's highly-radioactive nuclear waste.4

Repository cost escalation in France

Reuters reported on January 12 that shares in French utility EDF sank to an all-time low after Andra said that the cost of a national nuclear waste repository for intermediate- and high-level waste could be higher than EDF's estimates. Andra says that costs for the deep geological storage project could range from €20 billion to €30 billion.5

French energy minister Ségolène Royal signed a decree setting the 'reference cost' for the repository at €25 billion. In 2005, Andra estimated the cost of the facility at between €13.5 and €16.5 billion. In 2009 Andra re-estimated the cost at around €36 billion. In a confidential 2014 file, which was recently leaked, Andra gave a cost estimate of €34.4 billion, based on 2012 prices, with construction accounting for 58% of the costs and operational costs over 100 years accounting for 26% of the total.6

EDF said that the new €25 billion reference cost will "substitute the estimated benchmark cost of €20.8 billion on which EDF Group relied in its consolidated financial statements at the end of December 2014 and at the end of June 2015". EDF said the increase in provisions will have a negative impact of around €500 million post-tax on net income group share in 2015.6

Reprinted from nuClear news with additions from Nuclear Monitor.

nuClear news, No.82, February 2016, www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo82.pdf

References:
1. Albuquerque Journal, 19 October 2015, www.abqjournal.com/661954/news/safety-top-dog-innew-wipp-culture.html
2. Stanford News, 15 Jan 2016, http://news.stanford.edu/news/2016/january/waste-nuclear-material-
011516.html and Nature 13 Jan 2016, www.nature.com/news/policy-reassess-new-mexico-snuclear-waste-repository...
3. New Scientist, 29 Jan 2016, www.newscientist.com/article/2075615-radioactive-wastedogs-germany-despi...
4. Cumbria Trust, 27 Jan 2016, https://cumbriatrust.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/at-least-1-killed-intunnel...
WNN, 26 Jan 2016, 'Fatal rockfall at planned French repository site', www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Fatal-landslide-at-planned-French-reposito...

5. Geert De Clercq, 12 Jan 2016, 'EDF sinks to all-time low as nuclear waste cost estimate soars', http://uk.reuters.com/article/edf-nuclear-waste-idUKL8N14W2RO20160112

6. World Nuclear News, 18 Jan 2016, 'Minister sets benchmark cost for French repository', www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Minister-sets-benchmark-cost-for-French-re...

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#798
12/02/2015
Shorts

Children's lives after Fukushima

At the end of October 2014, I visited the Futaba area in Fukushima Prefecture, observed classes, met with the children and learned of the distress in the schools from teaching staff, including principals and assistant principals, and also from related officials such as the local superintendant of schools.

In April 2011 (April is the beginning of the academic year in Japan), a total of 70 schools in Fukushima Prefecture were temporarily closed because they were unable to restart, or had been temporarily relocated. Of these, 38 were elementary schools, 20 were middle schools, 11 were high schools and one was a special-needs school. With the exception of one elementary school, all of these temporary closures or relocations were due to the nuclear power station explosions. A total of 8,013 students and 1,582 school teachers and staff were affected.

Three years later, in April 2014, schools which are still not able to restart and remain temporarily closed are four elementary schools and two middle schools run by Namie Town. The teachers and staff have been reassigned to "additional posts" in different schools all across the prefecture. The number of Fukushima schools that have returned to the original location and have reopened is 15 elementary schools and eight middle schools. Besides these, 19 elementary schools and ten middle schools have borrowed classrooms in other schools, have been closed through amalgamation with other schools, or have reopened by relocating temporarily to private facilities.

Many of the schoolchildren who remained in Fukushima Prefecture are living in temporary housing and are spending an hour to 90 minutes each way in school buses getting to and from school. They leave their homes before 7 a.m. and return in the early evening or sometimes after nightfall. Fatigue is accumulating among the younger elementary school children. Sports activities are limited due to lack of or insufficient school yards. Moreover, the long commuting times mean that all kinds of activities cannot be carried out satisfactorily. Some of the teachers and school staff commute more than 70 km each way to their schools. This was supposed to happen for only one year, but already more than three years have passed. The teachers lamented the fact that there does not seem to be any end to this situation in sight.

− Yukio Yamaguchi, Co-director, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (Tokyo). Abridged from Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164, Jan/Feb 2015, www.cnic.jp/english/newsletter/nit164/nit164articles/01_fukushima.html

 

"New" Japan Atomic Energy Commission inaugurated

Revisions to Japan's Act for the Establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission were made in June 2014 and went into effect on December 16. That day, the chairman remarked, "We are launching new Atomic Energy Commission activities." Never mind that it is called "new," the three committee members it comprises were appointed and began their activities in April, prior to the revisions. This is a strange way to arrange affairs, but Japan's government has become more disorderly since December 2012, when the Abe administration came into power, so this is par for the course.

The Atomic Energy Commission was shrunk from five members to three, and its operations were downsized on the basis of reconsiderations made by the previous administration, which we explained in NIT 152. Even though the administration changed hands, legal revisions were made in accordance with the previous administration's views.

Two of the three commission members are clearly supportive of nuclear energy, and they make no effort to hide it. The third specializes in uses of radiation. While she does not actively promote nuclear power, she expresses her ideas poorly. The chairman, Yoshiaki Oka, is a nuclear engineer and is on record in "Chairman's Remarks" at the beginning of his term as saying, "It is important that the excellent nuclear technology our country has cultivated and the hard-earned experience gained from TEPCO's accidents in Fukushima be utilized not only in Japan, but worldwide. Japan should lead the world in the field of nuclear energy."

Instead of creating new general principles for nuclear policy as the previous commission did, the Atomic Energy Commission drafted "Basic Concepts." The "Observations Used in Drafting the Basic Concepts" presented by Chairman Oka at the December 24 meeting of the commission, contains the statement, "How about a motto of ‘Leading the World' (in top-notch R&D and world-class projects)?"

Vice-Chairman Nobuyasu Abe hails from Japan's foreign Affairs Ministry, with expertise in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, but he exhibits a surprisingly low level of awareness. At the annual meeting of the Japanese branch of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management on November 22, 2014, Vice-Chairman Abe blithely remarked, "It is said that the increasing amounts of plutonium are a problem, but even if money in a bank increases, the risk of theft stays the same. This is a makeshift solution, but the amount of plutonium in storage is tallied at the end of the year, so it would be okay to begin reprocessing in January and use the plutonium before the end of the year so that the amount is reduced by year end."

Reprinted from Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164, Jan/Feb 2015, www.cnic.jp/english/newsletter/nit164/nit164articles/07_nw164.html

Areva's 2014 revenue down 8%

Areva says its 2014 revenue was €8.34 billion (US$9.5 billion), down 8% from the previous year.1 The company is expected to post a 2014 loss of at least €1 billion, perhaps much more.2 Areva CEO Philippe Knoche said: "The year of 2014, particularly the second half, was a hard time for Areva."3

Areva's mining group took the largest hit in 2014, with revenue down €420 million (US$479 million) on the previous year, with sales volumes down 28%. Revenue also fell at the back end of the nuclear cycle, with a 12.1% drop in the business area dealing with spent fuel and reprocessing.3

Areva warned that it expects to book significant write-downs of assets in its 2014 accounts. The company did not elaborate, but the troubled EPR reactor project in Finland is a likely candidate.1

Areva is reportedly drafting a plan to let EDF take a stake in some of its units (namely reactor exports and spent fuel reprocessing), thus providing a capital boost. The French state has an 87% stake in Areva and 84.5% in EDF.4

1. www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/02/areva-results-idUSL6N0VC43B20150202
2. https://uk.news.yahoo.com/arevas-losses-last-could-over-3-billion-euros-...
3. www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Areva-revenues-down-in-2014-0402151.html
4. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/02/05/areva-edf-idUKL6N0VF38J20150205

EU court adviser says German nuclear tax compatible with EU law

A German nuclear fuel tax is compatible with EU law, a European court adviser said on February 3, in a preliminary decision that could thwart efforts by utilities to recover billions of euros. The provisions of EU law "are not against such a tax", the adviser to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) concluded. The Court follows the opinions of court advisers in a majority of cases.

Last year, a Hamburg court declared the fuel tax illegal in another preliminary ruling, but requested advice from the ECJ. So far, German utilities have paid about 4.6 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in nuclear fuel taxes.

http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL6N0VD1J720150203

Vietnam delays nuclear reactor program, again

The government of Vietnam has pushed back the date for breaking ground on its first nuclear reactor by two years from 2017 to 2019. This delay comes on top of an earlier postponement that set the 2017 date. Other reports give a 2020−2022 start date.

Hoang Anh Tuan, head of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, said the delay is necessary because the government isn't ready to manage the project, nor does it have a mature and independent nuclear safety and regulatory oversight agency.

Russia's Rosatom has a contract to build the first two of four planned 1200 MW VVER nuclear reactors at a Ninh Thuan, a coastal site. Most of the financing will be provided by a Rosatom loan. Vietnam also has an agreement with Japan Atomic Power to plan the development of a second 2200 MW power station in the same region.

http://neutronbytes.com/2015/02/01/slow-growth-for-nuclear-energy-in-jap...

http://blogs.wsj.com/frontiers/2015/01/23/vietnams-slowing-growth-and-sa...

Nuclear Resister

The latest issue of Nuclear Resister is out now, with information about anti-nuclear and anti-war related arrests and peace prisoner support. Stories featured in the latest issue include:

  • Villagers and supporters on Jeju Island (South Korea) were arrested and injured during a crackdown and demolition of a protest site.
  • On January 29, Eve Tetaz and Nashua Chantal stood trial before US District Judge Stephen Hyles in Columbus, Georgia. The two had crossed onto Ft. Benning during the annual demonstration to close the School of the Americas. Tetaz received a $5,000 fine while Chantal was sentenced to five years of probation.
  • On January 5, four protesters were arrested inside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire while protesting the continuing use of armed drones.
  • Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, turned herself in to the federal prison camp in Lexington, Kentucky on January 23. She will serve a three-month sentence for her June 1, 2014 protest of drone killings at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
  • On January 17, activists from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action blocked the main gate and staged a mock funeral to "mourn the death of the earth after nuclear annihilation" at the US Navy's West Coast Trident nuclear submarine base. Ten men and women were removed from the roadway and arrested. 
  • On January 17, peace activists stood in front of the Lockheed Martin complex in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Five people blocked the main driveway entrance and were later cited for disorderly conduct by the police.
  • On January 10, Witness Against Torture and Code Pink marked the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Prison with a torture protest on Dick Cheney's lawn. Two protesters were arrested on trespassing charges.
  • On January 16, a judge found Henry Stoever not guilty of trespass during a protest at the Honeywell nuclear weapons plant in Kansas City, Missouri. The plant makes, procures and assembles 85% of the non-nuclear parts of nuclear weapons.

To read more and to subscribe to the Nuclear Resister e-bulletin or the print edition, visit: www.nukeresister.org

Meanwhile, anti-militarists are organising a mass lockdown at the Burghfield nuclear arms facility in the UK on March 2. The blockade is part of the non-violent direct action and campaigning against a new nuclear arms program. British nuclear arms are produced, maintained and stored in an Atomic Weapons Establishment in the village of Burghfield, located near the city of Reading. AKL, the Union of Conscientious Objectors Finland, is organising a bus trip to the event from Finland, picking up passengers from various cities including Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and the Hague.

More information: [email protected], http://actionawe.org/burghfieldlockdown

Nuclear News

20/11/2014
Shorts

Lifetime Achievement Award for Michael Mariotte

Michael Mariotte, President of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), was honoured on November 10 by 14 environmental organisations in recognition of his three decades of work to educate the public and lawmakers about the dangers of nuclear power. The award was presented by Ralph Nader.

Among his many achievements over 30 years, Michael led the successful fight to block the Calvert Cliffs-3 reactor project in Maryland. In the 1990s, he initiated a program to support fledgling anti-nuclear groups across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union with tens of thousands of dollars in grants and visits by U.S. energy experts to Ukraine, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Hungary. Drawing upon public awareness of the 1986 Chernobyl reactor disaster, Michael played a major role in the fight to defeat federal 'Mobile Chernobyl' legislation that would have permitted the mass transportation nationwide of nuclear fuel waste, with the outcome hinging on a one-vote margin of victory in the US Senate in 2000.

Michael influenced an entire generation of anti-nuclear activists by bringing the idea of "anti-nuclear action camps" from Europe to the US and helped organise six of them − three in New England and three in Midwest. The Vermont Yankee reactor shutdown announcement came 15 years to the day after the arrests of members of the first New England action camp.

The 14 groups supporting the award are Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Beyond Nuclear, Center for Study of Responsive Law, Clean Water Action, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, The Guacamole Fund, Greenpeace, Independent Council for Safe Energy Fund, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Sierra Club and World Information Service on Energy.

Former NIRS board chair Paxus Calta said: "MM was a visionary with respect to Eastern Europe, which is how we met. He was one of the few people in the US who saw what was completely apparent in Czechoslovakia, that without orders for new reactors in the 1990s in the west, the newly liberated former communist countries were the place nuclear engineering infrastructure could be maintained. And just as Westinghouse and GE's focus moved to eastern Europe. MM designed (with me) and implemented the east European small grant program, he got money from Ted Turner and others, recognizing that relatively small contributions from the west could have tremendous impact in the east. We gave out 40 grants, funding everything from bike tours, to direct action camps, micro anti-nuclear university and east/west internships. Some of the most important reactors in the world in this fight were the pair of units affectionately called K2R4, which were in Khmelnitsky and Rivne in the Ukraine.

"One of the most important interns to come to the micro anti-nuclear university was Tanya Murza also from Rivne. We stopped the western funding for the reactors at K2R4 and basically knocked the east European development bank (the EBRD) out of the business of paying western companies to complete 25 unfinished Russian reactors. And Tanya stayed and she an MM had two charming kids. MM has been a hero and inspiration to a whole bunch of people including me."

www.nirs.org/about/mmlifetimeachievementawardpr111014.pdf
http://funologist.org/2014/11/11/a-cardboard-hero-of-the-revolution-button/
http://safeenergy.org/2014/11/12/on-awards-and-elections/

UK: Waste transport ship fire

A ship carrying intermediate-level radioactive waste from Dounreay to Belgium which caught fire and began drifting in the Moray Firth, near Scotland, has raised new concerns about plans to move waste and fuel from Dounreay to Sellafield by sea. The MV Parida was transporting a cargo of cemented radioactive waste when a fire broke out in a funnel. The blaze was extinguished, but 52 workers were taken from the Beatrice oil platform by helicopter as a precaution. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said the platform was evacuated because the ship may have crashed into it, but not out of any concerns about radioactive contamination.(1)

Questions were asked about why this ship set out given the severe weather warnings. Highlands Against Nuclear Transport said the incident was a warning about transporting radioactive cargoes by sea, and called for proposals to move other nuclear waste from Dounreay to Sellafield by sea to be scrapped. Angus Campbell, the leader of the Western Isles Council, said the Parida incident highlighted the need for a second coastguard tug in the Minch. "A ship in similar circumstances on the west coast would be reliant on the Northern Isles-based ETV [emergency towing vessel] which would take a considerable amount of time to get to an incident in these waters."(2) Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) say the contentious plans to ship some 26 tonnes of 'exotic' nuclear materials (irradiated and unirradiated plutonium and highly enriched uranium fuels) from Dounreay to Sellafield have moved a major step closer following recent sea and port trials in Scottish waters undertaken by the NDA's ship Oceanic Pintail which is based at Barrow-in-Furness.(3)

− Reprinted from nuClear news No.68, Nov 2014, www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo68.pdf

1. West Highland Free Press, 26 July 2014, www.whfp.com/2014/07/25/concern-over-nuclear-waste-shipments/
Stornoway Gazette, 3 Aug 2014, www.stornowaygazette.co.uk/news/local-headlines/concerns-raised-about-ra...
2. Herald, 30 July 2014, www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/plans-for-radioactive-waste-by-sea...
3. CORE, 8 Oct 2014, www.corecumbria.co.uk/newsapp/pressreleases/pressmain.asp?StrNewsID=346

UK: Leaked Sellafield photos reveal radioactive threat

The Ecologist has published a set of leaked images from an anonymous source showing decrepit nuclear waste storage facilities at the Sellafield nuclear plant. The images show the state of spent nuclear fuel storage ponds that were commissioned in 1952 and used until the mid-1970s to store spent fuel until it could be reprocessed. They were abandoned in the mid-1970s and have been left derelict for almost 40 years. The ponds are now undergoing decommissioning but the process is fraught with danger. Nuclear expert John Large warned that if the ponds drain, the Magnox fuel will ignite and that would lead to a massive release of radioactive material.

Oliver Tickell, 27 Oct 2014, 'Leaked Sellafield photos reveal 'massive radioactive release' threat', www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2611216/leaked_sellafield_photos...

143 states support UN call for DU clean-up assistance

143 states voted in favour of a fifth UN General Assembly First Committee resolution on DU weapons, which calls for states to provide assistance to countries affected by the weapons. Four states opposed the resolution, and 26 abstained (including Germany, which has previously supported similar resolutions). The resolution, which built on previous texts with the addition of a call for 'Member States in a position to do so to provide assistance to States affected by the use of arms and ammunition containing depleted uranium, in particular in identifying and managing contaminated sites and material' was submitted by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. The resolution also recognised the need for more research on DU in conflict situations. Predictably, the UK, US, France and Israel voted against the resolution. It has recently emerged that the US may again use DU in Iraq. International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons coordinator Doug Weir said: "The reasons given for abstaining have become increasingly feeble, and now seem to revolve around paradoxical arguments calling for more research while opposing a text that calls for exactly that. The people of Iraq and other affected states deserve far better."

www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/143-states-support-call-du-vote-at-un-1comm
www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/06/inside-the-un-resolution-on-depleted-ura...

Activists hold up uranium train in Hamburg

Anti-nuclear activists stopped a trainload of "yellow cake" uranium in Hamburg harbour, Germany, for more than seven hours earlier this month.1 The train was taking 15 containers of the ore from Kazakhstan to Malvési in southern France for processing, a frequent run. While two activists suspended themselves over the railway track, eight were temporarily arrested on the ground. Activists have demanded that Mayor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, close Hamburg harbour to nuclear shipments, as the city of Bremen has done. From November 28−30, an international meeting to oppose uranium transportation will be held in Münster, hosted by SOFA Münster (www.sofa-ms.de/home.html).

Meanwhile, an alliance of German environment activists plans to try to prevent the export of CASTOR containers with highly radioactive fuel pebbles to the USA from Jülich and Ahaus. When the supervisory board of the Jülich research centre met on November 19 to discuss what to do with the CASTORS there, activists mounted a protest outside. The catchcry of the anti-nuclear movement, "Nothing in, nothing out!" is the basic tenet of the new alliance, currently comprising 13 groups, with more likely to come on board.

1. http://nuclear-news.net/2014/11/12/activists-hold-up-uranium-train-in-ha...

German authorities stuff up nuclear exercise

A secret large-scale simulation of an atomic disaster at a German nuclear power plant in Lingen ended poorly on 17 September because crisis managers at national and state levels fought over responsibilities. The outcome was revealed by the investigative newspaper Taz in October, citing 1,000 pages of internal ministerial protocols and files. In a real situation a radioactive cloud would have moved southeast from Lingen across Osnabrück, Steinfurt, Warendorf, Gütersloh and Bielefeld before authorities had alerted people to the danger. Only because of the assumed wind direction, cities like Münster and Hamm were spared the first atomic cloud; had a different wind been assumed they, too, would have been hit by the fallout unprepared. Taz reported that despite this disaster the federal environment ministry had drawn no conclusions from the failure of the emergency exercise by time it published its story.

Willi Hesters of the Aktionsbündnis Münsterland gegen Atomanlagen (Münsterland Alliance Against Atomic Installations) said: "This exceeds the worst fears. It appears that in a real situation the German authorities appear to be unable to adequately inform and protect the population in case of a maximum credible accident. Why was this exercise kept secret? Why have no consequences been drawn yet? If the authorities are unable to protect the population in case of grave atomic accidents, the federal environment ministry must immediately close down all atomic installations." The simulated worst case scenario in Lingen, where there is also a nuclear fuel factory, is particularly controversial because earlier this year the precautionary areas for atomic accidents were drastically enlarged. Under the new rules, all areas within a 20 km radius of nuclear power stations would have to be evacuated within 24 hours; within a radius of 100 kilometres people would have to stay indoors and take iodine tablets. Matthias Eickhoff from the activist group SOFA (Immediate Atomic Shutdown Münster) said: "If communication doesn't work at the highest level between federal and state governments, how is it supposed to work at lower level between the states, counties and municipalities? A disaster beyond all expectations is unmanageable at administrative level."

www.taz.de/Geheime-Uebung-von-Bund-und-Laendern/!148295/
https://linksunten.indymedia.org/en/node/127362

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#765
01/08/2013
Shorts

Stop Japan's Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant
Action Requested: Sending letter to the Japanese Embassy in your country urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Japan! Sixty-eight years ago on August 9, an atomic bomb containing about 6kg of plutonium destroyed the city of Nagasaki in an instant. Next year, Japan intends to start the commercial operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, the only industrial-scale reprocessing plant in a non-nuclear weapons state, to separate plutonium from fuel used in nuclear power plants at a rate of 8 tons per year, equivalent to 1,000 bombs using the IAEA formula of 8 kg per bomb.

Originally, Japan intended to use separated plutonium to fuel fast breeder reactors, which were supposed to produce more plutonium than they consumed, guaranteeing a semi-eternal energy source. As in other countries, this program stalled, however. So Japan launched an uneconomical program to consume its accumulating plutonium in light water reactors. This also stalled. As result Japan has accumulated about 44 tons of plutonium, equivalent to more than 5,000 bombs: 34 tons in Europe, from reprocessing Japan's spent fuel in the UK and France, and 10 tons in Japan.

Due to the Fukushima accident we have only two of 50 reactors operating. The number and the timing the reactors to be restarted is uncertain and the prospect of being able to consume a significant amount of the existing plutonium in reactors anytime soon is dim. Applications for review for restart of 10 reactors under the new safety rules were just submitted July 8.

The government still wants to start operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Further accumulation of nuclear-weapon-usable material is a concern for the international society and for Japan's neighbors, who wonder about its intentions.

Separated plutonium is also a security risk. And if other countries follow Japan's example, it would increase proliferation risks.

Please help us to stop Japan from further separating nuclear weapon usable material by doing the following:

Send a message/letter by fax or otherwise to the Japanese Embassy in your country by August 9 urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and send a copy of the message/letter that you have sent or intend to send to the following e-mail address by 5 August no-pu[@]gensuikin.org

List of Japanese Embassies: www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/mofaserv.html

We will deliver them to the government of Japan on August 9. We also will release them to the media.

Thank you very much in advance.
 

NO MORE HIROSHIMAs! NO MORE NAGASAKIs! NO MORE PLUTONIUM!

Sincerely yours,

Yasunari Fujimoto
Secretary General,
Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN)
 

(For background information see 'Japan's Reprocessing Plans, Nuclear Monitor #763, 13 June 2013).

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Canada: Cameco agreement to silence indigenous protests on uranium mining
After the Pinehouse collaboration Agreement with Cameco and Areva in December 2012, with the English First River Nation in May 2013 another indigenous community of Northwest Saskatchewan has - against protests of their community members - signed an agreement with these uranium mining companies to support their business and not to disturb it anymore.

The agreement - which members have not been permitted to see - allegedly promises $600 million in business contracts and employee wages to the Dene band, in exchange for supporting Cameco/Areva's existing and proposed projects within ERFN's traditional territory, and with the condition that ERFN discontinue their lawsuit against the Saskatchewan government relating to Treaty Land Entitlement section of lands near Cameco's proposed Millenium mine project.

− from Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013, nukenews.nuclear-heritage.net

More information:
Committee for Future Generations, http://committeeforfuturegenerations.wordpress.com/
Peter Prebble and Ann Coxworth, July 2013, 'The Government of Canadaʼs Legacy of Contamination in Northern Saskatchewan Watersheds, tinyurl.com/uran-sask

South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens
The scandal in South Korea concerning the use of counterfeit parts in nuclear plants, and faked quality assurance certificates, has widened. [1]
In May 2012, five engineers were charged with covering up a potentially dangerous power failure at the Kori-I reactor which led to a rapid rise in the reactor core temperature. The accident occurred because of a failure to follow safety procedures. [2] A manager decided to conceal the incident and to delete records, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. [3] In October 2012, authorities temporarily shut down two reactors at separate plants after system malfunctions.

Then in November 2012, the scandal involving counterfeit parts and faked certificates erupted. [4] The reactor parts included fuses, switches, heat sensors, and cooling fans. The scandal kept escalating and by the end of November it involved at least 8601 reactor parts, 10 firms and six reactors and it was revealed the problems had been ongoing for at least 10 years. Plant owner Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) acknowledged possible bribery and collusion by its own staff members as well as corruption by firms supplying reactor parts. [5]

Two reactors were taken offline to replace thousands of parts, while replacement parts were fitted to other reactors without taking them offline.

In recent months the scandal has continued to expand.

Late May 2013: Two more reactors were shutdown and the scheduled start of two others was delayed because an anonymous whistleblower revealed that "control cables had been supplied to [the] four reactors with faked certificates even though the part had failed to pass a safety test." [6]

June 20: Widespread police raids. [7] Prosecutors reveal that the number of plants suspected to have non-compliant parts (or at least paperwork) has widened to include 11 of South Korea's 23 reactor reactors. [8]

July 8: The former president of KHNP was arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into nuclear industry corruption. [9,10]

July 10: Search and seizure occurred at Hyundai Heavy Industries after the Busan Prosecutor's office obtained warrants relating to the nuclear parts scandal. [11]

July 11: Details emerged on the involved parties in the Hyundai headquarters raid, including persons and exchanged funds. Contract bribery is included in the charges. [12]

Even before the scandals of the past two years, a 2011 IPSOS survey found 68% opposition to new reactors in South Korea. [13] The proportion of South Koreans who consider nuclear power safe fell from 71% in 2010 to 35% in 2012. [14]

References and Sources:
1. Atomic Power Review, 14 July 2013, 'South Korea's Nuclear Energy Corruption Scandal Widens in Scope', http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/south-koreas-nuclear-en...
2. www.koreaherald.com/opinion/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20120315000875
3. www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Safety_culture_questions_after_loss_of_pow...
4. http://planetark.org/enviro-news/item/67070
5. www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-05/uncertified-parts-force-nuclear-reactor-s...
6. www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/south-ko...
7. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130620000802
8. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130623000225
9. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130708000852
10. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130705000621
11. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130710001055
12. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130711000801
13. IPSOS, June 2011, 'Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster', www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/ipsos-global-advisor-nuclear-power-...
14. Reuters, 7 Jan 2013, 'South Korea to expand nuclear energy despite growing safety fears', www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/08/us-nuclear-korea-idUSBRE90704D20130108

------------------->

France: Activists target uranium and nuclear plants
Two uranium facilities were blocked by activists in the South of France on June 19. The collectives "Stop Uranium" and "Stop Tricastin" organised simultaneous non-violent blockades in front of two uranium facilities in the south of France. The first facility, the Comurhex Malvési (near Narbonne) is the entrance gate for yellowcake in France. The second facility was the Eurodif enrichment plant, on the Tricastin nuclear site, near Avignon.

About 30 Greenpeace activists were arrested on July 15 after breaking into an EDF nuclear power plant in southern France, saying they wanted to expose security flaws and demanding its closure. The activists said they reached the walls of two reactors at the Tricastin plant, one of France's oldest. The protesters who entered the plant at dawn unfurled a yellow and black banner on a wall above a picture of President Francois Hollande, marked with the words: 'TRICASTIN ACCIDENT NUCLÉAIRE: PRÉSIDENT DE LA CATASTROPHE?' (Tricastin Nuclear Accident: President of the Disaster?).

"With this action, Greenpeace is asking François Hollande to close the Tricastin plant, which is among the five most dangerous in France," said Yannick Rousselet from Greenpeace France. Greenpeace is pressing Hollande to honour his previous promise to close at least 10 reactors by 2017 and 20 by 2020.

In July 2008 an accident at a treatment centre next to the Tricastin plant saw liquid containing untreated uranium overflow out of a faulty tank during a draining operation. The same month around 100 staff at Tricastin's nuclear reactor number four were contaminated by radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe.

Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013, nukenews.nuclear-heritage.net
Reuters, 'Greenpeace activists break into French nuclear plant', www.euronews.com/newswires/2029444-dozens-of-greenpeace-activists-enter-...
'French Greenpeace activists break into nuclear power plant', 15 July 2013, www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jul/15/french-greenpeace-activists-n...
Angelique Chrisafis, 25 July 2008, 'It feels like a sci-fi film' - accidents tarnish nuclear dream', www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/25/nuclear.industry.france

------------------->

Germany: Activists blockade nuclear fuel production plant
On July 25, around 50 activists blockaded Areva's nuclear fuel production plant in Lingen, north-east Germany. The protest included a climbing action as well as Samba-band. For seven hours, traffic delivering material to the plant was blocked. Around midday, police arrived and cleared away the peaceful non-violent blockade. A number of activists were taken to the police station. A female activist was wounded and had to be taken to the hospital.

Photo from visual.rebellion: www.dropbox.com/sh/taymq41hbd0cj9h/BmermA60cG

International anti-nuclear camp and network gathering

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#751
4249
14/06/2012
Article

From July 30 to August 3, 2012 you are invited to join the international Anti-nuclear Camp and Network Gathering in Döbeln, Middle Saxony, in Germany: five days of workshops and presentations, skill-sharing and networking, excursions and public events. It will be a chance to meet activists and interested people from several regions across Europe to share experiences and ideas with each other and network for mutual projects and actions.

Everyone is welcome at the anti-nuclear camp to offer workshops or presentations on topics they are working with. Please feel invited to talk about your current struggles, upcoming campaigns and actions. The gathering also aims to share our skills together in the fields of action, campaigning, investigating etc. It would be wonderful if you have issues you want to bring up.

We plan to visit an abandoned uranium mine at the Czech border not too far from the camp. There we will meet critics and learn about the challenges connected to uranium mining.

At the project house in Döbeln you will also find the International Network Office and the Morsleben Archive, a great independent collection of documents on the Morsleben nuclear waste dump. The ecological garden will provide us with vegetables and fruits.

How to join the camp?
To be here on time, you should arrive at least one day earlier, July 29. Please announce your participation as early as you can. Some days before the camp start date we will send you the booklet with program and information about the gathering. You can stay at the camp site and help cleaning up until August 4. A basic setting of vegan food will be provided. We will ask you for donations based on your own understanding of costs for participating in the camp. We will cook together. You also can buy drinks like lemonade and juices from the local foodco-op. If you can't afford your travel costs, contact us to talk about the possibility of an option to cover a share of your travel expenses.

Anti-nuclear Action Summer
We invite you to make this summer an anti-nuclear action summer. A number of international events and actions will take place between July and September in Central and Northern Europe, partly organized by activists of our network, too.

An anti-nuclear camp will take place in Lubiatowo, in the Pomerania Region of Poland on July 23 -29 close to the proposed site of the first Polish atomic power plant. Taking a bus on July 28 will bring you on time to the international gathering in Germany.

Directly after the camp in Germany, you can travel together with other activists to Finland to the Blockade and Action Camp in Olkiluoto. We will travel by bus and ferry to arrive in time for the protest camp on August 6-13 with a publicly announced blockade of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant on August 11.

An anti-nuclear sailing trip and bike tour starts ten days later in Stockholm across the sea to Greifswald (D). Between August 26 and September 9, the sailing boat and at the same time a bike tour on land will inform, do actions and meet local activists.

The Nuclear Heritage Network is an international informal network of anti-nuclear activists. We want to connect activists worldwide, provide information regarding nuclear issues and anti-nuclear activities in many countries whilst developing projects and campaigns. Big actions like the Olkiluoto Blockade and the 2010 Baltic Sea Info Tour were results of our gatherings.

We, the organizers of this gathering, are active with several anti-nuclear grassroot groups and organizations across Europe. Connected through the Nuclear Heritage Network, we arranged several network gatherings in the past - in France, Germany, Slovenia, Finland and Czech Republic.

Source and contact: Nuclear Heritage Network, Am Bärental 6, D-04720 Döbeln, Germany.
Tel: +49 3431 5894177
Email: contact[at]nuclear-heritage.net
Web: http://nuclear-heritage.net

Germany, Hungary, India

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special
01/05/2012
Article

Germany

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 

9

1961-06-17

17.79%

In Germany spent fuel removed from reactors untill 2005 is reprocessed. In the 2002 phase-out law, reprocessing is forbidden from 2005 on.(*01) Interim storage of reprocessing waste takes place at Gorleben. Interim storage of spent fuel takes place at Ahaus and on site.

Underground storage facilities are (planned) at Asse, Schacht Konrad, Morsleben and Gorleben. There are many low- and intermediate level waste storage facilities, some undergound (Morsleben, Asse), some on site (Karlsruhe, Mitterteich, Juelich, Greisfswald).(*02) (West-) Germany once dumped low- and intermediate level nuclear waste in the Atlantic Ocean, in 1967.(*03)

The experience with storage of nuclear waste in salt domes are dramatically bad. In Germany two salt domes with radioactive waste threaten to collapse. The cost to isolate the salt domes as well as possible, amounts € 6.1 billion. The planned storage in Gorleben, on which € 1.5 billion has been spent, has been controversial and will not begin before 2035, at the earliest.

1. The Asse salt dome
The Research Mine Asse II salt dome is situated in the state of Lower Saxony. From 1967 till 1978 about 125,000 barrels (or drums) of low-level and 1,300 barrels of intermediate-level radioactive waste have been stored there, for research purposes. The low-level radioactive waste is located in 12 caverns at 725 and 750 meters depth, the medium-level waste in one storage room at 511 m depth.(*04) Around 1970 it was the intention to store also high-level waste in the salt dome.(*05) This plan was a key reason for the Dutch government to opt for high-level waste disposal in salt domes; there were even Dutch experiments in Asse.(*06) However; there never has been high-level waste stored at Asse.

According to an information brochure from the GSF in April 1973: „The mine buildings would remain stable in case of flooding”. “The shaft Asse II is currently completely dry and leakproof. The possibility of flooding through the shaft into the mine buildings is therefore excluded.” Now for over 20 years around 12,000 liters of water per day flows into the salt dome. The formed brine has affected the waste drums, resulting in leakage of radioactivity.(*07) In 2009 at 700 meters depth radioactive cesium-137 has been found and it become known that already in 1988 cesium, tritium, strontium-90 and cobalt-60 has been measured in salt brine.(*08)

So, although it as claimed in the early 1970s that disposal at Asse would be secure for thousands of years, it turns out there is water influx after 15 years and radioactivity is leaking after 40 years.

This is an even bigger problem because in late August 2009 it was disclosed that there is not 9.6 but an amount of 28 kilograms of plutonium present in (mostly the LLW) in Asse.(*09) Ten days earlier, on August 19, the former German Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said on the TV-program "Hartaberfair" of the public German television (Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen),(*10) that the safe closure of Asse will cost between €2 and €4 billion, the nuclear industry has paid €450,000 for the storage, the taxpayer will foot the rest of the bill. According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) on 2009, cracks have emerged because corridors and caverns remained open for a long time, which caused instability and therefore insecurity in the salt dome.(*11)

On 3 September 2009 the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) said that it is unclear how long it takes before the shafts are no longer accessible and that therefore urgent measures are needed.(*12) Merkel's government agrees with that. On 15 January 2010 the BfS announces that all barrels must be excavated.(*13) According to the German environment minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) retrieving the low-level waste is expected to cost €3.7 billion,(*14) with a further €200 million for the disposal of the intermediate level waste.(*15)
In May 2010 Röttgen called Asse "an example of a collective political failure, a failure independent of political parties". He first wants to open at least two storage chambers to investigate the condition of the barrels.(*16)

In February 2011, Dr. Heinz Geiser, the manager of the Gesellschaft für Nuklearservice (GNS), stated that for the barrels that are recovered to the surface a building has to be realized with a storage capacity of 275,000 m3. To avoid additional transports he says the facility has to be built near Asse.(*17) End May it is published that Bfs has been granted a permit has to retrieve  the radioactive waste.(*18)

The 100 page permit consists of 32 requirements BfS has to meet. If these requirements are met, exploration of two storage rooms with nuclear waste, rooms 7 and 12, can start. It will begin with drillings into these two storage rooms to get an impression of the state of the nuclear waste and the storage rooms itself. Cameras have to shed some light on the state of the barrels. Measuring equipment must give information about the air quality in those rooms, which include possibly a concentration of flammable or explosive gas, and high levels of at least tritium and radon are expected. BfS will then analyze the results of the measurements and observations. If this assessment is positive, then both chambers at 750 meters depth will be opened. The next step is the recovery of the waste drums.(*19)

But much more has to be done. For example: the retrieval of the nuclear waste must comply with the requirements of the Nuclear Energy Act. Therefore, the existing shaft has to be made safer. But there is still a risk that the salt dome is filled with water. Therefore, the storage mine has to be stabilized. If water flows in uncontrolled, emergency measures have to take into effect. These include methods to close the storage rooms and the shafts quickly and to spray magnesium chloride in the storage mine. With this, BfS wants to ensure that as little as possible radioactive substances can be released when the mine is filled with water.
Because the existing shaft is not suitable for the recovery because of the limited capacity, a new shaft has to be constructed to retrieve the barrels in a safer and faster way to the surface.(*20)

The excavated drums are temporarily stored above ground in a building, but there is still no decision on where that storage building has to come. Then the drums have to be stored somewhere permanently. But also the final destination is unknown.(*21) Although still far from clear what will happen exactly, all stakeholders are convinced that they are dealing with something unique. Retrieval of drums with nuclear waste from a geological repository has happened nowhere in the world.(*22) In December 2011 it became known that BfS-experts think that already within a year much water can come in the salt dome, which would make the retrieval of nuclear waste no longer feasible.(*23,24) This message caused much anxiety among the population and politicians. The state secretary of Environment, Ursula Heinen-Esser, declared on 8 February 2012 to stick to the excavation of all barrels,(*25) and added on 13 February 2012 that the excavation can take as much as forty years instead of the planned ten years.(*26)
Wolfram König, director of the BfS, while thinking that excavation of all drums is necessary,  also said in early February 2012: "The history of Asse is a prime example of how a safe disposal of nuclear waste must not be carried out. In this textbook case is written that there is relied too much on technical solutions and there was paid too little attention to the limits of knowledge and the taking of responsibility."(*27)

2. The Morsleben salt dome
The (former East-) German salt dome Morsleben is a final disposal mine for low and medium level radioactive waste. The intention is to fill and close the salt dome. That will costs €2.2 billion public money.(*28) In the mine in Saxony-Anhalt are stored 37,000 m3 of low and medium level waste and 6,700 used radiation sources.
In 2000, because the salt dome threatened to be filled with water and to collapse, the German government stopped with the disposal in Morsleben. In March 2003, it was decided to fill as soon as possible 670,000 m3 of storage room of the salt dome with a mixture of salt, coal ash,

cement and water. This mixture is called salt concrete. In order to cover the radioactive waste safely forever from environmental influences, a total of 4 million cubic meters must be filled. The BfS estimates that, when a license is obtained, a period of 15 years is required for filling and final closure of the salt dome. On 27 August 2009 it was found that thousands of tons of salt can fall down from the ceiling of storage rooms.(*29)

3. The Gorleben salt dome
The most important salt dome in Germany is the one in Gorleben. Since 1977 research takes place in and around the salt dome, with total costs (in 2008) of  €1.5 billion.(*30) It remains unclear, however, why Gorleben has been chosen on the first place: on 30 January 2010 it was announced that Gorleben initially was not found on the list of possible salt domes.(*31) As a large number of reports from the 1970s are now public, it is possible to try to reconstruct the decision-making process. In a May 2010 study of the historian Anselm Tiggemann it is revealed that although Gorleben was on top of a 1975/6 list of 20 possible locations. In 1976, the choice fell however, on the salt domes Wahn, Lutterloh and Lichtenhorst. After much opposition against research at these locations the choice fell on Gorleben, but without any collection of data to compare Gorleben with other salt domes. That feeds, according to Tiggeman, the idea that political motives have played a role.(*32) On 10 June 2010, in an advice to the Parliament, Jürgen Kreusch wrote(*33) that little was known about Gorleben in 1977, and it is hard to understand why the choice fell on Gorleben.

Gorleben is the world's model for storage in salt domes. But already in 1977, in a large-scale study, it was discovered that the salt dome is in contact with groundwater. And the German geologists Detlef Appel and Jürgen Kreusch demonstrate in their November 2006 report that the covering layer above the salt in an area of 7.5 square kilometers is missing.(*34) With that the dome doesn’t meet a central requirement for suitability.
At least since 26 August 2009, the then German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel thinks the salt dome is unsuitable for storage of radioactive waste, because of safety reasons.(*35) Those risks were already known 25 years ago, but research reports about that have not been published until recently. Besides all this, treaties with landowners, including the land where the salt dome lies, expire in 2015. According to the Mining Act, the construction of the disposal mine has to stop then.

In the 26 October 2009 CDU-CSU-FDP coalition agreement, the new government declared that it want to lift the year 2000 moratorium for further research. It states the research must be transparent and not anticipate a specific result. Also, the region must be compensated for the fact that the disposal is of national importance.(*36)

In December 2011 the Federal Government and the governments of the states decided that a comparative study into final disposal sites should take place and legislation should be made in 2012. According to the agreement a number of locations have to be selected in 2014, where research will be done until late 2019 leading to a final selection. From 2019 on underground research will take place, followed by authorization and commissioning from 2035.(*37)

Then a debate emerged about whether Gorleben still qualifies as a repository.(*38) Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) is sticking to Gorleben and in a March 1, 2012  meeting of Federal and state environment ministers no agreement could be reached on this. But the ministers decided that attention should be given to education of the population at the possible disposal sites: information centers will be opened and discussion meetings with the population will be held.(*39) The local and regional groups are disagreeing and claim there are already more than enough arguments to remove Gorleben from the list.(*40)

Then, on March 2012, the government decided to stop research at Gorleben for a number of years and first investigate other locations.(*41) For the Greens, the Social Democrats and even part of the Christian Democrats, this decision is not enough: they want a 'blank map” to start with: Gorleben should be abandoned as disposal site.

Hungary

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 

4

1982-12-28

43.25%

PURAM, the Public Agency for Radioactive Waste Management, is a 100% state owned company responsible for the management of radioactive waste, and was established on 2 June 1998 by the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority.(*01)

The strategy on low and intermediate level waste disposal is burying in cemented form in steel drums in a shallow-ground disposal site, maintained for 600 years. Since 1986, ILW/LLW from the Paks nuclear power station has been stored at Paks, due to public opposition to its continued burial at the existing disposal site at Puspokszilagy. Public opposition also prevented disposal of Paks-generated waste at the alternative site at Ofalu. Until this situation is resolved, the waste is stored on site at Paks.(*02) In October 2008, a final surface storage facility was inaugerated at Bataapati and construction begun on underground disposal vaults. Bataapati, was selected from some 300 potential locations after a 15-year selection and development process. Final approval was given by parliament in 2005.(*03) The construction of the underground caverns has not been finished, but some low-level waste is stored on surface facilities.(04)

Final geological disposal
Awaiting a final disposal facility spent fuel is stored on site at the ISFSF (Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility) for a period of 50 years.(*05)
The exploration program to find a final disposal repository for high level wastes was launched at the end of 1993, with the investigation of the Boda region. Although this program outlined long-term ideas, it mainly focused on the in-situ site investigations carried out by the Mecsek Ore Mining Company in the area of the Boda Claystone Formation at 1100 m depth (accessible from the former uranium mine) during 1996-98. The program was limited to three years because of the closure of the mine in 1998; the reason for this was that the existing infrastructure of the mine could be economically utilised only during this time period.(*06) It was stated in the final report, that there was no condition which could be used as argument against the disposal of high level wastes in the Boday claystone formations. PURAM launched a countrywide geological screening program in 2000, and it was concluded that the Boda Aleurolit Formation had proven to be the most promising host rock for the high level waste repository. But due to financial restraints most of the research stopped in the years after. A revised schedules foresees in developing criteria for site selection un till 2015; completion of safety assessments (2030); construction of an underground lab (in 2038) and must result in commissioning of a geological repository in 2064.(*07)

India

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity  

20

1969-04-01

3.68%

Nr. of reactors
The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1948 under the Atomic Energy Act as a policy body. Then in 1954 the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was set up to encompass research, technology development and commercial reactor operation. The current Atomic Energy Act is from 1962, and it permits only government-owned enterprises to be involved in nuclear power.(*01)

In the context of India's nuclear fuel cycle, spent fuel is not considered waste but a resource. The spent fuel is temporarily stored on site, before transported for reprocessing. A three-step strategy for high-level waste has been established: immobilization, interim retrievable storage of  conditioned waste and disposal in deep geological formations. According to the national policy, each nuclear facility has its own near-surface disposal facility for low and intermediate-level waste. Currently there are seven NSDFs in operation.(*02)

Radioactive wastes from the nuclear reactors and reprocessing plants are treated and stored at each site. Waste immobilization (vitrification) plants are in operation at Tarapur and Trombay and another is being constructed at Kalpakkam. The Tarapur facility consists of an underground hydraulic vault, which in turn houses two more vaults, which can store about 1700 casks for 20-30 years before they are planned to be transported to a deep geological repository.(*03)

Reprocessing
Research on final disposal of high-level and long-lived wastes in a geological repository is in progress at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at Trombay.(*04)
Amid concerns over waste management at the proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in January 2011 said it was not an immediate problem for India and lamented a lack of balanced environmental approach towards nuclear energy. "This discussion has come at a time when there had been a lot of concern about Jaitapur. A lot of concern has been raised about waste management...today, we don't have a waste management problem. We will have it by the year 2020-2030," Ramesh said.(*05)

A program for development of a geological repository for vitrified high level long lived wastes is being pursued actively, involving In situ experiments, site selection, characterization and laboratory investigations. For assessment of the rock mass response to thermal load  from disposed waste overpack, an experiment of 8-years duration was carried out at a depth of 1000 m in an abandoned section of Kolar Gold mine.(*06)

The Department of Atomic Energy will set up an underground laboratory in one of its uranium mines to study qualities of the rock at the mine bottom to decide whether it can be used to store nuclear waste. "We are looking for a rock formation that is geologically stable, totally impervious and without any fissures," Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee told reporters in Delhi.(*07)

Over the next five years, scientists are going to study a set of physical and geological parameters required for setting up the deep geological disposal facility before zeroing in on its location. The options vary from underground storage in rocky central India to plains where the storage may be housed inside layers of clay. The proposed repository will have large chambers with adequate shielding where nuclear waste from all over the country will be transported periodically. There would be also automatic heat management and radioactivity monitoring.(*08) There is no planned date for a final repository coming into operation.

References:

Germany
*01- International Panel on Fissile Materials, Managing spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, 2011, p.43
*02- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Nuclear Waste Repository Case Studies: Germany, Michael Sailer, 29 August 2008
*03- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.34
*04- Nuclear Heritage: Information about the Research Mine Asse II, late 2008
*05- Ipsen, Kost, Weichler: Analyse der Nutzungsgeschichte und der Planungs- und Beteiligungsformen der Schachtanlage Asse II, University of Kassel, Germany, March 2010 p.17
*06- NRC Handelsblad, 'Opslag kernafval in zoutlagen kan heel goed', April 5, 1984.
*07- Shaft ASSE II – a pilot project for nuclear waste storage in a mine shaft / the research mine for nuclear waste storage, Chronology 1.11.2007
*08- Bundnis90/Die Grünen: Asse-Chronik –Vom Umgang mit Atommüll in Niedersachsen, Hannover, June 2009.
09- BMU (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety): Mehr Plutonium in Asse als bislang angenommen, Press release 281/09, 29 August 2009
*10- Erstes Deutsche Fernsehen, Hartaberfair, 19 August 2009
*11- Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, Endlager Asse: ein Überblick, August 2009
*12- Bundesamtes für Strahlenschutz: Wie soll die Asse stillgelegt werden?, Press release 29/09, 3 September 2009
*13- Bundesamtes für Strahlenschutz : BfS stellt Ergebnis des Optionenvergleichs zur Schließung der Asse vor, Press release 01/10, 15. January 2010:
*14- Frankfurter Rundschau: Milliardengrab Asse, 29 January 2010
*15- Umwelt-Panaroma: Stromkonzerne sollen offenbar für Asse-Sanierung zahlen, 6 February 2010
*16- Asse Einblicke: Niemand weiss, wann das erste Fass geborgen wird, 03/2010, May 2010, p4.
*17- Newsclick, Lager für Asse-II Müll wird grosser, 23 februari 2011
*Ge18- Asse Einblicke, Gemeinsam tragen wir verantwortung, nr. 13, May 2011, p 1
*19- Asse Einblicke, Auf dem Prüfstand, nr. 13, May 2011, p 1.
*20- Asse Einblicke, nr. 13, May 2011, p 2.
*21- Asse Einblicke, nr. 13, May 2011, p 2.
*22- Asse Einblicke, nr. 13, May 2011, p 1.
*23- Handelsblatt: Atommüllager Asse, Opposition warnt vor Umweltdisaster, 23 December 2011
*24- ZDF Heute, Bleibt der Atommüll doch im Asse-Schacht?, 23 December 2011
*25- Deutsche Bundestag: Bundesregierung: Noch kein Zeitplan für Rückholung des Atommülls aus der Asse möglich, 8 February 2012.
*26- Strom Magazin: Rückholung von Atommüll könnte 40 Jahre dauern, 13 February 2012
*27- Asse Einblicke: „Jeder muss für sein Tun geradestehen“, nr. 16, February 2012, p.1
*28- Deutsche Bundestag; Antwort auf eine Kleine Anfrage der Linksfraktion (16/9935), (answer on parliamentary questions) Bundestag, hib-Meldung, 2008_227/01, 8 August 2008
*29- Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS trifft Vorsorge gegen möglichen Löserfall in Morsleben”  press release, 27 augustus 2009.
*30- Deutsche Bundestag; Antwort auf eine Kleine Anfrage der Linksfraktion (16/9935),(answer on parliamentary questions) Bundestag, hib-Meldung, 2008_227/01, 8 August 2008
*31- Elbe Jeetzel Zeitung: Gorleben per Hand  Nachgereicht, 30 January 2010.
*32- Anselm Tiggemann, Gorleben als Entsorgungs- und Endlagerstandort, study commissioned by Lower Saxony ministry for Environment and Climate Protection, May 2010
*33- Jürgen Kreusch, Ausarbeitung für den 1. Untersuchungsausschuss der 17. Wahlperiode (Gorleben-Ausschuss), Fragen und Antworten in Zusammenhang mit der Festlegung auf den Standort Gorleben und der Begründung zur untertägigen Erkundung (1979 – 1983), Hannover, 10. June 2010
*34- Detlef Appel  en Jürgen Kreusch, Das Mehrbarrierensystem bei der Endlagerung radioaktiver Abfälle. Warum der Salzstock Gorleben nicht als Endlager geeignet ist,  14 November 2006
*35- ZDF, Heute Nachrichten, 26 augustus 2009.
*36- CDU, CSU, FDP: Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und FPD, 26 October 2009, p.21
*37- BMU: Bund und Länder einigen sich auf Endlager-Fahrplan, 15 December 2011
*38- ContrAtom: Ein Jahr Gorleben-Epilog, 12 February 2012
*39- Dadp, Suche nach Atommüllendlager weiter offen, 1 March 2012
*40- Bürgerinitiative Lüchow-Dannenberg: Gorleben-gegner fordern Bau- und Erkundigungsstopp und den Abbruch der vorlaufigen Sicherheitsanalyse Gorleben ein, 9 February 2012
*41-Süddeutsche Zeitung, Debatte um Atom-Endlagerstandorte; Bund will Gorleben einmotten, 23 March 2012

Hungary
*01- OECD: Radioactive waste management and decommissioning in Hungary, 2009
*02- IAEA: Country Profile; Hungary, NEWMDB reports
*03- WNN - Hungary inaugurates permanent waste repository, 9 October 2008
*04- PURAM:  The 11th medium and long-term plan of Puram, May 2011, p.8
*05- PURAM, May 2011, p.12
*06- Republic of Hungary: Second Report prepared in the framework of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, 2005, p.13
*07- PURAM, May 2011, p. 35-38

India
*01- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in India, March 2012
*02- Upasana Choudhry: Half life, Radioactive waste in India, Heinrich Boell Stiftung, March 2009
*03- Deccan Herald: India keen on having nuclear waste repository, 14 February 2012
*04- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*05-  The Times of India, Nuclear waste not an immediate problem for India: Ramesh, 3 January 2011
*06- Bhabha Atomic Research Centre: BARC Highlights: Nuclear fuel cycle, 2007, ch.17
*07- Daily News and Analysis India,  India scouting for sites to store nuclear waste, 14 February 2012
*08- Deccan Herald, 14 February 2012

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