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Nuclear Europe roundup

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jan Haverkamp

Czech Republic – Dukovany and Temelín

German environmentalists have started a petition to demand their government to take action on faulty welding work in the first reactor of the Temelín nuclear power station in the south of the Czech Republic. Over 75,000 signatures will be handed over before summer to environment minister Hendricks. More information is posted at

During the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Prague on 23 May, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka declared that he saw no other way for the country's energy mix other than nuclear power. He criticised attempts to diminish its role, hinting at criticism from neighbouring Austria and Germany about Czech plans to expand its nuclear fleet with new reactors in Dukovany and Temelín. He expected the environmental impact assessment for new capacity in Dukovany to be finalised in 2018.

Slovakia – Mochovce 3,4 and New Bohunice

The Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico announced during the same ENEF meeting that Slovakia will finalise the Mochovce 3,4 project no matter what. According to Euractiv on 26 May, he said that Slovakia will always strive for the further development of nuclear energy: "Our government will never abandon this policy and will always fight for the right to choose the way for the production of energy in the future." The Slovak Industry Minister Peter Žiga said at the same event that although the plan for new reactors at the Jaslovské Bohunice site is technically prepared, current economic conditions are not favourable: "We are waiting for better times, when the prices of electricity at the wholesale market will be a bit higher."

In the run-up to this year's Chernobyl anniversary, Global2000, the Austrian member of Friends of the Earth, found elevated tritium levels near the Mochovce nuclear power station in Slovakia. In the Malé Kozmálovce reservoir they found 1347 Bq/l, around 13 times higher than the drinking water limit.

Hungary – Paks II

According to sources, the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) 7th Review Conference discussed the recent law changes in Hungary that could infringe on the independence of the nuclear regulator HAEA. Also the European Commission continued communication with Hungary on the issue. A final result of its inquiry is expected in the coming months.

The Hungarian government appointed former Paks director and mayor of the city of Paks János Süli as a special minister without portfolio for the Paks II project. Rosatom opened a tender procedure for the turbine building and related accessories.

EnergiaKlub and Greenpeace filed a court appeal on 24 May against the approval of the environmental license for Paks II.

Finland – Olkiluoto 3, Hanhikivi

The owner of the Olkiluoto 3 project, TVO, announced it will drop its compensation claims in the international arbitration court against Areva. This in an attempt to ensure that the Olkiluoto 3 reactor will go into a test phase in the coming year.

The town of Helsinki decided to try to get out of Fennovoima, the company behind the Hanhikivi project. This will not be easy, though, because it is only is a minority shareholder in Vantaan Energia, the company over which it owns shares in Fennovoima.

Nuclear regulator STUK announced recently that it will not be able to process the Fennovoima documentation before the end of 2018. Finland is facing parliamentary elections in April 2018.

Russia – the floating reactors of the "Akademik Lomonosov"

Greenpeace Russia made an assessment of the nuclear regulatory oversight over the construction of a floating nuclear power station in the centre of St. Petersburg, 3.5 km from the Hermitage. It came to the conclusion that there is only one annual pre-announced inspection visit by the Russian nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor. It calls for the same regulatory oversight of the entire project, including construction and transport, as other Russian nuclear power stations. A proposal along those lines from the Yablokov fraction in the town's parliament environmental committee was approved on 1 June and has to be confirmed later this month in a plenary session.

Spain – Santa Maria de Garoña, Almarez

During a seminar in the European Parliament, Spanish and Portuguese Parliament members asked that attention be given to the upcoming life-time extension of the Almarez nuclear power plant in Spain, as well as for the plans to restart Santa Maria de Garoña. They demanded public participation before the final decisions for these life-time extensions.

The restart of Santa Maria de Garoña by regulator CNS been conditional on upgrade investments. While 50% owner Iberdrola already said it wanted to refrain from re-opening the reactor, Endesa, the owner of the other 50%, prefers to wait for the decision of the Ministry of Energy.

Initially, the submission period for a request for life-time extension of the Almarez nuclear reactor would run out on 7 June. However, the Ministry of Energy with the support of CNS changed the procedure so that it now still has two years to do so.

Belgium – Tihange and Doel

Preparations for a human chain from Tihange (Belgium), over Maastricht (Netherlands) to Aachen (Germany) on 25 June over 90 km are in full swing. The event is receiving support from German and Dutch municipalities most affected by the power station, as well as from a broad range of people from culture and media, including the annual Dutch PinkPop rock festival. More information:

Belarus – Astravets

During the European Nuclear Energy Forum, 22 May in Prague, Lithuanian vice-minister for the environment Martynas Norbutas heavily criticised the Astravets project, 20 km from the border with Lithuania. He explained among others that the site choice happened without being informed by an environmental impact assessment, and based on population densities in Belarus but excluding Lithuania.

The Lithuanian – Belarussian tensions are expected to influence the Meeting of Parties of the Espoo Convention that takes place June 13‒16 in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

Jan Haverkamp is expert consultant on nuclear energy and energy policy for WISE, Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, Greenpeace Switzerland and vice-chair of Nuclear Transparency Watch.

Nuclear Europe roundup

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jan Haverkamp ‒ WISE Netherlands campaigner on safety and lifetime extension issues for European reactors.

Hungary – Paks II

The Hungarian nuclear regulator issued the site approval for the Paks II nuclear power plant. The preliminary approval of the environmental permit has been sent to some foreign participants in the EIA procedure (e.g. the organisation Calla in the Czech Republic and Terra Mileniul III in Romania) but only in Hungarian. The responsible authority claims no translation is required under Hungarian law. A court case from Hungarian NGOs, among others Energia Klub and Greenpeace Hungary, against the approval of the environmental permit is pending.

The Hungarian government passed law changes in December 2016, including the possibility for the government, the de facto operator of the Paks II project, which is run from the Prime Minister's office, to divert per decree from licensing conditions for the construction of new nuclear capacity and nuclear waste management. The European Commission is currently investigating this under the allegation of breach of the independence of the nuclear regulator as defined under the Euratom Nuclear Safety Directive. Also, the 7th Review Conference of the Convention on Nuclear Safety at the IAEA in Vienna is discussing the matter.

Finland – Hanhikivi

The Finnish nuclear regulator STUK is currently scrutinising the construction documentation for the Hanhikivi nuclear project of the Finnish-Russian conglomerate Fennovoima. STUK criticised Fennovoima, constructor Rosatom and sub-contractors for having too little capacity to deliver the necessary documentation.

Russia – the floating reactors of the "Akademik Lomonosov"

Rosatom is preparing to load two 35 MW power reactors on board the non-propelled barge "Akademik Lomonosov", which is moored at the Baltic Shipyard in the centre of St. Petersburg, 3.5 km from the Hermitage and 2.5 km from the St. Isaac Cathedral.

Greenpeace Russia, the Yablokov Party and Greenpeace Nordic are urging for a transboundary environmental impact assessment to be made before loading, testing and transport of the barge to its final destination in Chukotka. The transport will lead the barge through the exclusive economic zones and/or territorial waters of most countries around the Baltic Sea.

Slovakia – Mochovce 3,4

The shareholders of Slovenské elektrarne ‒ the Slovak state, Italian utility ENEL and the Czech energy holding EPH ‒ have officially increased the budget for the construction of Mochovce 3,4 with €800 million during their Annual General Meeting in late March 2017. Mochovce 3,4 consists of two Rosatom designed VVER440/213 reactors of the second generation that are not equipped with a secondary containment. The total budget is now €5.4 billion or €5620/kWe capacity, which is comparable to the construction costs of the French designed EPR reactors in Olkiluoto, Finland and Flamanville, France. It is unclear who has to finance these extra costs.

Spain – Santa Maria de Garoña

The Spanish government would like to have the EU's oldest nuclear reactor, the Fukushima type GE Mark 1 reactor at Santa Maria de Garoña, restarted. The reactor was shut down in 2015, when its operator Nuclenor (Endesa / ENEL and Iberdrola) did not see an economic future any longer after necessary upgrades. Political pressure on Nuclenor from the side of the Spanish conservative government has been mounting, however.

On the other side, resistance against a restart in the neighbouring Basque Country is growing. During a session of the Basque Parliament on 5 April 2017, legal steps, among others against the lack of public participation, environmental considerations and comparison with viable alternatives, were prepared with parliament-wide support.

Iberdrola has already made clear that it would rather not restart the aging reactor. Endesa and its owner ENEL have yet to react.

Belgium – Tihange and Doel

On 11 March, around 1,000 people demonstrated in Antwerp against the life-time extension of the Doel 1 and 2 and Tihange 1 reactors, for closure of the crack-ridden Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors, and phase-out of the remaining two reactors Doel 4 and Tihange 3 in 2025.

The lack of public participation and environmental impact assessment for the life-time extension of Doel 1,2 and Tihange 1 is currently pending before the Council of State as well as civil court on complaints from Greenpeace. The city of Aachen (Germany) and the State of North Rhine – Westphalia (Germany) have started legal proceedings in Belgium against the operation of Doel 3 and Tihange 2.

On 25 June, a human chain from Tihange to Aachen is to follow the protests from March 11.

Belarus – Astravetz

The government of Lithuania has stepped up its attempts to prevent the construction of the Belarussian-Russian Astravetz nuclear power station just 40 km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Belarus has promised to submit the Astravetz project to a nuclear stress test under supervision of the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG), in the framework of the European post-Fukushima nuclear stress tests. The watchdog group Nuclear Transparency Watch has asked the European Commission to also facilitate input from civil society in that exercise, as happened during the European stress tests and similar stress tests with European support in Taiwan.

Netherlands – Borssele

The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee is receiving answers on its last question regarding the lack of proper public participation concerning environmental issues in the decisions leading to the 20-year life-time extension of the Borssele nuclear reactor in 2013. The Committee is expected to finalise its findings in April and submit them to the Meeting of Parties of the Aarhus Convention in September.

In the meantime, the owner of Borssele, EPZ, has sold its grid distribution and water businesses for €900 million. It now has to decide whether this one-off income will be used to operate Borssele with a loss until possibly improved electricity prices might turn a profit in the early 2020s, or to use it to close down the aging reactor.

Decommissioning costs are budgeted at €500 million, but the decommissioning fund currently faces a shortage of over €200 million.

The largest two parties coming out of the Dutch parliamentarian elections in March 2017, VVD and PVV, want to continue operation of Borssele. Potential government candidates D66 and GroenLinks want it closed. The other negotiating party, the christian-democrat CDA, did not mention Borssele in its election programme, whereas another potential government coalition candidate, the Christian Union (CU), would like to see closure.

Czech Republic – Dukovany and Temelín

The Dukovany nuclear power station is gradually receiving permission for 20 years' life-time extension. Austrian NGOs including among others Global2000, ÖkoBüro Wien and the ÖkoInstitut in Vienna have started procedures under the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions against the lack of transboundary EIA with public participation.

A conference of anti-nuclear groups in Germany and the Czech Republic in Munich in March 2017 continued investigations into alleged problems during primary circuit welding work in the Temelín unit 1 in 1993. Greens Fichtelgebirge organiser Brigitte Artmann announced the next steps to allow access for German experts to vital documentation and stated: "As long as we are alive and this issue has not been resolved, it is not closed."

UK – Hinkley Point C, Wylfa and Moorside

The Espoo Convention Implementation Committee found the UK in non-compliance with the Espoo Convention for not notifying other countries of its intention to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors. The UK reacted with a notification to all Espoo Convention parties, and currently, at least the Netherlands, Norway and Germany asked for a transboundary EIA.

The Netherlands and Austria also informed WISE they had been notified by the UK of the intention to build new nuclear capacity at Wylfa in Wales and are awaiting the start of a transboundary EIA procedure. With this, legal complaints from the Friends of the Irish Environment, An Taisce (the Irish Trust), the German member of the Bundestag Greens Sylvia Kötting-Uhl and German citizen Brigitte Artmann, have been successful. The Espoo Implementation Committee even went a step further by calling on the UK to halt construction work at Hinkley Point C until the transboundary EIA has been finalised. Construction work at Hinkley Point has, however, continued with the pouring of the first safety-relevant concrete.

Finland – Olkiluoto 1,2

The aging reactors 1 and 2 at Olkiluoto have received a life-time extension without public participation or an EIA during the decision-making procedures. NGOs are considering legal options.

Espoo Convention – Meeting of Parties

During the Espoo Convention Meeting of Parties 13‒16 May 2017 in Minsk, Belarus, nuclear issues will receive prominent attention. Lithuania and Belarus are involved in an ingrained battle over the quality of the Astravetz EIA (see above). The NGO CEE Bankwatch is organising a side-event to highlight the lack of environmental impact assessment before decisions on life-time extension of nuclear projects in Ukraine, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic and elsewhere. A special commission is to come with best practices around nuclear decisions, though draft documents do not address life-time extensions.

Germany, Hungary, India

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special


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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.


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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)


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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)

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, 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.


*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

*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

*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

New build in Hungary: more questions than answers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Energia Klub Environmental Association

With a parliamentary decision in March 2009 that virtually gave green light for new reactors, Hungary has stepped on the same road as other former communist countries. The plans for building two large nuclear units (Paks 5-6) is the same case as it is in Bulgaria (Belene 1-2), Slovakia (Mochovce 3-4) and Romania (Cernavoda 3-4)(*1). The idea of these plans is originated in strategies from the seventies-eighties, which aimed to supply the fast-growing energy needs of the wasting heavy industry at whatever cost.  The plans have nothing to do with recent industrial, economical, environmental, energy market and energy consumption patterns. This fact seems as if it does not bother decision makers, who are even willing to break the law in favour of new reactors.

The March 2009 decision of the Parliament did not come out of the blue. The Parliament accepted the energy policy in April 2008 that ordered the Government to examine the possibility of building new nuclear units in the country. The order used a very general language (e.g. it did not define timelines) perhaps due to considering the sensitivity of the issue, but one should also take into account that the preparation of the energy policy was heavily influenced by the nuclear and natural gas lobbies, competing for the possibility of building large base-load capacity.

After the breakout of the economical crisis that affected Hungary deeply, no one believed that the plans of the nuclear lobby could come through soon. Nevertheless, it was only the underestimation of the irrationalism of politics. The prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who had previously talked only once about new reactors in 2006 saying that a referendum must be held in the issue, hiding in its parliamentary speech on the management of the economical crisis in February 2009, announced that until 2020, two new nuclear capacity around 2000 MW will be built at the site of Paks.

The decision must have been a part of the entire Eastern European – Russian energy game. After the Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis of January 2009, the question between natural gas and nuclear was astonishingly rapidly decided in favour of nuclear. The prime minister, who had been described as a man with good connections in Moscow, did not make the decision against the Russian gas lobby for sure. It rather reflected to the change in the balance of forces. As the result of the gas crisis, Vladimir Putin and Yulia Tymoshenko agreed to exclude the Ukrainian Dmitry Firtas from the Eastern-European gas business. As allegedly Firtas owned the company in Hungary that planned to build large base-load capacity on gas, it become clear that the company has no gas anymore.

The decision proposal was sent to the Parliament in the middle of March. One week later the prime minister announced his resignation. The governmental crisis threatened with the breaking up of the Parliament and holding new elections. This did not mean to be a problem, and the Parliament made ‘perhaps it’s most important decision regarding economy’, as said by one of the members of the environmental committee. There were no obstructions: the economical and the environmental committees dealt with the issue around one hour each, while the plenary discussion took around 10 minutes, voting included. Finally, after only two weeks of parliamentary process, without any serious debate, 95% voted for new nuclear.

However, one could hardly believe that the members of the Parliament understood what they were voting for. The justification paper attached to the proposal was only one and a half page long, contained no specific information and referred only to one background paper, which clearly states that until 2025 there is no need for new nuclear capacity in Hungary. There was no information on basic questions: why 2000 MW? One or two units? What kind of reactors? How to insert modern, at least 1000-1200 MW reactors into the relatively small (with a peak load slightly over 6000 MW) Hungarian electricity system that already has 2000 MW of inflexible nuclear capacity, and has no storage capacities, no sufficient border-crossing grid capacities? Where the uranium will come from, who will build and operate the power plant? And the ultimate question: who will pay the bill?

The official answer to these questions was that the permission by the Parliament is only a principal contribution that is required by the Atomic Law, and it is not a building permission. The permission is given based only on a not well-defined requirement of the Law, saying ‘preliminary, principal contribution of the Parliament needed for the start of preparation activities concerning the establishment of a new nuclear facility’. Hence – they argued – the proposal does not have to contain detailed information, and even cannot contain them, as without this permission, the Government had not been allowed to make any steps.

This argumentation is false, of course. First of all, the Law, talking about extension of an existing nuclear power plant (such as Paks) with new units, clearly states, that the principal contribution is needed for the extension itself, not for some ‘preparation activities’. Small, but important difference – the Government used the phrase established for a different situation, when an entire new nuclear power plant is to be built. Secondly, the state-owned Hungarian power distributor MVM (the owner of Paks) had been working on the issue for two years; hence much information had been prepared and made available for the Government, without the permission they referred. It can be clearly seen, that for an unknown reason, the Government in its decision proposal perverted the decrees of the Atomic Law, for the sake of new reactors. That is why the Energia Klub appealed to the Court of Constitution to annul the decision.

However, the Court of Constitution has no timeline to make its decision on the issue. It is an unfortunate situation, as according to the news, the project has got a quick launch. Not only Paks and the MVM, but everyone else in the industry and other sectors, interested somehow in the project (companies, research institutions, universities, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, consulting institutions etc.), has made formal or informal statements, backing the decision.

The already launched project is lacking transparency; even experts have stressed their fears about it. It is not a miracle: the decisions presumably will be made on political and not expert level, with the exclusion of the public opinion. The lack of transparency serves the interests of the politics and the MVM, who has had good connections so far. The two main parliamentary parties, who virtually never agree in any question, moved arm in arm not just when they voted for the new reactors, but also in 2007, forming the rules of the liberalised electricity market in favour of the MVM. Among other preferences, this includes hidden possibility by which the MVM can put the financial burden of its investments on the electricity consumers before implementation. One can easily imagine a link between the MVM and the parties, considering the corruption scandal of the company this year, in which at least 55 million euros disappeared from the state-owned MVM through off-shore companies.

The situation could easily lead to the implementation of the original plans from the eighties, which contained two 1000 MW Russian VVER reactors on the Paks site, but never materialised. This would not only hinder, but make the implementation of sustainable solutions (energy efficiency and conservation, renewables) technically and financially unfeasible, which are fundamental for the already 75% energy dependent Hungary.

*1- See in details: Nuclear Energy: Transferring Problems to Eastern European Countries, April 2008, available at:

Source and contact: András Perger, Energia Klub Environmental Association, 17-19. Szerb street, Budapest, H-1056, Hungary
Tel: +36-1-411-35-20