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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.

Dangerous hypocrisy of Dutch nuclear legislation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Evert van Amerongen − mechanical engineer, metallurgist, and whistleblower

Why do you bother, you will die sometime! That was the incredible remark of the employer when the link was made between my health problems and the handling of small industrial cobalt-56 point sources in 1983. The same can be said about the attitude of legal authorities towards small point source type debris particles with very high activity concentration.

Involved radiation experts concluded that the cobalt-56 incident resulted from a failure to comply with safety regulations. The result was a complete depression of the body, heavy infection of the swollen hands, a lot of hair falling out, mouth infection, teeth loosened and falling out, liver disturbance, stomach aches, and intestinal bleedings. Despite still-existing health problems, it could have been worse − cobalt-56 is a beta-emitting radionuclide with a short half-life and relatively low radiotoxicity.

A criminal complaint was lodged. After 2.5 years of opposition, further prosecution was cancelled on the basis of expected changes in Dutch legislation in 1986. The activity concentration of small point sources was no longer limited. This exemption clause was in conflict with Euratom Council Directive 80/836.

A more dangerous issue in the public domain is the use of americium-241 point sources, which are freely available for purchase. Americium-241 is an artificial radioisotope which is produced in nuclear reactors. The small debris particles of americium-241 oxides − from radioactive Ionisation Chamber Smoke Detectors (ICSDs) − emit alpha radiation with very high activity concentration and very high radiotoxicity. Radioactive debris particles are included in the waste incineration component of the filling substances of asphalt. About 20% of the so-called "fine dirt" in the air along the roads is formed by the wear products of the asphalt and those oxide particles may be inhaled by members of the public. In physical contact with the well-blooded tissue of mucous membranes and lungs, this radioactive dust can cause fatal cancers.

Along with other small point sources, ICSDs were covered by the exemption clause in Dutch legislation. Much later, in 2006, the sale of ICSDs was banned in the Netherlands. Thus the Netherlands joined a small group of countries − including France, Luxemburg and Switzerland − banning ICSDs in favour of safe optical smoke detectors.

Still there are other problem areas, such as when steel waste scraps are recycled with radioactive oxide slag included in the recycled steel. Radioactive particles can become free when machining and can be inhaled.

Returning to my story − my exposure to cobalt-56 point sources in 1983 was the start of a very long road in politics. In 1987/88 the subject was discussed in the Dutch Parliament. The Minister of Environment did not give correct answers and he delegated the subject to Social Affairs and Employment because employment issues were involved. The chairman of the Committee of Petitions refused in the Second Chamber of Parliament to dispute the integrity of the expert institutes involved. The exemptions regarding activity concentrations of small point sources were used to avoid taking appropriate action.

On seven occasions, written questions regarding the activity concentration of small point sources were put in the Second Chamber, but still no correct answers were provided. Questions were also put in the Euro-Parliament, but a Dutch Director General on behalf of the Board of the European Committee protected the Dutch authorities.

In June 2000, the Dutch RIVM Institute released a report with estimates of radiation exposure from consumer goods. The result was bizarre − abnormal applications and handling of radioactive sources were not taken into account because they could not be implemented in an analytical model by these so-called scientists. So those issues were simply forgotten.

In the General Consultation − the formal discussion between the Parliament with the minister − in October 2001, the rigid attitude of the responsible officials in answering the Second Chamber could no longer be maintained and it resulted in the announcement of a prohibition of ICSDs which was eventually enforced in 2006.

The speaker of the Second Chamber noted with satisfaction that the additional exemption clause was no longer present in the new decree − after 15 year of arguing. The minister concluded: "It will be emphasized that the ICSD's are safe and that this ... is not inspired by unsafe considerations, etc. There is no reason for panic at all!"

However the minister agreed that risks associated with incorrect application and handling conditions could be an argument to hasten replacement of ICSDs. Is this ambiguous or what?! An information campaign to inform the public was later cancelled.

A whistleblower acting in the public interest is not appreciated by a multinational. It cost me my job as a mechanical engineer in the European Research Centre of a Swedish multinational in the Netherlands, my house and income.

Appreciation from the political system was also lacking, all the more so as the political system made dangerous errors time and time again. One of the links between corporate power and the inadequate political response was a Dutch senator who was also a member of the board of the Swedish multinational.

Rep. of Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands

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

Korea, Republic of

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Low and intermediate-level waste is stored at the sub-surface Gyeongju LILW repository at a depth of 80 meters. Korea dumped low-level waste in the Sea of Japan 5 times from 1968-1972.(*01) High-level waste is stored at the reactor sites, pending construction of a centralized interim storage facility (possibly by 2016). No date for operation of a final disposal facility has been established, although long-term, deep geological disposal is envisaged. Whether this is for used fuel as such or reprocessing wastes depends on national policy and will be decided later.(*02)

The Atomic Energy Act of 1988 established a 'polluter pays' principle under which nuclear power plant operators paid a fee into a national Nuclear Waste Management Fund. A revised waste program was drawn up by the Nuclear Environment Technology Institute and approved by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1998.(*03)

South Korea’s key national laws relating to spent fuel and radioactive waste management are the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and the Radioactive Waste Management Act (RWMA). The AEA provides for safety regulations and licensing for  construction and operation of radioactive-waste disposal facilities. The RWMA, which was announced in 2008, and enacted in March 2010, established the Korea Radioactive Waste Management Corporation (KRMC) and the Radioactive Waste Management Fund in which KHNP, the nuclear utility company, annually deposits funds for decommissioning its nuclear power plants, disposing of their LILW, and managing their spent fuel.(*04) KHNP now contributes a fee of 900,000 won (US$ 705) per kilogram of used fuel.(*05)

Reprocessing, either domestic or overseas, is not possible under constraints imposed by the country's cooperation agreement with the USA.(*06)  Reprocessing will be central at the renewal negotiations of the agreement in 2014. KHNP has considered offshore reprocessing to be too expensive, and recent figures based on Japanese contracts with Areva in France support this view, largely due to transport costs. (*07)

Low and intermediate level waste
South Korea’s attempts to site a central interim spent-fuel storage facility and repository for low and intermediate level waste (LILW) began in 1986. During the following decades, a number of failed attempts to acquire sites to host such facilities, due to fierce local opposition (*08) despite steadily growing incentive offers, (*09) were made.  In December 2004, therefore, the AEC decided to pursue separate sites for the LILW repository and the central interim spent-fuel storage facility, starting with the LILW site, which was seen as politically easier. In March 2005, a Special Act on Support for Areas Hosting Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility was passed that guaranteed a local government hosting the national LILW facility an exemption from hosting a spent-fuel storage facility. The central government required a local referendum on hosting the facility and offered more incentives.

Success was finally achieved. Four cities competed to host the facility and Gyeongju City won after 89.5 percent of its voters approved hosting the site in November 2005. (*10) Construction started in April 2008 and in December 2010 KRWM commenced operation of the facility, accepting the first 1000 drums of wastes, which will be held in outdoor storage until the underground repository itself is commissioned in 2012. (*11)

SF-storage, temporarily or interim?
Dry storage for spent fuel has already been built at the Wolsong site, and more is being built there. Some argue that this is illegal because the national low- and intermediate-level waste repository is adjacent to the Wolsong nuclear power plant and, according to the 2005 Special Act on Support for Areas Hosting Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility, the same community cannot be required to host both the national LILW repository and interim spent fuel storage facilities. The KRMC argues, however, that the on-site dry storage facilities at Wolsong are “temporary,” not the “interim” storage that is banned by the special Act.

A major reason for South Korea’s political failures in siting a central spent-fuel storage site was that its early site-selection process did not include consultation with local communities. Instead, the central government selected sites based on its own assessments, met strong opposition from the proposed host region, and gave up. (*12)

In April 2007, after the success in siting the LILW repository, a task force was established to design a process to achieve a public consensus on spent fuel management. Based on the task force’s report, in July 2009, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) established a committee to manage the process. A month later, however, the process was suspended and MKE announced that a legal framework and a solicitation of expert opinion were required first. An expert group composed of members of South Korea’s nuclear establishment was instructed to carry out a year-long research project during 2010 as a basis for the public consensus process.(*13)

If it is to be credible, however, such a public consensus process for spent fuel management will have to be open and transparent and involve local communities and independent experts. Whether or not the public consensus process will in fact be finally launched remains to be seen.

The R&D program on the disposal technology of high-level radioactive waste was initiated in 1997. After 10 years into the research program, a reference disposal system called the Korea Reference System (KRS) was formulated in 2006 on the basis of the results of the R&D program, which included performance and safety assessment, and studies on the geo-environmental conditions in Korea, an engineered barrier system, and the migration of radionuclides.

For the validation of the KRS, a project for constructing a generic underground research tunnel in a crystalline rock called the Korea Underground Research Tunnel (KURT) started in 2003. Following the site characterization study, the tunnel design, and the construction licensing, the construction of the KURT located at the KAERI site started in May 2005. Controlled drill and blasting techniques were applied to excavate a 6m wide, 6m high and 255m long horseshoe-shaped tunnel with a 10% downward slope. After the completion of this construction of the KURT in November 2006, various in-situ tests are being carried out for the validation of HLW disposal techniques. (*14) The third phase of R&D study ended in February 2007 and phase four is underway. The Korean reference disposal system to accommodate all kinds of wastes from the advanced fuel cycle will be developed. And key technologies developed in third phase will be verified.(*15)

The KURT facility will not need to use radioactive sources to validate HLW approaches which are strictly prohibited by law. Rather, the facility will conduct a series of experiments to investigate “groundwater flow and rock mass characteristics” which with the participation of the local population could help to build trust.(*16)


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The last reactor at the nuclear power plant in Lithuania, Ignalina, was closed permanently on 31 December 2010. The shutdown of the two Soviet-designed RBMK reactors was a condition of the accession to the European Union. The EU has agreed to pay decommissioning costs for the two RBMK reactors and some compensation through to 2013. Unit 1 of the Ignalina plant was shut at the end of 2004. (*01) Currently Lithuania is actively pursuing the construction of a new nuclear power plant: Visaginas. This is expected to operate from 2020 and is to be built in collaboration with Estonia, Latvia and Poland. However, in December 2011, Poland withdrew from the project. (*02)

All spent fuel is stored on site of Ignalina. First storage pools near the reactor and interim dry storage in the detached facility, where the spent fuel is stored in the same casks it is transported. It was intended to store the fuel unloaded from the reactor for several years and then to transfer it for processing to Russia. According to the Law on Environmental Protection (1992, last amended 2003), the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is prohibited. After that a decision was made to build a dry type interim storage for spent nuclear fuel at INPP and store it for 50 years.

The 2008 revised Strategy on Radioactive Waste Management, includes the construction of a new spent fuel interim storage facility; the transfer of spent fuel to the dry storage facilities; and to analyze the possibilities to dispose spent fuel and long-lived radioactive waste in Lithuania or to reprocess or dispose it in other countries.

Future strategy
Initial studies on geological disposal possibilities of the spent fuel were performed. The main objective was to demonstrate that in principle it is possible to implement a direct disposal in a safe way. The objective does not imply that disposal of spent fuel will take place in Lithuania. Which option shall be used for the potential disposal of spent fuel is to a large extent a political decision, and this investigation will be an important input to such decision once required.(*03)

Lithuania should start selection of a site for geological repository in 2030, if international practice is the same and there is no new advanced technologies applicable. In addition, possibilities to prolong storagetime in the storage containers are to be investigated.(*04)


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In 1998 a Radioactive Waste Management Policy project was started, which "unfortunately has not been issued due to socio-political obstacles." Currently there is no formally established policy for radioactive waste management. (*01) No reprocessing takes place.

On site storage spent fuel
The Energy Ministry is beginning to take administrative and budgetary steps to create a national company to manage its radioactive waste. It is also planning to sign the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management

An engineered near-surface disposal site for low-level waste (LLW) operated at Piedrera between 1985 and 1987. A collection, treatment and storage centre for LLW has operated at Maquixco since 1972. (*02)

Pending final solution, spent fuel is stored on site in modified spent fuel pools, (*03) increasing drastically the maximum capacity, "providing the time to develop an integral long-term strategy". (*04) But even 20 years later in a January 2010 presentation atmitted no specific disposal plan was established. Javier Palacios, head of ININ (National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Security) named the strategy and action on nuclear waste: "Formulating a national policy for the management of radioactive waste generated in the country". (*05)


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The Netherlands is searching for deep geological disposal in salt (and more recently in clay) since 1976. Spent fuel is reprocessed and interim storage of reprocessing waste takes place in a bunker at the Covra-facility in Vlissingen for about 100 years.(*01). The country dumped low and intermediate level waste in sea from 1967 to 1982.(*02) Since then all dutch LLW and ILW is stored at the Covra, first at Petten and since 1992 at Vlissingen.(*03)

The search for a suitable saltdome
On 18 June 1976 the government wrote a letter to the Executive Board of the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The letter stated that five salt domes are eligible for test drilling: Gasselte Schoonlo, Pieterburen, Onstwedde and Anloo.(*04) The government thought actual storage could begin around the year 2000. (*05) According to J. Hamstra, then the main government adviser on nuclear waste, the storage of nuclear waste in the German Asse salt dome was an important argument to investigate salt domes in the Netherlands.(*06) Action groups against the plans were created inmmediately everywhere in Groningen and Drenthe.(*07) In March 1980 the Dutch parliament rejected test drillings and decided to hold a Social Debate on Energy (MDE), although everyone called it the Broad Social Discussion (BMD in Dutch). It was decided to delay exploratory drilling until after the BMD.(*08)

In 1984, shortly after the BMD, plans for test drilling reappeared again with the Commission Storage at Land (OPLA),(*09) although no specific proposals were mentioned. But in an 1987 interim report, OPLA listed 34 salt domes and salt layers in five northern provinces.(*10) Again, this list led to many protests.

A new attempt to discuss the problem of nuclear waste, was when, in 1987, Environment minister Nijpels (VVD, Liberals), started a consultation process about criteria the storage must meet.(*11) But Nijpels made a false start publishing an almost unreadable paper for the participation process, leading to discussions and protests even at governmental level. (*12)

On May 14, 1993 the then Environment Minister Alders (PvdA, Social Democrats) wrote that underground storage will be allowed, when 'permanent retrievability' is assured. One should always be able to get to the nuclear waste, but salt domes are slowly silting up. Alders therefor called storage in salt "not very realistic", but wanted "further inquiry" into storage in salt and - a new possibility - in clay. (*13)

To study permanent retrievability, the Ministry of Economic Affairs inaugurated in 1995 the Commission Radioactive Waste Disposal (CORA), which published its report 'Retrievable storage, a accessible path? ' in February 2001. Exploratory drilling and further studies in salt domes or clay layers are to be postponed, but not canceled definetely. The nuclear waste remains above ground…. for the moment.

In the years that followed different governments voiced the same opinion. Former Environment Minister Cramer for instance wrote to parliament on June 30, 2009: "In the current state of science and technology only geological (deep underground) disposal of highly radioactive waste is a solution, which ensures the waste will, even after millions of years, remains outside the living space (biosphere) of humans." (*14)  According to the minister future policy will be "directed at retrievable final disposal of radioactive waste in deep underground." She also stated that the report about the preconditions for the construction of new nuclear power plants, which will be published in the spring of 2010, will discuss "possible future policy on radioactive waste."The government wants a discussion about nuclear power with "experts and stakeholders."

To prepare such a discussion the government commissioned a report from the Dutch Nuclear Research & Consultancy Group (NRG). The regional newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden quoted from the still classified report on December 14, 2009. According to the report, which speaks of disposal in deep underground stable geological formations, the government should increase its efforts to convince authorities and public of the necessity of storage of nuclear waste, without questioning risks and dangers. As a precondition for the construction of a new nuclear reactor –in operation in 2020-  the reports states: “final disposal is an accepted idea in 2015.” “There must be a step-to-step scheme to realize acceptance of geological disposal”, according to NRG.

On January 8 2010, the Advice for guidelines for the Environmental Impact Report for the construction of a second nuclear power plant at Borssele was published by the ministry.(*15) In it it says: "Give attention to the possibilities of final disposal of radioactive waste". Meaning disposal in salt or clay. The Covra (the 100% state-owned organisation responsible for storing all radioactive waste) started a new research project on July 5, 2011: Research Program Final Disposal Radioactive Waste (in Dutch OPERA).(*16) "In the current state of science and technology only geological disposal of highly radioactive waste is a solution, which ensures the waste will, for the long term, remains outside the living space (biosphere) of humans." And: "The decision about a disposal facility for Dutch radioactive waste is a process with a very long time horizon (according to the current policy at least 100 years) that will be implemented gradually." … "International experience show this is at least a 20-25 year long process. The ultimate construction of the facility is expected to take another 5-10 years. This means final disposal in the Netherlands will not be in operation before 2130". (*17)

In 2011, Greenpeace commissioned T&A Survey to do a study about underground clay-layers in the Netherlands. Conclusion of the research is that the so-called Klei van Boom (Boom's clay)  meet the preconditions announced by the government for waste disposal in four area's.

Then Greenpeace started an intensive campaign against the disposal in these clay-layers. Early February 2012, over 80 concerned municipalities and all provinces made statements opposing underground disposal of radioactive waste on its territories. (*18)


Korea, Republic of
*01- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.40
*02- OECD: Radioactive waste management in Republic of Korea, 2010, p.10
*03- World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power in South Korea, March 2012
*04- OECD, 2010, p.
*05- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*06- South Korea’s nuclear energy development has been made possible by the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement signed in 1972. The United States provided nuclear technologies and materials necessary for the peaceful use of nuclear energy; in return, South Korea was specifically prohibited from proliferation-related activities such as the reprocessing of spent fuel and uranium enrichment under the terms of the agreement. After three decades of successful bilateral nuclear cooperation, the two governments are due to renew the accord by 2014. See: Seongho Sheen: Nuclear Sovereignty versus Nuclear Security: Renewing the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement, in The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2011, 273–288
*07- Nuclear Fuel: Reprocessing cost might exceed KHNP’s spent fuel management fees, 13 July 2009, p. 1
*08- see for instance the case of Buan; Nuclear Monitor 591: Massive actions against proposed South Korean waste dump, 22 August 2003, p.5
*09- Seong-Kyung Cho and Jooho Whang, “Status and Challenges of Nuclear Power Program and Reflections of Radioactive Waste Management Policy in Korea,” 2009 Advanced Summer School of Radioactive Waste Disposal with Social-Scientific Literacy, Berkeley, CA, 3 — 10 August 2009        
*10- Korea Herald: Gyeongju wins vote for nuclear dump, 3 November 2005
*11- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*12- Seong-Kyung Cho and Jooho Whang, August 2009
*13- This is based on several South Korean news items in 2009, quoted in: IPFM, Managing spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, 2011, p. 68
*14- Republic of Korea: Korean Third National Report under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2008, p.91
*15- OECD, 2010, p.12
*16- Miles Pomper, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Stephanie Lieggi, and Lawrence Scheinman: Nuclear Power and Spent Fuel in East Asia: Balancing Energy, Politics and Nonproliferation, Asia-Pacific Journal: 21 June 2010

*01- World Nuclear News: Lithuania shuts Ignalina plant, 4 January 2011)
*02- World Nuclear News: Lithuanian project makes progress, 30 March 2012
*03- Lithuania: Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, Second National Report, 2008
*04- Algirdas Vaidotas: Radioactive waste management in Lithuania; implementation and strategies, Deputy Director Radioactive Waste Management Agency (RATA), 4 November 2011

*01- IAEA: Country Profile Mexico
*02- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Mexico, March 2012
*03- OECD: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD countries: Mexico, 2005.
*04- Augusto Vera: Laguna Verde Station approach to nuclear waste, Comision Federal de Electricidad, 1993
*05- Javier Palacios H.: Situación de los Desechos Radioactivos en México, presentation at OLADE, 25-27 February 2010.

*01- COVRA: Beleid (Policy), COVRA website
*02- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999.
*03- Energie en Milieuspectrum: Radioactief afval een eeuw onderdak (Radioactive waste under a shelter for a century), March 1994
*04- Letter Minister Economic Affairs Lubbers and Minister of Public Health and Enviroment Vorrink to Gedeputeerde Staten (Executive Board) of Groningen and Drenthe, 18 June 1976. Reference 376/-II/1055/EEK.
*05- ICK-commissie; Subcommissie Radioactieve Afvalstoffen (RAS), Eerste interimrapport betreffende de mogelijkheden van opslag van radioactieve afvalstoffen in zoutvoorkomens in Nederland, (1977).(ICK-Commission Subcommission Radioactive Waste (RAS). First interimreport about possibilities for the disposal of radioactive waste substances in salt formations in the Netherlands.)
*06- Atoomenergie, July/August 1974, pp. 175-181.
*07- An anthology of press publications and comments on the disposal proposals can be found in: Meent van der Suis, Energie en milieu in de Nederlandse krant 1968-1993, (19933). (Energy and environment in the Dutch newspapers 1968-1993)
*08- Tweede Kamer, session 1979-1980, 15802, nrs. 11-12, p.160.
*09- Tweede Kamer, session 1984-1985, 18343, 6.
*10- Commissie Opberging te Land (OPLA): Onderzoek inzake geologische opberging van radioactief afval in Nederland, Tweede Tussenrapport over Fase 1 (January 1986-January 1987), 1987. (Commission Storage on Land. Research for geological disposal of radioactive waste in the Netherlands. Second Interim report on Phase 1)
*11- Ministerie of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment (VROM): Basisnotitie ten behoeve van de ontwikkeling van een toetsingscriterium voor de ondergrondse opberging van radioactief afval (TOR), (1987). (Basic notes for development of assessment criteria for the underground disposal of radioactive waste)
*12- Stichting Natuur en Milieu: Reactie namens de hele Nederlandse milieubeweging op de zogeheten TOR-nota (26 October 1987). (Reaction for the Dutch Environmental movement on the so-called TOR-notes)
*13- Tweede Kamer, session 1992-1993, 23163, nr 1.
*14-  Ministry of VROM, Reference RB/2009040895, 30 June 2009
*15- Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I): Advice for guidelines for the Environmental Impact Report for the construction of a second nuclear power plant at Borssele, 3 December 2009 / reportnumber: 2295-48
*16- COVRA press release: Start OPERA program, 5 July 2011
*17- OPERA: Mutiannual program OPERA, 5 July 2011.
*18- see picture (greenpeace brochure  -blz 5, of website)
*19- Greenpeace campaign website, (visited February 8, 2012)

Netherlands: Borssele-2 postponed

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Not completely surprising came the announcement of Dutch utility Delta about postponing plans to build a second nuclear power plant in the Netherlands because of the poor investment climate and low electricity prices. Although Delta states it remains committed to the project, not many believe in its resurrection.

Delta had plans to build a nuclear power plant with a maximum capacity of 2,500 megawatts in the Zeeland province in the southwest of the country, next to an existing plant near the town of Borssele, but said on January 23, 2012 it was delaying these for two to three years. "The last half-year the investment climate has worsened due to the financial crisis. In addition, overcapacity of electricity production has increased further due to the recession," Delta said in a statement.

In December it became clear that French EDF, the preferred partner for the project had decided not to participate and when the newly appointed CEO of German utility RWE in an January 21, interview stated that RWE would not invest in a second reactor in Borssele 'under current economical and political circumstances', it was clear that Delta would postpone or cancel the whole project.

RWE owns 30 percent of the existing Borssele plant, while Delta, which is owned by Dutch municipalities and province of Zeeland, owns the remainder. However there was no agreement on cooperation in the construction of the second reactor. Both Delta and RWE (the Dutch subsidiary company ERH Essent) had started a procedure in the past few years to obtain a license for a nuclear power plant.

Delta says it remains 'committed to nuclear power', and stated the decision had nothing to do with the accident at Fukushima or dwindling support for nuclear in Zeeland province… The decision to put the plan on hold is based solely on economic grounds (low energy prices, no investors) and uncertainty about carbon dioxide (CO2) prices, spokeswoman Mirjam van Zuilen said.

On a stakeholders meeting last December, much criticism and skepticism about the project was visible for the first time. A lot had to do with the passionate but clumsy CEO Boerma, who then left the company. Stakeholders decided not to invest 100 million in obtaining a licence but only 10 million to increase support for the project and come up with interested partners in the coming months.

It is the third time plans for a second reactor at Borssele fail. The first time was in the mid 1970's when a rapid growing anti-nuclear sentiment in the Netherlands resulted in a fundamental choice against new nuclear reactors by the smallest coalition partner at the time. The threat of the collapse of the government was enough to first postpone and later cancel the construction of three reactors.

The second attempt was 10 years later and ended with the explosion at Chernobyl, on April 26, 1986.


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

India: nuclear lobbyist heads national solar company.
India's prime minister has appointed Anil Kakodkar, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission to be in charge of the national solar mission. The Solar Energy Corporation of India was recently set up as a not-for-profit company and will work under the administrative control of the New and Renewable Energy Ministry (NREM).  The move to appoint Kakodkar will likely create somewhat of a controversy, as India Today points out, calling the decision "a bizarre move that smacks of unfair public policymaking," and a "clear case of conflict of interest." His appointment as head of the solar mission is bound to upset anti-nuclear activists in the country who want the government to actively promote alternatives such as solar and wind while giving up investments in nuclear energy.

Ignoring this contribution of renewable sources of energy, Kakodkar has constantly projected nuclear energy as the "inevitable and indispensable option" that addresses both sustainability as well as climate change issues. But despite huge investments during the past half a century, nuclear power contributes just a fraction of India's energy needs. The total installed capacity of nuclear power in the country is 4,780 MW, while the total installed capacity of renewable sources of energy is 20,162 MW, according to data collected by the Central Electricity Authority.

In his new role, Kakodkar will be responsible for turning around the fortunes of the government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). The Solar Energy Corporation of India has been created to act as its executing arm. Although still in its infancy, its organization has already come under fire from both developers and politicians. In the first days of 2012 the findings of a Parliamentary panel were released, labeling the Ministry’s approach to the national solar mission as “disappointing” and “lackadaisical”. This research followed on from disappointing end-of-year installation figures, which saw just 400MW of the 1.2GW of installations forecasted by the government achieve grid connection.
India Today, 6 January 2012  / PV Tech, 6 January 2012

Netherlands: Borssele 2 delayed; EDF no longer interested.
Delta, the regional utility wanting to build a nuclear reactor at Borssele, delayed its decision about investing 110 million in a new license by at least half a year. Furthermore they announced that Delta will no longer be the leading company in the project. Although it is hard to find out what that exactly means, it is clear that Delta will not have a majority stake in the reactor if the project continues. Many people expect this is the end of the project. However, in a press statement Delta is repeating its commitment towards nuclear energy.

Another surprising outcome was that the French state utility EDF (which signed a Memorandum of Understanding about investigating the possibilities for a new reactor in the Netherlands with Delta in 2010) is not longer involved in the project. Delta CEO Boerma, a passionate but clumsy nuclear advocate, left the company, but that cannot be seen as the end of the nuclear interest in nuclear power, either. It is a sacrifice to reassure the shareholders he offended several times in the last months.

German RWE (via the Dutch subsidiary ERH Essent) is another interested partner for a new reactor at Borssele. ERH is in the process to obtain a licence and has the same decision to make as Delta to invest 110 million euro in obtaining a license. If RWE is still interested at all, it is more likely they will cooperate with a large share in the Delta project.

Public support in Zeeland for a new reactor is plummeting according to several polls early December. This is another nail in the coffin, because Delta is very keen to point out there is almost a unanimously positive feeling in the Zeeland province about the second nuclear power plant.

If Delta can not present solid partners for the project at the next stakeholders meeting planned in June 2012, those stakeholders will decide to pull the plug. 
Laka Foundation, 11 January 2012

US: Large area around the Grand Canyon protected from mining.
On January 9, 2012, after more than 2 years of environmental analysis and receiving many thousands of public comments from the American people, environmental and conservation groups, the outdoor recreation industry, mayors and tribal leaders, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of land around the canyon from new mining claims for the next twenty years -the longest period possible under the law.

In the months immediately leading up to this landmark decision, many environmental organizations worked with conservation advocates and outdoors enthusiasts around the country to urge the Administration to halt toxic uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. Interior Secretary Salazar received comments from nearly 300,000 citizens urging him to withdraw one million acres of land from new mining claims.

The decision however would allow a small number of existing uranium and other hard rock mining operations in the region to continue while barring the new claims. In 2009 Mr. Salazar suspended new uranium claims on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon for two years, overturning a Bush administration policy that encouraged thousands of new claims when the price of uranium soared in 2006 and 2007. Many of the stakeholders are foreign interests, including Rosatom, Russia's state atomic energy corporation.

The landscape is not the only thing at stake. Uranium mining in western states has an abysmal track-record. In Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, uranium mining has had undeniable health impacts on miners and nearby residents, including cancer, anemia and birth defects. Even the Grand Canyon itself bears the scars of uranium mining. Radioactive waste has poisoned streams and soil in and around the canyon, while abandoned and active mines are scars on the Arizona landscape. Soil levels around the abandoned Orphan Mine inside Grand Canyon National Park are 450 times more than normal levels, and visitors to the park are warned not to drink from Horn Creek. The closest mine currently in operation, Arizona 1, is less than 2 miles from the canyon’s rim. “Mining so close to the Grand Canyon could contaminate the Colorado River, which runs through the canyon, and put the drinking water for 25 million Americans at risk,” added Pyne. “Uranium mining has already left a toxic legacy across the West -every uranium mine ever opened has required some degree of toxic waste clean-up- it certainly doesn’t belong near the Grand Canyon.”
Environment America, 9 January 2012 / New York Times, 6 January 2012

Finland, Olkiluoto 3.
August 2014 is the date that Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) expects to see power flow from its new reactor, Olkiluoto 3, according to a single-line statement issued on 21 December. The announcement brought a little more clarity to the unit's schedule compared with TVO's last announcement, which specified only the year 2014. The Finnish utility said it had been informed by the Areva-Siemens consortium building the unit that August 2014 was scheduled for commercial operation.

Construction started in May 2005. A few days after the October announcement that Olkiluoto cannot achieve grid-connection before 2014 the French daily was citing a report stating that the costs for Areva are expected to 6.6 billion euro (then US$ 9.1 billion). The price mentioned (and decided on) in Finnish Parliament was 2.5 billion euro, the initial contract for Olkiluoto 3 was 3 billion euro.
World Nuclear News, 21 December 2011 / Nuclear Monitor 735, 21 October 2012

France: 13 billion euro to upgrade safety of nuclear reactors.
In response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, French nuclear safety regulator ASN has released a 524-page report on the state of nuclear reactors in France. The report says that government-controlled power provider Electricité de France SA (EDF) needs to make significant upgrades “as soon as possible” to its 58 reactors in order to protect them from potential natural disasters. The ASN gave reactor operators until June 30 to deliver proposals meeting the enhanced security standards of sites they run. Costs for the upgrades are estimated at 10 billion euros (US$13.5 billion); previously planned upgrades to extend the life of the nation’s reactors from 40 to 60 years are now expected to cost as much as 50 billion euros. Modifications include building flood-proof diesel pumps to cool reactors, creating bunkered control rooms, and establishing an emergency task force that can respond to nuclear disasters within 24 hours. Andre Claude Lacoste, the Chairman of ASN, said, “We are not asking the operator to make these investments. We are telling them to do so.” French Energy Minister Eric Besson plans to meet with EDF and reactor maker Areva, as well as CEA, the government-funded technological research organization, on January 9 to discuss implementation of ASN’s recommendations. Seventy-five percent of France’s energy comes from nuclear power, more than that of any other country. Experts say that the cost of nuclear power in France will almost certainly rise as a result of the required upgrades. EDF shares are down as much as 43 percent in the last 12 months.
Greenpeace blog, 6 January 2012 / Bloomberg, 4 January 2012

Nuclear's bad image? James Bond's Dr. No is to blame!
James Bond movies are to blame for a negative public attitude to nuclear power, according to a leading scientist. Professor David Phillips, president of the Royal Society Of Chemistry, reckons that supervillains such as Dr No, the evil genius with his own nuclear reactor, has helped create a "remorselessly grim" perception of atomic energy. Speaking ahead of Bond's 50th anniversary celebrations, Phillips said he hopes to create a "renaissance" in nuclear power. In the first Bond film of the same name, Dr No is eventually defeated by Sean Connery's 007 who throws him into a cooling pool in the reactor. And Phillips claims that this set a precedent for nuclear power being sees as a "barely controllable force for evil", according to BBC News, since later villains hatched similar nuclear plots.
NME, 12 January 2012

North Korea: halting enrichment for food?
On January 11, North Korea suggested it was open to halting its enrichment of uranium in return for concessions that are likely to include food assistance from the United States, the Washington Post reported. A statement said to be from a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman urged the Obama administration to "build confidence" by including a greater amount of food in a bilateral agreement reportedly struck late last year shortly before the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Washington halted food assistance to the North after the regime carried out what was widely seen as a test of its long-range ballistic missile technology in spring 2009.

While rebuking the United States for connecting food assistance to security concerns, the statement was less bombastic than the proclamations that are typically issued by the Stalinist state. The statement marked the first time Pyongyang made a public pronouncement about the rumored talks with Washington on a deal for food assistance in exchange for some nuclear disarmament steps. Washington has demanded that Pyongyang halt uranium enrichment efforts unveiled in 2010 as one condition to the resumption of broader North Korean denuclearization negotiations that also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea (the socalled six-party talks).

The Obama administration has been exceedingly wary about agreeing to any concessions with Pyongyang, which has a long track record of agreeing to nuclear disarmament actions in return for foreign assistance only to reverse course once it has attained certain benefits.
Global Security Newswire, 11 January 2012

Support for nuclear is not 100% any more in CR and SR.
Both Czech and Slovak Republic until recently announced intentions of keeping nuclear power and even increasing capacity by constructing new nuclear power plants – more the less for export.  However, Fukushima and “nearby” Germany´s phase-out caused doubts.  Mr. Janiš, the Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Slovak Parliament said today: “I have not seen an objective study on the benefits of constructing a new nuclear power plant in Jaslovské Bohunice,” said Mr. Janiš. According to him it would be a wrong decision to make Slovakia into a nuclear superpower, when e.g. Germany and Switzerland are phasing out their plants. Mr. Janiš thinks that biomass and sun are the future. Contrary to him, the minister of economy Mr. Juraj Miškov still believes that the fifth unit in Jaslovské Bohunice has a future; the feasibility study will be ready by mid 2012. He is convinced that due to the phase-out in some countries, the electricity demand will increase and Slovakia might become an even more important electricity exporting country than until now.

This comes only days after the Czech Republic announced to downsize the Temelin tender from 5 to 2 reactors thereby losing the possibility to negotiate a 30% lower price. Also here a major question is: will Austria and Germany be interested in importing nuclear power?, 10 January 2012

Russia: 25,000 undersea radioactive waste sites.
There are nearly 25,000 hazardous underwater objects containing solid radioactive waste in Russia, an emergencies ministry official said on December 26. The ministry has compiled a register of so-called sea hazards, including underwater objects in the Baltic, Barents, White, Kara, and Black Seas as well as the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan. These underwater objects include nuclear submarines that have sunk and ships with ammunition and oil products, chemicals and radioactive waste. Hazardous sites with solid radioactive waste sit on the sea bed mainly at a depth of 500 meters, Oleg Kuznetsov, deputy head of special projects at the ministry’s rescue service, said. Especially dangerous are reactor holds of nuclear submarines off the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago and a radio-isotope power units sunk near Sakhalin Island, he added.
RIA Novosti, 26 December 2011

A new Dutch reactor near current Borssele NPP?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Laka Foundation

While the Germans have returned to their former decision to phase out nuclear power in the 2020s, the Dutch government wants to extend its nuclear capacity. Currently, the Netherlands has one operating nuclear power plant in Borssele (512 MWe), located in the Southwest of the country. A second one, located in Dodewaard (58 MWe), was closed in 1997.

Even before the construction of the Borssele nuclear power plant, which generated its first electricity in 1973, there were plans to build another nuclear power plant in Borssele. Finally, in 1977, the regional government declared itself openly against more nuclear power stations. In the mid 1980s the Dutch government again proposed to build more nuclear power capacity, among which in Borssele. Because of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, in April 1986, the public opinion against nuclear power was stronger than ever, and the plans were put on hold.

In the course of the first decade of the new millennium, public opinion turned in favor of nuclear power. More and more people became susceptible to arguments of the nuclear industry that nuclear power reactors do not produce any carbon dioxide and have to be considered as the best alternative for power stations that are fueled by fossil fuels, like hard coal and gas.

The current Borssele nuclear power plant is owned by the electricity utility EPZ, a joint-venture of the utility companies Delta (50%) and Essent (50%). In 2009, Essent was bought by the German energy giant RWE. The statutes of EPZ, however, prescribes that the nuclear power station has to be owned by public bodies. Delta is owned by provinces and municipalities as well as Essent was. The sale of Borssele to RWE, a company quoted on the stock exchange, is therefore inconsistent with the statutes. The court ruled that the Essent part of EPZ could not be included in the sale to RWE. In order to change the statutes Essent needed the cooperation of Delta. This utility however refused to do so and was supported by their stakeholders and the then minister of Economic Affairs.

Meanwhile, in July 2009 Delta had launched the application process to obtain a license for the construction of a second Borssele nuclear power plant with a first memorandum that has to lead to a framework of guidelines for an Environmental Impact Assessment. Though the social-democrats in the then center-left government blocked the building of new nuclear power plants, Delta was looking forward to a right-wing government that should back the plan of a new nuclear power plant. The utility hopes to submit a license request to the current (pro-nuclear) government by the end of 2011. If everything is settled successfully (in Delta's point of view), the request for a construction permit can be submitted in 2012, after which the construction can start in 2013. Cost are estimated on €4 to 5bn and the construction has to be completed in 2018.

The EPZ-part of Essent, which could not be sold to RWE, was transformed by its shareholders (six provinces and municipalities) to the Energy Resources Holding (ERH).

In September 2010, to everybody's surprise, ERH started the formal procedure to obtain a license for the construction of yet another nuclear reactor at Borssele. ERH plans to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment in 2012, and hopes to obtain all necessary licenses in 2014. Construction then can start in 2015 with first power in 2019. Formally RWE is not involved, but practically the shareholders of ERH have regular talks with RWE to determine the strategy in their struggle with Delta.

Early November 2010, Delta entered into an agreement with the French utility EDF to carry out a joint investigation into the feasibility of a new Borssele reactor. The current right-wing minority government, supported by an extreme right-wing party, welcomes the plan for a new nuclear power station. In the months after the announcement another French utility, GDF Suez, and the Swedish Vattenfall offered to take part in the project.

In January 2011, after many months of struggle and unremitting suspense, the Raad van State, the highest court, in the Netherlands, decided RWE could not buy the Essent part of EPZ. In May however,  Delta and RWE reached an agreement on RWE buying a 30% share (instead of 50%) of the Borssele nuclear power plant, leaving the majority of shares in public hands. In fact, this means that ERH will be dissolved later this year when the agreement is finalized: the largest part is sold to RWE and the remainder to Delta.

An interesting question is what will happen with the ERH application for a new nuclear power plant; will RWE continue the application?

A spokeswoman of Delta mentioned to the May 18 edition of the Dutch Het Financieele Dagblad newspaper and the German Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) that RWE will have a 20% share in Delta's new Borssele nuclear power plant. This message was spread by other Dutch and German media. However, in a reaction on Tuesday June 14, spokesman Couwenberg of Delta told WISE Nuclear Monitor that talks with RWE are ongoing: nothing is sure and previous statements were premature.

Meanwhile, Italy has joined Germany and Switzerland in turning its back on nuclear power, after a recent public referendum. It is still unclear what the consequences will be for the rest of nuclear Europe, among which the Netherlands. 

What is certain, is that antinuclear opposition is growing again. In the Borssele region, a newly established coalition of local political parties, ngo's and individuals is working hard and gaining ground. Public opinion in the area is swifting slowly towards a more critical view on nuclear power.

Additionally, another coalition was recently formed on a national level by a large number of environmental organizations and all left wing political parties who joined forces for a demonstration on April 16, 2011. About 10.000 people came to demonstrate in Amsterdam, making it the largest antinuclear protest in the Netherlands since the early 1980's. This coalition (with a consensus: 'no new nuclear power plants') did not dissolve itself after the protest but is institutionalizing itself and will become a force to reckon with.

A new reactor in the Netherlands is not a done deal anymore, although it seemed like that for a long time...

Sources: Financieele Dagblad, 18 May 2011; WDR, 17 May 2011; NRC Handelsblad, 4 November 2010;
Contact: Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

RWE looses again: Borssele has to remain in public hands.

RWE failed to gain 50% of the Netherlands' only nuclear power plant at Borssele through its takeover of Dutch utility Essent. The ruling by the Arnhem appeal court upholds an earlier ruling prohibiting Germany's RWE from acquiring Essent's 50% stake in the Borssele nuclear plant as part of its takeover of the Dutch utility. According to Delta, the appeal court decision has emphasized that the country's sole nuclear power plant must remain in public ownership. Any transfer of Essent's share of the plant to RWE would therefore contravene this. In September 2009, the transaction price for RWE's takeover of Essent was dropped by 950 million Euro (then worth US$1.35 billion) to take into account the exclusion of Borssele from the deal while Delta's court case against the proposed transfer was ongoing. Essent's share in the plant has remained in the hands of the provincial and municipal governments who were the company's original public shareholders.
The Dutch coalition government collapsed on February 20, when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned. Elections are planned on June 9, with an expected right-wing victory. The extreme-right party PVV ('party for freedom') is expected to become one of the largest –or even the largest- party in parliament. The PVV is (besides anti-islam and with racist tendencies) extremely pro-nuclear, anti-wind & solar energy and does not believe in climate change ands speaks consistently about the environmental movement as the 'environmental maffia'.

The just fallen coalition government had agreed not to approve any new nuclear plants in the Netherlands during its mandate. Dutch utility Delta has announced plans to build a second nuclear plant at the site, embarking on the first stage of the pre-application process in June 2009.

German utility RWE has indicated it is also interested in building a nuclear power plant in the Netherlands, RWE CEO Juergen Grossmann said at the company's annual earnings press conference on February 25 in Essen, Germany

World Nuclear News, 3 March 2010 / Platts, 25 february 2010

USDOE: US$40 million for Next Generation Nuclear Plant.

On March 8, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced selections for the award of approximately US$40 million in total to two teams led by Westinghouse Electric Co. and General Atomics for conceptual design and planning work for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP).  The results of this work will help the Administration determine whether to proceed with detailed efforts toward construction and demonstration of the NGNP.  If successful, the NGNP Demonstration Project will demonstrate high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology that will be capable of producing electricity as well as process heat for industrial applications and will be configured for low technical and safety risk with highly reliable operations.  Final cost-shared awards are subject to the negotiation of acceptable terms and conditions.

The NGNP project is being conducted in two phases.  Phase 1 comprises research and development, conceptual design and development of licensing requirements. The selections announced now will support the development of conceptual designs, cost and schedule estimates for demonstration project completion and a business plan for integrating Phase 2 activities. Phase 2 would entail detailed design, license review and construction of a demonstration plant.

U.S. Department Of Energy, Press Release 8 March 2010

Switzerland: Geneva will fight extension Muhleberg licence.

Geneva City Council has decided to appeal to the Federal Administrative Tribunal against the decision of the federal authorities to allow the 355 MW Mühleberg nuclear plant to continue operating beyond 2012, when it will have been 40 years in service. Geneva will contribute CHF 25,000 (US$23,000 or 17,000 Euro) to help meet the costs of a committee formed to oppose the licence extension. In November 2009 the electorate of the neighbouring canton of Vaud also voted against the extension. The centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party are also opposing the licence extension.

Power In Europe, 22 February 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 702, 15 January 2010

Uranium mining - victory in Slovakia!

After more than three years of campaigning Slovak parliament finally agreed on legal changes in geological and mining laws in order to stop uranium mining in Slovakia. All the changes were proposed by anti-uranium mining coalition of NGOs led by Greenpeace and supported by over 113 000 people that signed the petition.  For Slovak environmental movement this is a really important milestone. For the first time in Slovak history NGO’s were able to:

1) collect over 100 000 signatures (a number given by law for the Parliament to discuss an issue) - note that Slovakia has 5 million citizens; 2) to open an environmental topic in Slovak parliament by a petition; 3) and finally to achieve a legal change by petition  initiative.

Legal changes agreed by parliament on March 3 are giving more information access and competencies for local communities, municipal and regional authorities to stop or limit geological research of uranium deposits and to stop proposed uranium mining. It’s not a complete ban of uranium mining, but a significant empower of local and regional authorities in the mining permitting process. All 41 municipal authorities influenced by proposed uranium mining already declared that they do not agree with proposed uranium mining in their territories.

The chance that Slovak uranium will stay deep in the ground is much higher today!

Greenpeace Slovensko, Bratislava, 4 March 2010

Uranium from stable and democratic countries?

One of Kazakhstan's most prominent business figures and a former uranium tycoon, Mukhtar Dzhakishev was arrested last year on accusations of corruption, theft and illegal sales of uranium assets to foreign companies. Dzhakishev's case, along with a string of other high-profile arrests in the former Soviet state and world No. 1 uranium producer, has fuelled speculation of an intensifying power struggle within the political elite.

Kazakhstan, hit hard by global economic slowdown, wants to attract fresh foreign investment as well as bolster the role of the state in strategic industries such as uranium and oil. It has also alarmed human rights groups who have questioned Kazakhstan's methods of fighting corruption in a country where President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in power for two decades, tolerates little political dissent.

Dzhakishev, who was head of state uranium major Kazatomprom from 1998 until his arrest and played a key role in turning Kazatomprom into a major global uranium player, has denied all accusations. "It is obvious that I cannot count on justice in my own country and my fate has already been decided," he wrote from his detention centre in a letter published by his lawyers this week. His arrest left Kazatomprom's foreign partners such as Canada's Uranium One worried about the future of their projects. Other investors include France's Areva and Japanese companies such as Toshiba Corporation. Closed-door court hearings into earlier allegations of theft and corruption have already started and lawyers expect a verdict in March.

Reuters, 4 March 2010

Israel to build reactor –but will not allow inspections?

Israel will shortly unveil plans to produce nuclear-generated electricity, officials said on March 8. Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said Israel, which has a population of 7.5 million and generates electricity mostly using imported coal and local and imported natural gas, is capable of building a nuclear reactor, but it would prefer to work with other countries. Israel already has two reactors -- the secretive Dimona facility in the Negev desert, where it is widely assumed to have produced nuclear weapons, and a research reactor, open to international inspection, at Nahal Soreq near Tel Aviv.

Unlike other countries in the region, Israel has not signed the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is suppose to curb the spread of nuclear technologies with bomb-making potential. Yet Israel does have a delegation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Landau said it would not be a problem for Israel to build a civilian reactor without signing the NPT: "There are many countries who are not signatories to the NPT and they are doing fine. There are others which are signatories and the world community did not really take proper care against proliferation," he said. Many countries? India, Pakistan and North-Korea (withdrawn), three (excuse me, four with Israel) and 189 signatories, you call that many? Asked whether IAEA inspectors would supervise the building of an Israeli plant, Landau said: "We take care very well of our own needs and don't need inspectors."

Reuters, 8 March 2010

…. And Syria? (March 11, 2010) Meanwhile, Israels' arch-foe Syria responded in Paris saying that Damascus needs "to consider alternative sources of energy, including nuclear energy." Syria's candidacy for the nuclear club will raise some eyebrows too, given the regime's close ties with Iran and the still unanswered questions over an earlier alleged attempt to build a reactor in secret. The International Atomic Energy Agency complained last year that Damascus had refused to cooperate with its investigation of a remote desert site called Dair Alzour, which was bombed by Israel in September 2007. Inspectors have found unexplained traces of uranium at the site, as well as at a nuclear research reactor in Damascus, amid reports that Syria has been working with Tehran and North Korea on covert nuclear programs.

AFP, 9 March 2010

Winter meeting of the Nuclear Heritage Network.

This relatively new network has been very active against uranium mining in Finland and is currently organising a Baltic Sea Info Tour (see and preparing new actions against nuclear new-build in the north-east region of Europe .

Their winter meeting will take place from March 24 to 29 in and close by Helsinki, Finland. This includes one day of action, aimed at the to be taken Finnish political decisions on more new nuclear power stations. An important project to be discussed for the summer will be the „Baltic Sea Info Tour“ that will take place to inform people around the Baltic Sea.

More information? Write an email to

Chernobyl-Day: concerted action to stop Mochovce 3+4. The Wiener Plattform "Atomkraftfreie Zukunft" (Viennese Platform "Nuclearfree Future") has taken the lead in organising an international action-day on April 26, the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, against the construction of Mochovce 3+4 in Slovakia. (more on Mochovce in next issue).

They ask groups to demonstrate in front of Slovak and Italian embassies in as many countries as possible. A small delegation should submit a paper to the respective ambassadors. The paper explains the importance of stopping this dangerous Slovak nuclear power plant and says what the responsible people should do.

If these actions are carried out in numerous cities or capitals it should be effective enough to put pressure on Slovakia and the respective governments.  Please join the campaign and contact

Announcement: Anti Nuclear European Forum (ANEF) on June 24, in Linz, Austria.

ANEF was established 2009 as counter-event to ENEF (European Energy Forum) since ENEF failed to fulfill ENEF´s official objectives and was/is used one-sided as a propaganda instrument for the promotion of nuclear power instead. Within ANEF negative aspects of nuclear energy will be discussed on an international level. ANEF is organized by the Antinuclear Representative of Upper Austria in cooperation with “Antiatom Szene” and “Anti Atom Komitee”. The participation of international NGOs is very important because it needs a strong signal against the nuclear renaissance.

The organizers would like to warmly invite you to participate in ANEF. Please let us know as soon as possible if you, or someone else from your organization, is considering to participate in ANEF by sending an informal email to The detailed program will be available soon and will be send to you upon request. Accommodation will be arranged for you.
Further information on ANEF is published on Learn about ANEF-Resolution here: 

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Uranium important for Australia?

Do you think uranium is an important factor for the economy of Australia? Well, in the ocean of Australia's mineral exports, uranium makes up little more than a drop. The minerals industry shipped about A$ 160 billion (US$150 bn, Euro 98 bn) in commodities last financial year, and less than 1 per cent of that was uranium. But the story of uranium has never been just about the money. A result of the country's long political unease with the uranium sector is the unique patchwork of regulations in different states. The federal Labor Party shed its 1984 ''three mines'' policy in 2007; this July, the former anti-nuclear campaigner and present Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, approved the country's fourth mine, FourMile, in South Australia. The policies of the states and territories, however, remain more ambivalent. South Australia permits both uranium mining and exploration, as does the Northern Territory. The Territory's resources minister, Kon Vatskalis, made much last week of his dedicated Chinese and Japanese investment strategy. ''We are expecting a number of significant announcements over the coming months,'' Vatskalis said, citing prospective investment deals across a number of commodities including iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, and uranium. In Western Australia, the state's Coalition Government has rescinded the ban on uranium mining. The Labor Opposition is committed to reinstating the ban. And in Queensland, the Labor Government permits exploration but not mining.

Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2009

Wanna have a laugh?

South Africa, plagued by chronic power shortages, plans to have 20,000 megawatts new nuclear capacity up and running by 2020, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters told a nuclear conference on November 20. "It's a huge project, and in any project situation you plan with the end in sight, so we are looking at 2020," she said.

Last year, state-owned power utility Eskom, which operates Africa's sole nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 1,800 MW, reported record losses and has no money for its aggressive expansion program that also included at least two 1,200 MW light water reactors (LWR). Eskom postponed a contract award for the LWR units last December.

Besides that, the development of the High Temperature PBMR reactor was plagued by setbacks, and Speaking at the World Nuclear Association (WNA) on September 11, PBMR CEO Jaco Kriek said construction of a prototype plant has been "indefinitely postponed" due to financial constraints. According to the Energy Minister, the South African government has since taken the lead in developing the next power station, saying it wants to develop a local nuclear industry in partnership with a technology firm rather than adopt a commercial bidding process used by Eskom.

Laughed enough? Oke, one more…

The Energy, 12 September 2009 / Reuters, 20 November 2009

Petten: flashlight missing results in near-meltdown.

No, not a joke, or plot of the latest John Grisham book; it really happened at the research reactor in Petten, The Netherlands. It goes like this:

"On a winter night in December 2001 there was a power failure in North Holland, where Petten is located. The nuclear reactor is a research reactor, not a power reactor; it needs electricity to operate, for instance to pump cooling water. The reactor has a back-up cooling system to prevent meltdown of the core in case of a power failure. But this evening the back-up cooling system failed to come into action and the operators did not know what to do. There is an extra safety system by convection cooling for which the operators had to open a valve, but the control room was dark. When they reached for a torch that should have been there, it had been taken away by a colleague to work under his car. Trying their luck the operators put the valve of the convection cooling in what they thought was the `open  position. But then the lights came back on and the operators discovered they had actually closed the back-up convection cooling system. Had the power failure lasted longer it would have meant meltdown and a major disaster. When I learned about this some months later - they thought they could keep it secret - I did not think I could take responsibility any longer and I resigned from the ECN."

This is one paragraph in a more philosophical book ('Darwin meets Einstein') which was published on November 23. Especially this section got some attention (although not as much as expected), also because the nuclear regulator (Kernfysiche Dienst) did mention it on a list of accidents in 2001 (in December 2002), but was clearly not informed about the seriousness and possible consequences of the accident stating that "there has not been an unsafe situation".

Laughed enough now? Then back to work!

Laka Foundation, 24 November 2009

Economics don't add up.

Building new reactors in the UK doesn't make financial sense for companies according to a new study by leading investment analysts Citigroup. Developers face five major risks according to the report - planning issues, construction, the price of power, operational risks and decommissioning, adding that the Government has only taken action on planning which is the least important. The Citigroup analysts says the risks are unacceptable to the private sector.

Three of the risks, construction, power price and operational, "are so large and variable that individually they could each bring even the largest utility company to its knees financially, This makes new nuclear a unique investment proposition for utility companies."

The UK Government's stated policy is that the private sector must accept full exposure to these three risks, but the reports says "nowhere in the world have nuclear power stations been built on this basis." The Citigroup report says the Government will have to change its position to see new reactors being built. Developers are likely to want financial guarantees, minimum power prices and other measures.

Read the full report at

Nuclear madness reaches Finland.

The cargo ship Happy Ranger made port in Finland on November 18, carrying its cargo of steam generators from France, intended for a nuclear reactor under construction at Olkiluoto. In addition, it is also carrying a protest camp, complete with eight Greenpeace activists from Finland, France, Germany and Sweden. Greenpeace is calling for  the plant's construction to be halted. "Areva said if we wanted to inspect the cargo we could have just asked," said Lauri Myllivirta, Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic, on board the Happy Ranger. "This isn t about inspections. The official inspector has already found over 3,000 technical and safety deficiencies during the construction of this plant. Minister Mauri Pekkarinen, who is responsible for nuclear power, must end the construction work immediately. These  generators should be sent back to France." Six activists boarded the Happy Ranger on November 16, to highlight how the decision to opt for dangerous nuclear reactors undermines effective climate protection. One day later, on Noember 17, they were joined by a second team. Relations with the captain and crew have been positive.

Greenpeace press release, 18 November 2009

Australia: “No Uranium for India”.

Autralian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd doesn't consider lifting a ban on uranium sales to  India. India remains eager to buy Australian uranium but the Rudd Government overturned a previous Coalition government decision to let sales go ahead even though New Delhi hadn't signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The issue was expected to be canvassed again during Rudd's visit to India, but Mr Rudd indicated Australia had no intention of budging from its position. "Our policy remains governed by the provisions of the non-proliferation treaty. That has been the case in the past," he said in New Delhi on November 11. "The non-proliferation treaty, and our policy in relation to it as underpinning our attitude to uranium sales, is not targeted (at) any individual country." However, Australia, through its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, was instrumental in getting international support for the deal struck between India and the U.S.

The Herald Sun (Australia), 13 November 2009

Dutch utility Delta wins court case Borssele-I and announces Borssele-II

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
LAKA Foundation

A court in Arnhem, the Netherlands, has ruled that Germany's RWE cannot acquire Essent's 50% stake in the Borssele nuclear power plant as part of its takeover of the Dutch utility.

Meanwhile, Delta, Borssele's co-owner, has mooted plans to build a second nuclear power station nearby.

In January, RWE and Essent announced an agreement on the terms and conditions for a binding, all cash offer for the German power company to buy all the issued and outstanding shares of Essent for 9.3 billion Euro (US$12.3 billion). Essent's power plant portfolio includes gas, renewables, coal and its 50%-ownership of the Borssele nuclear power plant. RWE's offer for Essent will see the formation of the fourth largest energy supplier in Europe and was to include Essent's half-ownership of the Netherlands' only operating nuclear power plant. However, Delta, owner of the other 50% of the Borssele plant, said in April that it was taking legal steps to prevent RWE taking over Essent's share of the plant. Delta said that the majority of its shareholders had demanded that EPZ - the joint venture between Delta and Essent for the Borssele plant - should remain in public ownership, in line with EPZ's articles of association and the shareholders' agreement. Delta shareholders claimed that Essent must offer its shares in EPZ to Delta, which would ensure that public interests are protected. Delta said that Essent had proposed that the legal ownership of its 50% stake in EPZ should be assigned to the current shareholders of Essent. The economic ownership would then be transferred to RWE. This, Delta claimed, would still give RWE control over the shares by a "back-door route."

In May, Delta announced that it was taking Essent, RWE and Essent's 136 public shareholders to court, claiming that they had acted unlawfully through the way in which the transaction structure of the deal had been specified. On July 10, a court in Arnhem (where Essents headquarter is located) has now ruled in Delta's favour, saying that Essent's shares in EPZ must remain in public hands, as EPZ's statutes stipulate. Essent has not given a reaction yet, saying it has to study the ruling first, but claiming that the deal with RWE is not off the table. The RWE-Essent deal sparkled a fierce public debate on selling public owned utilities, the other large Dutch utility, NUON, at the same time being sold to Vattenfall.

Meanwhile, on June 25 utility Delta announced it had started to apply to build a second nuclear power plant in the Netherlands, which it expects will be operational in 2018. During the presentation of the plans protesters from amongst others WISE and Greenpeace outside Delta’s headquarters in Middelburg (the capital of the Zeeland province) called for all nuclear power immediately to be phased out in the country.

Although public opinion and opinion of political parties is shifting, Dutch government has agreed that no new plants would be built during its mandate, which runs until 2011. It is expected that after the 2011 general elections right-wing pro-nuclear parties will have a majority in parliament, with the extreme right-wing –and extreme pro-nuclear- PVV (Wilders’ Party for Freedom) likely becoming one of the largest parties

Delta expects its request to be handled in the following cabinet period. It has to first submit a draft proposal to the Environment Ministry which will lead to an assessment report. A formal permit request will then follow in 2011, construction will then start in 2013 with first power in 2018, according to Delta.

Boerma said Delta, which is owned by Dutch provinces and local authorities, was looking for strategic partners to join the project for the new plant, which is expected to have a capacity of 2500 MW (in “one or two units”). But, Delta says, no technology has been chosen, although the choice seems to be between the EPR and AP1000. 2500MW is five times the existing 485 MW nuclear reactor, and is about 20% of all installed (electricity) capacity. Delta CEO Boerma added there was enough space around the Borssele site for even more nuclear plants to be an option in the future.

Delta estimates the costs for 2500 MW between 5 billion Euro (US$ 7 billion) Boerma said no decision had been taken on a partner yet, but added that keeping the plant in public hands would be important to ensure safety standards were met.

Sources: Reuters, 25 June 2009 / World Nuclear News, 10 July 2009 / Laka Foundation
Contact: Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: + 31-20-6178 294


Reliability of risk assessments for geological disposal of nuclear waste

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
W.J. Slooten

Some aspects regarding the reliability of risk assessments for geological disposal of nuclear waste are investigated. The input for the study is given by the opinions of some interviewed Dutch experts and existing literature. The Dutch risk assessment PROSA is used as an example, but the conclusions are seen to be valid more generally. In the PROSA study an integrated risk criterion is used. It is found that apart from its benefits the use of this criterion can lead to a too absolute interpretation of the risk figures, suggesting a larger reliability than can be justified.

The various uncertainties in calculating risk figures for this subject are discussed. One main source of uncertainty is dealing with very long time scales that are relevant in case of geological disposal. The farther in the future we try to predict the behaviour of the burial site with the waste, the larger are the effects of the assumptions and uncertainties. The assumptions and uncertainties fall into two classes: parametric and conceptual. Risk studies usually deal pretty well with parametric uncertainties, but conceptual uncertainties are often not dealt with or even not perceived. In any case they are very difficult to grasp. Conceptual assumptions limit the reliability of risk studies often in an unknown way. The usual industrial practice of dealing with risks (known or unknown) is to monitor the system all the time it is operating. However, for a nuclear waste repository this is not possible, because of the extremely long time scales. This puts a question mark behind the very concept of permanent geological disposal. Therefore it is advisable to postpone a decision about permanent disposal and wait until we have a better view on the safest solution. For now it is better to focus on a relatively safe interim solution for the next decades. Also it is common sense to stop the production of nuclear waste as soon as possible simply because we do not have a safe solution for it.

1. Introduction

Most countries that produce nuclear waste see permanent disposal in the deep underground as the primary option to deal with the waste. The idea is to isolate the waste from the biosphere for a very long time until the radioactivity has almost disappeared. Because of the very long half-lives of several components of the waste the isolation period should be of the order of a hundred thousand years. To evaluate the safety of geological disposal many assessments have been carried out. In these assessments the possible geological developments of the storage site and the behavior of the waste in connection with the possible release of the waste in the biosphere are studied.

In the Netherlands the government initiated in 1984 a research programme called OPLA (OPberging te LAnd, disposal on land) to study the safety of disposal of nuclear waste in underground rock salt formations. In the framework of the OPLA programme in 1993 an assessment was published called PROSA (PRObabilistic Safety Assessment)[1]. This study evaluated the safety of underground repositories using a radiological risk criterion.

Also in 1993 the Dutch minister of environmental protection put forward the additional criterion that disposal of high toxic waste is only allowed when the storage is retrievable, this means that the waste can be recovered if desired. To study the consequences of this additional criterion, the commission CORA (Commissie OPberging Radioactief Afval, radioactive waste disposal commission) carried out a research programme ‘Terugneembare berging, een begaanbaar pad?’ (Retrievable storage, a passable path?)[2]. This report was published in 2001.

In 2009 the Dutch minister of environmental protection declared that this year a new research programme will start, called TOBRA (Terugneembare Ondergrondse Berging Radioactief Afval, retrievable underground storage of radioactive waste) where the technical and ethical aspects of retrievable storage will be further worked out to support a final decision on the storage of nuclear waste. This programme will last for 8 to 10 years.

In this article we want to explore the reliability of risk assessments for geological disposal of nuclear waste. The PROSA study from 1993 will serve as an example. PROSA was meant to lay a foundation for a risk based method to evaluate the safety of disposal concepts. In the CORA report, that focused mainly on retrievability, this method was not developed much further. Without doubt future research will build on the foundation laid down by PROSA. But how reliable is this foundation?

'Salt formations currently are being considered as hosts only for reprocessed nuclear materials because heat-generating waste, like spent nuclear fuel, exacerbates a process by which salt can rapidly deform. This process could potentially cause problems for keeping drifts stable and open during the operating period of a repository.' (U.S. NRC, Waste Confidence Decision Update 2008).

In the period 1995 – 1997 the author held various interviews with Dutch experts in fields related with this subject. These expert opinions form the core this article. In the interviews many times the question of the reliability of risk assessments came up as a point of discussion. Can we have any confidence that our predictions have a correspondence with what may actually happen in the very far future?

The question of the reliability of risk assessments was also recognized by a commission of the Dutch Health Counsel which published in 1995 a report ‘Niet alle risico’s zijn gelijk’ (Not all risks are equal)[3]. Dealing with the notion of risk, the report concluded that in fact two levels of uncertainty must be distinguished. The first level includes the uncertainties in the many parameters used in the model calculations. The second level of uncertainty is more general and fundamental and includes a consideration of the uncertainties of the methods and models. The report calls this last kind of uncertainty “often the most uncertain of the various kinds of uncertainty and seldom expressible in measure and number” (translated from Dutch by the author). In this article we will focus on this second kind of uncertainty.

2. The Dutch PROSA study

PROSA studied disposal concepts in a general way, working with general models for salt formations and disposal mines following the decision of the Dutch government that the first phase of the OPLA research project should not contain field explorations but should limit itself to desk studies and laboratory research. The aim of the PROSA project was to evaluate the post-closure safety of some possible disposal concepts, which should be used to recommend further relevant research.

The PROSA study is a scenario analysis. A set of scenarios is studied that lead to the release of radionuclides into the biosphere and subsequent exposure to radioactivity of human beings. The difficulty of a scenario analysis is to find a set of scenarios that is more or less complete, and covers the most important possible developments of the repository with the waste. PROSA develops a method of scenario selection to find a relevant set. Therefore the repository is seen as a multi-barrier system. The waste has to overcome three barriers to reach the biosphere: the engineered barriers (waste form, container, borehole backfill, etc.), the isolation shield (the body of the salt formation) and the overburden (the geological formations between the salt formation and the biosphere, including the groundwater system). It is assumed that for each barrier there are two possible states: the barrier is present or the barrier is not present (bypassed). Having three barriers and two possible states of each barrier there are eight possible multi-barrier states. Each multi-barrier state is identified by a unique combination of present and bypassed barriers.

Each multi-barrier state is the result of one or more scenarios that lead to this state. For each scenario the primary processes that attack or destroy the barriers that are bypassed in that state are identified. Secondary processes that influence the transport and the state of the radionuclides supplement the primary ones. The processes are chosen from a list of about 150 so called FEPs (Features, Events and Processes) that are selected from existing literature. FEPs that are not relevant for the Dutch situation or that have a very low probability are left out. Although in most scenarios one or more barriers are at first not bypassed, eventually every scenario leads in the end to the release of radionuclides into the biosphere as a result of the natural geologic evolution of the site.

In this way a list of 22 scenarios is found that is assumed to cover the most important ways in which radionuclides might escape from the repository and reach the biosphere. The 22 scenarios are grouped into three distinct families. In subrosion (subsurface dissolution) scenarios the dominant process is the slow subsurface dissolution of rock salt in groundwater. In flooding scenarios (also called water intrusion scenarios) the groundwater enters the repository through fractures in the salt body. In human intrusion scenarios the barriers are bypassed by future human activities like drilling, etc. where it is supposed that future generations might use the geological formation for other purposes, unaware of the existence of the waste.

Only 7 scenarios are selected for further analysis. Scenarios that contain processes for which no proper models are yet available are left out. This is the case for glaciation (the effects of a glacial period) and for gas production as a result of chemical processes around the containers. For other scenarios it was decided not to analyze them in detail because it was assumed that they are ‘covered’ by another scenario. This means that the results are expected to be the same. This is done for the scenarios where radiation damage plays a role. Radiation damage is the radio-chemical change of the crystal structure of the rock salt with the result that radiation energy from the waste is captured and stored in the surrounding salt. Under some conditions the energy can be released explosively. It is assumed that these explosions only can occur in the first phase of the storage period (the first thousand years). According to the PROSA study the effects are limited to the direct neighborhood of the waste so this will not result in cracks that extend to the groundwater system. Because of the creep of the rock salt these cracks will close again. So by the time that the groundwater reaches the burial place by the natural process of subrosion the effects of radiation damage are assumed to be gone. Therefore the subrosion scenarios with radiation damage are expected to give the same results as the subrosion scenarios without radiation damage.

PROSA is a probabilistic safety assessment. This means that probability distributions are used for various model parameters that are not known accurately. PROSA does not calculate probabilities of occurrence for the different scenarios. The question that PROSA tries to answer is: do scenarios exist that lead to an unacceptable radiological risk in the future? For each scenario the radiological risk is calculated, assuming that the different steps of the scenario occur. The radiological risk is defined as the probability of a person to die as result of the exposure to radiation. I.e. the report deals primarily with consequence analysis. Another aim of the report is to carry out a sensitivity analysis. This means determining which input parameters for the different models have the strongest effect on the future exposure of human beings to radioactivity.

Only for the human intrusion scenarios some estimates are given for the probability of occurrence, because these scenarios are the only ones that are found to lead to unacceptable levels of future exposure. These probabilities are used to estimate the risks of these scenarios.

The conclusions of PROSA are that the subrosion scenarios and the flooding scenarios lead to very low to negligible radiological risks for future generations. Only the risks for human intrusion scenarios are not negligible, although they are expected to be low. For all scenarios considered the health risk is less than 10-6/a. The sensitivity analysis leads to the identification of some characteristics of the repository and the geological formation that are most relevant for the safety of the system. A low internal rise rate of the salt formation and the possibility of deep disposal are the safety relevant characteristics of the salt formation. The properties of the overburden (the geological layers between the salt formation and the surface) were considered not to be safety relevant characteristics.

3. Expert opinions on the reliability of risk analysis

The interviewed experts provided valuable information about risk analysis from the viewpoint of their specific disciplines. They also expressed their (sometimes personal) opinions about geological disposal of nuclear waste or related subjects. The method to use interviews as part of the field research is more often used in the social sciences than in the natural sciences, although there are examples in the natural sciences as well. For example V.M. Chernousenko[4] makes use of interviews to analyze in detail the causes of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986. The interview method used in this paper is based on the narrative interview that is developed in psychology (see for example F. Schütze[5]). R. Franke[6] further developed this method. In the narrative interview the interviewed persons are stimulated to express their opinions and (also personal) viewpoints on the subject. In this way apart from the factual information that is obtained, the interviewer also gets an impression of the viewpoints, tensions and interests within the scientific community and greater society in relationship with the subject.

Here follows a short introduction of the interviewed experts. The names of the experts are made fictitious to give them more freedom to express their opinions. The interviews were taken in Dutch. The citations were translated and edited by the author.

The interview with Mr. A. Brouwer took place in April 1995. He is a geologist and researched on location the geological characteristics of many salt formations and mines in the world. He showed a lot of motivation to express his views about the geological side of storage of nuclear waste. Here he showed more a practical then a theoretical attitude towards the subject.

Mr. C. Van Dijk is a civil engineer. The interview took place in June 1995. He showed himself very engaged in the subject of nuclear waste. As a civil engineer he has a profound knowledge of the technical side of the subject, but he was also very aware of the social tensions. He knew many arguments from proponents as well as opponents of underground storage and developed his own standpoint. He showed a lot of concern for a fruitful discussion between the various groups to develop workable solutions.

The mathematician Mr. E. Froon was interviewed in August 1995. He is an expert in the field of model calculations. He showed himself to be a proponent of geological disposal of nuclear waste. He formulated clear and self-assured positions, with a somewhat detached attitude towards the subject.

Mr. I. Jacobs is a physicist and works for an international environmental organisation. He was interviewed in January 1996. He is specialised in nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The opinions he expressed were well in accord with the standpoint of his organisation, as can be expected given his job.

The interview with Mrs. S. Terbeek took place in May 1997. She is a chemical technologist and external safety advisor at an engineering office. In the interview she showed concern for the people that might be affected in the future by radiological risks. This motivated a critical attitude towards different research projects on the subject.

Mr. U. Viehoff was interviewed in October 1997. He is a mathematician and an expert on risk evaluation for water protection systems. During the interview he was very cautious to stay within the confines of his field of water protection. What he said was relevant for storage of nuclear waste, but he could not be persuaded to express any direct opinions about this subject.

3.1. The radiological risk criterion

The PROSA report uses the radiological risk criterion to evaluate the safety of underground repositories. The use of this criterion in the OPLA program was rather new in the discussion on the theme of geological disposal in the Netherlands. Before 1984 the proposed safety requirements for possible burial sites were of a geological nature like the depth of the salt formation, the existence and thickness of a caprock, the annual rising rate of the geological formation, etc. With the initiation of the OPLA program by the Dutch government in 1984 the emphasis was put on the radiological risk criterion and the geological criteria were valued of secondary importance. It is mentioned that the initiation of the risk criterion had a profound influence on the societal discussion about geological disposal in the Netherlands that was going on from 1970 on. For example Damveld et al.[7] have accused the Dutch government that by introducing the radiological risk criterion attention was diverted from the more concrete geological requirements that were heavily under fire at that time by the environmental movement. With the shift from geological to radiological criteria the research programs and also the societal discussion had a tendency to become more abstract and general. The discussion concerned not so much the suitability of actual geological sites, but ‘generic’ geological formations in combination with ‘disposal concepts’.

Was the introduction of the radiological criterion an escape from the problematic geological criteria, or were there definite scientific reasons for its introduction and did it lead to a more reliable analysis? I asked the mathematician Mr. E. Froon what according to his opinion was the reason why the researchers of the OPLA project started to use the radiological risk criterion.

“We consider underground disposal of nuclear waste because we presume to be able in this way to bring the danger to an acceptably low level. That is the goal of underground disposal. In the seventies we had no access to an integrated calculation model to investigate to what extent we could fulfil this demand. Therefore we used partial criteria. For each compartment of the disposal facility certain requirements were set and it was presumed that then the facility as a whole is safe enough in relation with isolating the waste from the people. But how do we weigh the relative importance of the partial criteria? It may be that we reject a site because it does not meet the requirements of one of the partial criteria. But as a whole it may be that this site has the best shielding properties. What is of more importance, the fact that the containers have a thickness of 5 mm, that there exists a caprock on top of the salt formation, that the formation is moving a little bit, or that it has certain geohydrological properties? At the moment we have the calculation tools to work with one integrated criterion we no longer need these partial criteria. It is then possible to evaluate every disposal concept in terms of future radiological exposure.” (interview E.Froon)

I confronted my interview partner with the following fact. In the days of the geological criteria it was recognized that none of the geological sites considered met the requirements. They were all rejected[8]. The results of OPLA on the other hand showed that all disposal concepts that were studied fell well within the levels of acceptable risk. Can we say that now suddenly all these sites are found to be suitable after all?

“That is a little bit true, but at the same time it is not true at all. OPLA worked with very little site specific information. In fact three generic formations were studied: salt layers, salt pillows and salt pillars. These formations, when they are big enough, were found in principle to be suitable for a safe and technically possible disposal of nuclear waste. When we look in the future at specific sites it is not certain of course, that they will meet the test. It is possible that strange unexpected facts will become known. In that sense your statement is not true. But on the other hand your black and white statement has more truth than is suggested from what I just said. On the basis of the earlier geologic criteria for each site there was something wrong with one or the other of the partial criteria. But when we calculate the risk with our present models, on the basis of the same information, then we find that they all meet the test of having a very low radiological risk. Then I ask the question: on what where those earlier criteria based?” (interview E.Froon)

So in Mr. Froon’s opinion the reason to use the radiological risk criterion is to have one integral measure to evaluate the safety of a disposal concept. Geological aspects of a formation are incorporated in this integral measure. But we must keep in mind that PROSA does not say anything about actual sites, it deals only with generic formations. How important is this aspect? The geologist Mr. A. Brouwer has a definite opinion about this.

“We know of the Dutch salt domes that there are large site specific differences. There are large differences in depth of the salt formation, existence and composition of caprock, lithology of the rock formations above the salt, geohydrology, tectonic and geological history. Therefore it is impossible to judge if a formation is suitable for underground disposal without doing extensive research on location for several years. In my opinion it is a weak point of the OPLA project that no site specific research is done.” (interview A.Brouwer)

So it may very well be that the tendency of the discussion about geological disposal to become more abstract is not so much caused by the implementation of the risk criterion. It may be caused by the fact that the OPLA project only studied generic situations and in that way diverged from actual situations. The radiological risk criterion could also be applied to studies of actual disposal sites. It is ironic that the environmental movement itself caused the rejection of research of actual sites, as was made clear by the civil engineer Mr. C. van Dijk.

“To obtain the political ‘yes’ for the project the beginning should not be too threatening. Only desk studies should be done, but no field studies. Only information was used that was already publicly known. Even results from drillings of oil companies that were not publicly known because of competition were not used. In fact it was initially intended to use this information, but the environmentalists resisted strongly. They occupied drilling plants, so the exploration of oil and gas became endangered. The minister then decided that the information of oil and gas drillings should not be used. Under pressure of the environmentalists the most difficult decision, namely the carrying out of drillings, was postponed. OPLA followed the directive of the minister and did not carry out site specific research. Even non-penetrating methods like gravimetry were not used.” (interview C.van Dijk)

Mr. Froon observed another problem with the radiological risk criterion.

“But now we have another problem. The risks that are calculated now are all very low, well below the standards set by the government. The result is that the risk criterion does not serve as a discriminating factor between different disposal concepts. Say the standard is 10 and we compare the results of two concepts with risks 0.9 and 1.5. There is a difference between these two figures, but compared to the standard of 10 the difference is hardly meaningful. So therefore the risk criterion does not work very well in discriminating between the two concepts. Therefore we need extra measures apart from the risk criterion. Although the risk figures indicate that the isolation is all right, many people have the feeling that it is not. There is a big difference between the results of the calculations and the feeling of the people. It is important to develop measures that relate to the reasons why people think that it is not all right. So it is possible to compare concepts that are the same in terms of risk, but not in terms of acceptance by the people. We can think of all kinds of disposal concepts, but they should be accepted. We need solutions that provide sufficient isolation and that can be carried out because they are accepted.” (interview E.Froon)

What kind of extra measures do you think of? Are they different from the earlier geological criteria?

“Yes, very different. Think about retrievability, choices of host rock (salt, clay, etc.), or preliminary transmutation of the actinides, etc. Then we can say that we did our job better, we have a better option, although in terms of risk it may not be different. But we score better in connection with the question ‘did we do everything possible to make it more safe?’. People fear the waste. We do not yet succeed to catch that fear in the risk criterion. Apparently the fear is based on something else. People do not trust the results of the calculations. Maybe we can meet these feelings by showing that we did all that is possible, that we used all the present possibilities of technology, to make it as safe as possible. So we must try to weigh the concepts in terms of ability to realize them.” (interview E.Froon)


Transmutation does not eliminate the need for a repository for high-level waste and spent fuel!

So we have an integrated criterion, calculated risks that are so low that we cannot compare different concepts, and even more public distrust. I asked an expert in industrial safety, the chemical technologist Mrs. S. Terbeek if the quantitative method of risk evaluation that was used in the PROSA study is a usual method in safety studies in industry.


“Yes, certainly. Safety reports in industry are structured in a uniform way according to manuals made by governmental organizations. The history of these procedures goes back to 1988. In that year the Dutch government issued the Large Accidents Resolution. Companies handling hazardous materials were obliged to do a safety analysis. The analyses carried out by various different research institutions were very difficult to compare. The government felt the need to prescribe a uniform method. This method became the basis for obtaining licenses. Also various standards were set, for example the probability to die as the result of a certain industrial activity for an individual should be less than 10-6 per year. A probability of 10-8 is regarded as negligible.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Is the Netherlands progressive in this approach?

“Yes, very much! The Netherlands has chosen a very quantitative approach to safety management. But remember that the meaning of the quantitative figures is the ability to compare results! If all research institutions use comparable methods, the results can be compared. But the figures themselves depend very much on the application of models, failure probabilities, etc. There are many assumptions connected with these matters. If we choose them differently, the results are different. Do not take these figures too absolutely. The point is that we want people to act as safely as possible, within the limits of technology and economics. So do not pin yourself down on such figures. The matter is to compare alternatives, not more than that. It is also interesting to see that not always the same standards are used. The figure of 10-6 that I mentioned earlier is a workable standard in the industry. This standard is technologically and economically realistic. For safety in transport on the road of hazardous materials this standard is not useful. The risks in traffic are found to be higher, but we accept these risks. Therefore the standards in traffic are set a factor of 10 higher. We could do something like this in the case of nuclear waste, only in the other direction. Why should we use the standards of the industry? Given the large number of uncertainties in connection with nuclear waste we could easily argue to use standards that are stronger. Standards are relative!” (interview S.Terbeek)

So in the opinion of Mrs. Terbeek one should not take the calculated risk figures too absolutely. If we change our assumptions during the calculations, the figures change. The risk figures are mere instruments to compare results. Also the standards are relative. Here we may find the solution for the problem that Mr. Froon mentioned in using the risk figures to compare disposal concepts. If we choose more stringent standards in case of geological disposal of nuclear waste it may become possible again to compare results. Setting more stringent standards is justified by the large number of uncertainties that are mentioned by Mrs. Terbeek in the case of geological disposal of nuclear waste.

'In the U.S. politics, not science, has driven the Yucca Mountain Project from the very beginning. Yucca was singled out for the country's first repository not because it had suitable geology, but rather because Nevada was seen as a politically vulnerable state. In fact, from 1987 until today, safety and environmental protection regulations have been repeatedly weakened or eliminated altogether to keep the ill-conceived, dangerous Yucca proposal afloat.' (NIRS, March 2006).

In conclusion we can say in connection with the reliability of risk analysis that the introduction of the radiological risk criterion has two sides. On the one hand the criterion allows an integrated analysis that can be regarded as more reliable. On the other hand the radiological risk parameters can be interpreted as too absolute, suggesting a more reliable result than can be justified. There are reasons to limit the use of the criterion to compare the results of calculations for different disposal concepts. Also the standards are not absolute. In the case of disposal of nuclear waste there are reasons to adopt more stringent standards to account for the larger uncertainties. The reason why the discussion on disposal of nuclear waste became more abstract does not seem to have been caused by the introduction of the radiological risk criterion. Instead it is due to the choice to study generic formations and not specific sites. The criterion could also be used in site-specific studies.

Why is the disposal of nuclear waste thought to be connected with larger uncertainties than the more common industrial practices? We will deal with this question below.

3.2. The predictability of geological processes

To evaluate the safety of a nuclear waste repository, we have to deal with very long periods of time. The waste is dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. These are geological time scales. To what extent is it possible to predict the development of the repository containing the waste over such long periods of time? I asked the mathematician Mr. E. Froon his opinion about the extrapolation of geological processes in the very far future.

“I am not a geologist, but I have ideas about this. Not all geologists endorse the statement anymore that one is able to predict the future on the basis of the past, one to one. I think most geologists accept that we can use the past and the present as information to know how geological processes will develop in the future. A principle that is generally accepted in physics is, that if the boundary conditions are unchanged, processes develop like they developed in the past. So with disposal concepts we must take care that in the future the conditions will not be essentially different from the geological past. So the more we take care that temperature changes are sufficiently small, the stresses are small, etc., the more exact we can say that processes like the rising of the salt formation or the progress of subrosion will be the same as in the past. One expects the geology of the future to behave the same as in the past. For example one can design a model for the process of subrosion, the dissolution of the salt in the groundwater. This model can be validated with data from the past. Then one can reasonably expect that one can use this model for the calculation of the subrosion in the future. This does not mean that the rate of subrosion will stay the same as today. In the past there were irregularities, and so one can expect this to be the case for the future. If the boundary conditions do not deviate much, one reasonably expects the same developments in the future.” (interview E.Froon)

How does the geologist Mr. A. Brouwer think about the predictability of geological processes?

“Future predictions with time scales of millions of years are nonsense, then you are fooling yourself. There may be glacial ages, the sea level may rise, etc. The probability that there is ten meters of water above our head or a hundred meters of ice is larger than the probability that a salt pillar reaches the surface. It is relative. I think that future people do not care very much about radioactive waste deep under their feet when they get ten meters of water over their heads. One cannot compare these situations in terms of fears, risks, etc.” (interview A.Brouwer)

He also is rather critical about the extrapolation of geological processes.

“My objection to the scenarios of the OPLA studies is that the researchers start from averaged processes. For example they speak of diapirism (upward movement of the salt dome) of 0.1 mm/year averaged over ten millions of years. If one averages over periods of millions of years one will always find values of about 0.1 mm. But that does not mean that the rising rate has always had that value. In Germany we find salt domes where the dissolution of the top of the salt formation in the ground water progresses with centimeters per year. This will not last very long (on a geological time scale) but if it lasts one thousand years, the effects are considerable and in fact more important than the effects of the smooth averaged processes of the scenarios of OPLA. No one can deny that such a process may occur in the Netherlands within five hundred years.” (interview A.Brouwer).

What then in his opinion does make sense if we want to evaluate risks of underground disposal?

“I think we should consider short time scales and specific locations to get a more realistic picture. With the help of site specific research we can say a lot about the geological status and stability of a salt formation for the next two hundred years.” (interview A.Brouwer)

Mr. Froon observed another problem in the case of disposal of nuclear waste. We do not have a totally undisturbed geological development.

“In connection with the waste, there are many processes that are initiated by the waste, like giving off heat and radiation. The highest intensity of these processes occurs in the first stage of the disposal period. So in the beginning is the highest disturbance of the geology. With experiments we can study these intense processes of the first stage. With experiments lasting one to three years we can obtain a lot of information necessary to validate the models describing the processes. We can also use these models for the later stages when the intensity of these processes is less. There is some discussion about the problem how to do this, but generally one agrees that the disturbances of the geology are of less importance at the later stages of the disposal period. Only for radiation damage there are some small indications (only very small) that the effects may become more important at later stages.” (interview E.Froon)

For the civil engineer Mr. C. van Dijk the effect of the waste on its environment is very important.

“The interaction between the waste and the host rock should be the argument of the environmental movement, but they do not bring this point to the foreground. Our starting point is a stable underground that stays stable. That is the reason to store waste in it. We have a problem if the presence of the waste threatens the stability. Stability threatening factors are heat, radiation damage and gas production. There is still a lot unknown about these processes. This should be investigated further.” (interview C.van Dijk)

How should these processes be investigated? The experts had rather different opinions about this. Mr Froon:

“The way to deal with this is by developing models on the basis of laboratory experiments and extrapolate them to the far future. There is no other way, because we can do no experiments over such long periods of time. This is the proper method, we have nothing better yet.” (interview E.Froon)

Could it be useful to use the first hundred years of the disposal to do observations to validate our models for the interaction of the waste with the salt?

“No, this seems to me not the appropriate method. A measurement period of a hundred years in situ does not give more information than laboratory experiments of a few years. It is even better to validate a model in the laboratory than with in situ experiments. In the laboratory we can design intelligently chosen experiments to test a model under extreme circumstances and derive precise values for the model parameters. A model that is tested in this way is better suited to deal with very long periods.” (interview E.Froon)

Mr. Van Dijk:

"The retrievable stage of the storage can be used as an extended research period. We can check if the processes involved with the waste develop as predicted. Models are not sacred with respect to reliability. They have been tested in the laboratory during only a few years. Even if the theory has small deviations from reality, long periods of time may result in considerable deviations. If we can perform in situ measurements for more than a hundred years, the predictions become more reliable. So already for reasons of research a retrievable period has great advantages. If something happens that is not desirable the waste can be recovered. The decision to store the waste permanently is then postponed one hundred to two hundred years in the future. At that time there is much more knowledge to justify such a decision than at this moment. I think it is a little arrogant to presume that our generation can say definite things about the risks of underground storage. An important, almost ethical aim is that we do not saddle up the next generations with the problem of the storage. Therefore I should say be very reserved to make a definite choice now.” (interview C.van Dijk)

From the foregoing discussion it becomes clear that the interaction processes between the waste and the host rock introduce a considerable uncertainty to our predictions of the future development of an underground nuclear waste repository. This uncertainty adds up to the uncertainties of the undisturbed geological development of the site. The experts have different opinions on the question of how to obtain more knowledge of these processes, but it is clear that uncertainties will remain.

In this connection I asked the opinion of Mrs. Terbeek how in the OPLA project one dealt with the interaction processes. For example, how it is that the scenarios where radiation damage plays a dominant role are “covered” within other scenarios.

“I think that this covering of certain scenarios is very critical. Exactly those processes that are difficult to understand are covered in this way. We should be very careful. We should only cover a scenario by another scenario when we have some certainty how these processes work. If we do not have this certainty we should think of experiments to get this certainty. We are dealing after all with the fate of a lot of people. It is not necessary to know everything about such a process, but we must be sure that the effects are negligible. This we must be able to justify.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Minoru Ozima[9] discusses in his book “Geohistory” the reliability of research results of these interaction processes. In his view there is a fundamental limitation for the methods of physics and chemistry when geological time scales are involved. In laboratory experiments one has to simulate the long time scale by changing parameters. In the case of radiation damage for example, one can simulate the effects of a certain radiation dose over a long period by using in the laboratory a much higher dose rate than in reality. The desired dose is then reached in a manageable time. Ozima argues that it can not be excluded that factors that are not important in the laboratory experiments become very important or even dominant on a geological time scale. These factors stay invisible in the laboratory and are therefore not incorporated in our models. The extrapolation of the model yields erroneous results. According to Ozima a reliable model for geological time scales on the basis of the traditional physical research methods is impossible. He suggests that the geological time scale necessitates a different approach.

“The significance of the geological time scale that is the most fundamental characteristic of geohistorical phenomena can hardly be overemphasized. Applying conventional approaches that have been enormously successful in physical and chemical research may not be very rewarding when dealing with geohistorical phenomena. A different approach must be sought to understand geohistorical phenomena, (otherwise) few significant results can be expected. An original method is necessary in order to understand these phenomena. This is the method of seeking in nature “fossil” records of geohistorical phenomena, and using these to throw light on these phenomena. (…) Owing to its “historical” nature, geohistorical research provides us with a very useful lead to forecasting the future of the earth. Geohistory is still a fledgling discipline, but it seems to hint at its future as a vital field in earth science.”[10]

For the storage of nuclear waste we should look for a “fossil” example of a nuclear waste repository. Indeed one such example exists, namely the Oklo natural nuclear reactor. Because of the anomalous isotopic ratio of the uranium in the Oklo mine in Gabon, scientists had to conclude that nearly two thousand million years ago natural fission processes occurred in this place. Some of the resulting products of this process still can be found. In the light of our discussion it would be interesting to investigate at Oklo the interaction processes between the waste and the rock, like radiation damage. This would contribute to our knowledge of these processes, even though the host rock material in our country is very different from the minerals in the vicinity of the Oklo natural reactor.

In conclusion we have seen that the geological time scales that are inherent with geological disposal introduce serious limitations to the reliability of our predictions of future processes. Especially the interactions of the waste with the host rock are difficult to model. There is still a lot unknown about these processes and the farther in the future we try to predict, the less reliable our models are. Therefore it is no good practice to sweep these processes under the rug in our risk evaluations.

3.3. Dealing with risk in practice: failure probabilities

Talking with Mrs. Terbeek about the validation of models we came upon the subject of dealing with risk in practice. The notion of failure probability is the central issue.

“We should make a difference between the physical models and the failure probabilities of the technical systems, like waste containers, etc. Over a given period a container has a certain failure probability, a probability that the waste is released. After the release the physical models come into play to describe how the waste will spread. In my opinion the physical models are the most reliable ones. Many measurements have been done, so these models are validated rather well. The only question is connected with the use of very long periods of time, associated with underground disposal of nuclear waste. Is it possible to say anything about a period of a thousand years? Periods of fifty or a hundred years are workable. There are measurements available of such periods. For example a factory spilled waste onto the ground for a period of fifty years. We can measure what happened to the waste in these fifty years. So it is possible to validate the models. But what does this mean for a period of one thousand years? Will it behave similarly? The failure probability of technical systems is another story. These probabilities are always based on case studies, experience from the past. If we have hardly no case studies for a certain technical system, the failure probabilities are very uncertain.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Can you give examples where estimates of failure probabilities were given that had to be corrected considerably after new empirical facts became known?

“Yes, this definitely happened with estimates of risk for transport of hazardous materials on the road. In 1993 a study was started to estimate the probability of an accident on the road. A number of scenarios were defined based on a probability over probability approach. What is the probability of a leak? And if there is a leak, then what is the probability that it is a big leak? And if we have a big leak, then what is the probability that this will lead to an explosion? In this way the end-probabilities for severe accidents were calculated. In the following years more research was done to find out what really happened on the Dutch roads. They started to differentiate between highways and smaller roads; they looked in more detail at the accidents that happened; they looked at what happened when explosive escapes occurred. It appeared that a number of scenarios had to be modified considerably. For example it appeared that out of ten big accidents only three led to an explosion, while at first it was supposed that all big accidents led to an explosion. So this assumption was not correct. Some failure probabilities were corrected with a factor of 15, and this happened after a period of empirical research of only four years. This means that scenarios should be tested empirically, otherwise they are very uncertain.” (interview S.Terbeek)

As we see from Mrs. Terbeek’s reactions the concept of failure probability is used in the discussions about technical systems. But what happens in geological systems? Are natural barriers fundamentally different from engineered barriers? According to Garrick and Kaplan[11] the only difference is the complexity. A natural barrier is more complex and therefore more difficult to “specify” (understand and model) than an engineered barrier. But a natural barrier may fail as well as an engineered barrier, so for our discussion there is not a fundamental difference.

To deepen the theme of failure probabilities, I conducted an interview with Mr. U. Viehoff, an expert on risk evaluation for flood protection systems. For centuries the Dutch population has been struggling with the risk of floods. Large parts of the country are below sea level and protected by dikes and dunes. On several occasions the sea broke through and destroyed villages and large parts of the country. This happened for the last time in 1953. Also the rivers can be dangerous. In 1995 the river Meuse flooded as a result of heavy rainfall in Western Europe. In 1996 thousands of people in the central region of the Netherlands were evacuated to safe places because the river Rhine and its tributaries were on the verge of flooding. How did the Dutch people learn to deal with the risk of flooding and what can we learn from this in connection with our subject?

Mr. Viehoff told me that after the big flood of 1953 the defence against the flooding was taken up much more systematically than ever before and risk evaluations play an important part. The area of the country that has to be protected is divided into 53 separate regions, each of which is surrounded by dunes, dikes, dams, sluices, etc. If one area is flooded, the others are still protected independently. For each region a maximum acceptable failure probability is chosen, say for example one flood per 1250 years. This figure depends on the economic importance of the region and the number of inhabitants. The failure probability is translated into heights of the dikes, strengths of the dams, etc. Statistical information about sea levels, water levels of the rivers, power of storms, etc. is incorporated in the model.

Important for our subject is that the figures are not valid from now to eternity. The expert said that every five years a new evaluation is conducted. So the data about the water levels of the last few years are also taken into account in the statistical calculations, as well as new insights about the technical characteristics of the artificial flood defence systems. This may lead to the conclusion that in maintaining the chosen failure probability in light of the new information, the dikes should be made higher. The expert made clear that this is not a simple straightforward process:

“Failure mechanisms include not only overflow as the result of a water level that is too high, but also the collapse of a dike, sinking at weak spots, the failure of hydraulic systems, the failure of the layers covering a dike. All these failure mechanisms should be taken into account in the statistical analysis. Furthermore the different failure processes are not independent. The dependencies must be specified as correlation parameters. There are rather large uncertainties in these parameters.” (interview U.Viehoff)

Also the characteristics of flood defense systems are not constant over time. The degradation process is different for each system.

“The problem is that each system is unique. There exists only one ‘Van Brienenoord’ bridge; each dike is different. Therefore the degradation of each structure will develop differently. Therefore too little information is available to predict the future of such a structure. A purely statistical analysis therefore is often insufficient. I dealt with the question to what extent the opinions of experts can be used to compensate for the lack of statistical information. Experts are asked to give an estimate for the parameters that are relevant for the degradation of the structure. The opinions of experts give the a priori information about the structure at hand. By observing the degradation process of the structure additional information is supplied and with this the a priori information is changed with the help of Bayesian statistics.” (interview U.Viehoff)

Remembering what the geologist Mr. A. Brouwer said about the large site-specific differences for possible disposal places of nuclear waste, we see that we have an analogous situation here. I asked Mr. Viehoff if it is possible to construct a dike that should last a thousand years without monitoring and repairing. He answered ironically:

“That dike should be made very high. I think that dike should be made ridiculously high…” (interview U.Viehoff)

Mr. Viehoff made clear that our knowledge of risky systems and our dealing with these systems are evolving processes where observations and the continuous increase of new empirical information is an essential part. From the start one cannot have full knowledge of the risks involved. In the course of time our experience with the actual system provides us with more information. In this process Bayesian statistics are used. One form of the equation of Bayes reads as follows:

            P(An|B) = P(An) [P(B|An) / P(B)]

The left-hand side of the equation represents the conditional probability of an event An happening to the system, given that the empirical evidence B is known. P(An|B) is called the posterior probability of An. The prior probability of An before B was known is represented by P(An). The second factor on the right-hand side of the equation represents the relative change in the probability of An when B becomes known. The Bayes equation reflects our changing knowledge about the system. An iterative process is possible, taking into account new empirical information again and again. It is supposed that in this way our knowledge of the system, represented by the set of subjective probabilities P(An) becomes more and more reliable.

This process only works when the system under study is continuously monitored, like is done with the flood protection systems as Mr. Viehoff explained. For the risks of failure of a nuclear waste repository this would be the same. From the Bayesian viewpoint a repository should be monitored all the time it is functioning. During this process our knowledge of the repository gradually grows and becomes more reliable.

Discussing Bayesian statistics N.J. McCormick[12] makes an important observation. He observes that the whole analysis is subjected to the restrictions of hypotheses that are assumed for the system under study. He mentions that some authors insist to indicate the conditional character of the probabilities with respect to these hypotheses or assumptions H about the system. P(An) should be read as P(An|H), P(An|B) as P(An|BH), etc.

“The use of such a convention does serve to remind the risk analyst to check that the operating environment for the device is the same as that for which the failure probability data have been generated.”[13]

What kind of hypotheses does McCormick mean with the symbol H? He obviously does not mean statements that can easily be tested empirically, because these are covered in the empirical evidence B. From the citation we see that McCormick recognizes a difference between the system in reality (the operating environment) and the set of conceptual models we have made for the system (that for which the failure probability data have been generated). The hypotheses H concern not the system in reality, but the models.

To understand this it is important to say a few words about the role of conceptual models in natural science. In his study “The Philosophy of Physics” Roberto Torretti[14] makes clear that the history of physics has shown that the development of conceptual models is not a straightforward process. It is a feedback process. On the one hand empirical results lead to theories but on the other hand often theory is needed to design the experiments and to interpret the experimental results. He shows that for a Bayesian analysis this is true as well. The empirical evidence B is interpreted on the background of a set of conceptual models. To say that a growing stock of empirical evidence leads to a corresponding growing knowledge of the object is too simple a picture. It is possible that at a certain moment we conclude that our models do not give a satisfactory picture of the object and we have to change them. In other words, we have to change the hypotheses H. The empirical evidence B is then seen in a new light and another interpretation should be given.

“… the Bayesian school, for all its mathematical sophistication, remains committed to the feckless assumption that concepts and meanings are fixed and that a rational agent will not be moved by empirical evidence to see things in a fundamentally different way.”[15]

Apart from a lack of empirical evidence also our conceptual models are a source of error and this aspect can easily be overlooked. Ewing et al.[16] call this second class conceptual uncertainties. The authors make a clear distinction between parametric uncertainty and model uncertainty. The determination of parameter values is more straightforward then the choice of the correct model. Both uncertainties affect the reliability of the results, but the second class of uncertainties is more difficult to grasp or to quantify. (Remember that in the introduction of this paper a report of the Dutch Health Counsel was mentioned where exactly this distinction between different uncertainties was emphasized.)

As an example in the PROSA report assumptions of both classes can be found. We already saw that assumptions are made about the effects of radiation damage on a repository. Nowadays there is evidence that these effects could very well be more severe than assumed in the PROSA report[17][18]. These assumptions are both of parametric nature and conceptual nature. The model to describe the process of radiation damage formation is still being developed[19]. An assumption of an even more conceptual nature is to view the repository as a three-barrier system, where each barrier can exist in one of two possible states, present or bypassed. This is a simplification of the real situation (although understandable from a practical point of view) with the result that the operating environment is different from that for which the calculations are performed. From the viewpoint of Torretti each model is to some extent a simplification of reality and this suggests that conceptual uncertainties cannot be avoided.[20]

All these assumptions limit the reliability of a risk assessment. With this in mind it is advisable that a risk study should contain a reliability analysis, to evaluate the effects of the assumptions (parametric and conceptual) on the final results. The PROSA report only explains how it deals with parametric uncertainties. For parameters whose values are not known probability distributions are taken. But the subject of conceptual uncertainties is not discussed at all.

In this section we saw that risk evaluations are limited in their reliability. Assumptions and uncertainties play an important role. Especially the conceptual uncertainties are difficult to grasp and often have an unknown effect on the reliability of the results. The usual way to deal in practice with these uncertain situations is to monitor the risky system. This monitoring process improves our knowledge about the system, although complete knowledge cannot be achieved. The monitoring process makes it possible that when something goes wrong we can intervene. What does this mean for disposal of nuclear waste? Because of the many uncertainties involved it can easily be argued that we should monitor the repository as long as the waste is hazardous. But is this possible? And what can we do when something goes wrong?

In connection with these questions it is interesting to mention that in 2008 reports appeared that in the Asse II mine in Germany brine was found that was slightly contaminated with radio nuclides[21]. In this salt mine radioactive waste was stored between 1967 and 1978. Between 1995 and 2004 the caves with the waste were filled with salt and can no longer be entered. The contamination is probably caused by corrosion of the waste containers as a result of water intrusion[22]. Containers were used that were not suitable for long-term storage. This example makes clear that even very shortly after waste storage began, processes took place that were not expected.

3.4. Risk and retrievability

As a reaction to the discussion on the safety of underground disposal of hazardous waste the Dutch minister of environmental protection put forward the additional criterion of retrievability in 1993. If something goes wrong in the underground we can recover the waste. Can this criterion be an answer to the uncertainties, can it provide an extra safety margin? I presented this question to Mrs. Terbeek.

“But what then? If we make retrievability a criterion, then we must have an alternative when we get it back. Now we want to bury the waste underground, because we evaluate that it is not safe enough to store it above ground. But when we retrieve it from the underground it still is not safe enough above ground! Then we have a problem, because we have no safety margin anymore. If the risk above ground is comparable to the risk underground, it could be a safety margin, but if the risk above ground is much larger, then it is no safety margin. To make it more precisely: it is important to know what situation is acceptable. Society accepts all kinds of risks, voluntary and non-voluntary. Risk management is based on the knowledge of what risks are accepted by society. The standards are made on the basis of this knowledge. We accept a non-voluntary risk of 10-6 or a voluntary one of 10-4. If aboveground storage of nuclear waste has a risk of 10-6 and underground storage a risk of 10-8, then retrievability may be an alternative, because the risk is comparable to what we find acceptable. But if we know beforehand that aboveground storage has a risk that is not acceptable, it is not useful to make this proposal. Maybe it is possible to show that by taking all kinds of measures the risk can be made acceptable, but then we must carefully check the costs. If they are too high, aboveground storage is not realistic and it is not an alternative to underground storage.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Are there ideas about the risk of aboveground storage? Mr. Van Dijk has a very definite opinion of this.

“For storage of nuclear waste we think of long periods, say 100.000 years. In this period many geological processes can take place on the surface of the earth. The surface is the working floor of nature. As result of glacial cycles the sea level may sink 120 meters or rise 60 meters. Ice may roll over our country leaving nothing standing upright. Those are natural forces over which we have absolutely no control. Therefore we say that this working floor of nature is not the proper place to build a storage site for nuclear waste. I do not say we should store it underground, but I like more to say that there is a scientific responsibility to investigate the possibility of underground storage. That is the way I like to look at it. Of course there are risks connected with underground storage, but aboveground storage is in all cases a catastrophic matter. Another point is that a building for aboveground storage has a lifetime of only 200 years. After every such period it should be rebuilt again. It remains to be seen if human society is able economically, politically and ethically, to build a new one. The question is when our society can no longer fulfill her duties for maintenance. This is the case when society is degenerating for whatever reason. In such a crisis situation for society it is most unfortunate when at that time these hazardous materials are released into the environment. We must prevent that this may happen in such a weak period for our society.” (interview C.van Dijk)

So Mr. Van Dijk foresees two sources of risk for aboveground storage of nuclear waste. The first one is that natural processes are more intense above ground than in the deep underground. The second risk factor is the possible incapability of our society to maintain the storage building.

'Once waste is emplaced underground, it is very unlikely it would ever be removed again, not only for technical reasons, but also for political reasons'

For how long a time is it possible to retrieve the waste from underground?

“It is not possible to maintain the retrievability for the whole period that the waste exists. No sane man will claim that one can retrieve the waste after one million years. Retrievability has a time limit. This is a few hundred years. This is a fact from mining. The criteria for Isolation, Managing and Control were set up twenty years ago aimed at aboveground storage. Above ground we can manage and control, because it is always available. These criteria put the emphasis upon societal capacity. If we think about geological storage we do not think anymore in terms of societal capacity, we think in terms of geological processes and very long time scales. When we choose this way we can manage and control during a certain period, but not for the whole lifetime of the storage facility. The managing and control of man comes to an end and nature takes over.” (interview C.van Dijk)

The environmentalist Mr. I. Jacobs has a different wish about the duration of retrievability.

“Retrievability is forever! All the time the waste is there we must monitor and control it. The scenario as we see it is as follows. The first hundred years the waste is stored in a building above ground. For the period hereafter underground storage seems to be the best option. Anyhow, we must account for the strangest situations. Imagine if we had had a storage facility above ground in Bosnia! For the underground period we need a building underground with all the necessary measuring instruments that have to be kept working all the time. A problem is however that measuring instruments do not work longer than a hundred years…. The best thing would be that the storage building could be accessed at all times. At this moment we do not know how and if this is possible.” (interview I.Jabobs)

So we see that there are various difficulties with the retrievability concept. First of all it probably does not raise the level of safety of the disposal strategy, because recovering the waste means aboveground storage and this is seen as risky business indeed. Furthermore it is by no means clear if retrievability is realizable for very long periods of time. In the opinion of Mr. Van Dijk retrievable storage is only possible for about two hundred years. After this time the mine is closed and “nature takes over”. In this conception of retrievability we are in fact talking about delayed permanent disposal.

In these interviews the reasons for retrievability are seen as the possibility to take the waste back when something goes wrong underground and also to some extent to verify our theories about the long-time behaviour of the storage location and the waste.

In the CORA report, that was published a few years after these interviews took place, some other advantages of retrievability are mentioned. One of them is to be able to get the waste back when in the future we may find ways to reduce the hazard of the waste. But in the CORA report retrievability is essentially seen as a first stage of permanent disposal. After some time (a few hundred years) the mine is closed and the waste can no longer be returned to the surface even if desired.

4. Conclusions

In this paper we have explored various aspects of the reliability of risk analysis for geologic disposal of nuclear waste. In our discussion of the radiological risk criterion we saw the danger of giving a too absolute interpretation of the risk figures. Because of the many uncertainties involved it is not possible to justify the use of the risk figures for more than comparison of the risks of different disposal concepts.

In the continuation of the paper these uncertainties were further explored. The extremely long time scales involved are an important source of uncertainty. Some authors insist that the usual research methods of natural science are not expected to give reliable results at these time scales so that new methods should be developed.

In discussing the relationship between models and empirical evidence we entered into the subject of assumptions. Two classes of assumptions were distinguished, parametrical and conceptual. Especially the second class is difficult to grasp and handle. When in a reliability analysis only the parametric assumptions are discussed, an incomplete evaluation of the reliability of the results is obtained. It is argued that the conceptual uncertainties can never be avoided completely. They are part of the process of obtaining knowledge of the external world. To deal with these uncertainties in practice, risky systems are monitored. For a nuclear waste repository however, this leads to difficulties that can probably not be overcome because of the extremely long timescales involved. Also the retrievability concept is found not to be a solution if it is only seen as a first phase of permanent disposal.

Given the results, that risk evaluations of the geologic disposal of nuclear waste have limited reliability and that monitoring of the site during a long enough period is problematic, we have to put a question mark behind the very concept of permanent disposal of nuclear waste in the deep underground.

But what are the alternatives? In my opinion the first thing to do is to stop the production of nuclear waste as soon as possible simply because we have no sound solution for it. The best thing would be to end the use of nuclear fission for the production of electricity.

If that would be done, we still have a large amount of waste to be dealt with. I think we should postpone the decision for a permanent solution because we do not yet know what is the safest option. As one of the interviewed experts said, it is too early to make a definite choice now. At this moment we can better focus on interim solutions, relatively safe storage of the waste for the next decades. In the United States environmental organisations support the concept of hardened on-site storage (HOSS)[23]. In this concept irradiated fuel is stored as safely as possible as close to the site of generation as possible. Because it is not a permanent solution the HOSS facilities should not be constructed deep underground. The facilities are monitored to detect problems as soon as possible. The waste is retrievable. In the Netherlands in fact there is also an interim storage facility near the Borssele nuclear power plant. The nuclear waste is supposed to stay there for at least hundred years.

'illusions that someday somehow a magic solution for nuclear waste will be found, just lends support to the nuclear establishment’s push to just keeping operating nuclear reactors and making more waste, regardless of the lack of radioactive waste solutions'

The most ideal and safe long-term solution would be to transform the waste into non-hazardous matter. But at this moment it is not clear if this ever can be done with safe and practical methods. Some steps in the direction of ‘transmutation’ have been taken, but as it is seen now this technique leads to new dangers, risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and also high costs. Moreover it still requires a geological repository for the remaining wastes. In a few decades we might have a better view on the best permanent solution for the nuclear waste problem. This might be underground storage but it also might be something else. But the situation now is that we do not know a safe solution, so it is common sense to stop the production of nuclear waste to make the danger for future generations not greater than it already is.


Expected start of disposal


After 2017










After 2025






After 2035






Source: NEA 2008

Source and contact: Wim Slooten. After his study physics he became interested in the nuclear waste problem. This artice is the result of research in this field under supervision of prof. dr. H.W. den Hartog of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.


The author acknowledges the discussions with Prof. Dr. H.W. den Hartog of the State University of Groningen, The Netherlands, on the subject of the geological disposal of nuclear waste, with Prof. Dr. R.E. Chaves of the institute LCM, Utrecht, The Netherlands, on the interdisciplinary aspects of this study and with Dr. R. Franke on the interview method. Furthermore he is very thankful to the experts who were willing to give their opinions about the subject of nuclear waste disposal in the interviews. He thanks Kevin Kamps (Beyond Nuclear) for reading the manuscript and giving valuable reactions.


1- J. Prij, PROSA, Probabilistic Safety Assessment final report (ECN, Petten, 1993).

2- Commissie Opberging Radioactief Afval, Terugneembare berging, een begaanbaar pad? (Ministerie van Economische Zaken, Den Haag, februari 2001).

3- Dutch National Health Counsel, Niet alle risico’s zijn gelijk (‘s Gravenhage, 1995).

4- V.M. Chernousenko, Chernobyl, Insight from the Inside (Berlin, 1991).

5- F. Schütze, “Biographieforschung und narratives Interview” Neue Praxis, Kritische Zeitschrift für Sozialarbeit und Sozialpädagogik 3, 283-293 (1983).

6- R. Franke, Vom Leiden zum Heilen (Berlin, 1997).

7- H. Damveld, S. van Duin and D. Bannink, Kernafval in zee of zout? Nee fout! (Greenpeace Nederland, 1994)

8- H. Damveld, S. van Duin and D. Bannink, op id., p. 122.

9- M. Ozima, Geohistory, Global Evolution of the Earth (Springer, Berlin, 1987).

10- M. Ozima, op. id., p. 155.

11- B. John Garrick and Stan Kaplan, “A Decision Theory Perspective on the Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Waste”, Risk Analysis 19, 903-913 (1999).

12- N.J. McCormick, Reliability and Risk Analysis, Methods and Nuclear Power Applications (New York, 1981).

13- N.J. McCormick, op. id., p. 15-16.

14- R. Torretti, The Philosophy of Physics (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

15- R. Torretti, op. id., p. 441.

16- Rodney C. Ewing, Martin S. Tierney, Leonard F. Konikow, and Rob P. Rechard, “Performance Assessments of Nuclear Waste Repositories: A Dialogue on Their Value and Limitations”, Risk Analysis 19, 933-958 (1999).

17- H.W. den Hartog, J.C. Groote, J.R.W. Weerkamp, J. Seinen, and H. Datema, “Storage of Nuclear Waste in Salt Mines: Radiation Damage in NaCl”, in O. Kanert and J.-M. Spaeth (eds.), Defects in Insulating Materials (Singapore, 1993), pp. 410-423.

18- H.W. den Hartog, J. Seinen, H. Datema, D. Vainshtein, J. Jacobs, P. van Maaren and M. v.d. Bemt, Radiation Damage in NaCl, Effects of High Irradiation Doses Explosive Reactions, Final Report, OPLA Phase 1A (Groningen, 1994).

19- V.I. Dubinko, A.A. Turkin, D.I. Vainshtein, H.W. den Hartog, “Theory of the late stage of radiolysis of alkali halides”, Journal of Nuclear Materials 277, 184-198 (2000).

20- A very early but interesting discussion of this problem is given by the German philosopher Hans Vaihinger in his book The Philosophy of ‘As If’: a system of the theoretical, practical and religious fiction of mankind (London, 1965, originally 1913). Here he introduces the concept “fiction” for an assumption that is in fact untrue, but is unavoidable to understand reality. The fiction simplifies the multidimensional reality in order to make it understandable for our mind. Vaihinger’s fictions are comparable to the conceptual hypotheses or uncertainties discussed in this paper.

21- Helmholtz Zentrum München, Cäsium-137-Konzentration in Salzlösungen der Schachtanlage Asse seit langem bekannt und gemeldet,, Montag 16. Juni 2008.

22- Helmholtz Zentrum München, Herkunft der radioaktiven Stoffe vor der Kammer 12 der 750-m-Sohle,, Donnerstag 21. August 2008.

23- See:

WISE celebrates anniversary with clear call: No Nukes!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Leading German Social Democrat no need for new nuclear power

A day after the IEA urged the Netherlands to quickly start building a new nuclear power station (as it does for many countries), Hermann Scheer visited the Netherlands to not only speech at the 30 year anniversary event of WISE but also visit Ministries, members of parliament, media and investors.

Scheer, member of parliament for the German SPD (Social-democrats)  is famous for what he has achieved in Germany to increase the percentage of renewable energy in the total mix, for getting the support of not only the public and politics but also the big industries and workers unions for the special schemes which encourages individual households (millions by now) to engage themselves in decentralize and sustainable electricity production (the so-called Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz (EEG) or feed-in system.
In an outspoken response to the IEA Scheer stated that “the International Energy Agency is misleading governments for decades already. The call for a new nuclear power station is bullshit and the data the IEA works with are legendary bad”.

His opinion is supported by the findings of a new report by the leading independent research authority Energy Watch Group, published in January of this year.
The report “Wind Power in Context – A Clean Revolution in the Energy Sector” identifies exponential growth in wind power capacity since the early 1990s. With net capacity additions of almost 20,000 Megawatts in 2007 the report suggests that, contrary to IEA forecasts, growth of wind power additions will continue and that it will be driven not just by costs for fossil fuels and nuclear cost overruns - but by access to new wind resources, by new grid regulations, by an emerging world market for wind turbines and components and by ever cheaper and better wind technology.

“It is time to recognise that the many detractors of wind energy, including the IEA, have got it wrong. Unbundling in the power sector and a timely planning of new grids will put many regions of the world on the fast track for a renewable driven energy sector.” 
“With the renewables market being driven forward by the entrance of major commercial players, and experiencing the benefits of consolidation of services around the strengths of different primary energy sources, we believe that the growth of the wind sector, accompanied by solar and other renewables will continue. This is not about morals or environment but the commercial reality that wind, coupled with hydro, solar, biomass and geothermal energy is not only a rapid and cost effective alternative but one that could deliver all our energy requirements within the first half of this century. In times of rising supply disruption risks and rising cost renewable energy technologies are the only source which provides electricity predictable, in terms of economics and in terms of supply.”

Wind power net capacity additions over the last ten years (1998-2007) have showed a mean growth rate of 30.4 percent per year, corresponding to a doubling of net additions every two and a half years. High worldwide growth rates for wind power will continue, and wind power will conquer a large part of the energy market in the next foreseeable future (10-15 years). Over the last 25 years, the productivity of wind turbines grew one  undred fold and average capacity per turbine grew by more than 1000 percent. 

According to the Dutch Minister of Environment, who also spoke wit Scheer, the German experience and legislation should be acknowledged and implemented in the Dutch situation as well. Scheer, who travels the world to tell about the German success-story, could only applaud these words. In his evening speech for a big crowd at the WISE-event he again stressed the importance of a vigorous and outspoken, self-confident and well-prepared anti-nuclear power movement. “Politicians lack courage. And that’s the only reason why we keep talking about new nuclear power stations. The transition to a real sustainable energy situation will not only bring us winners. Current players (coal, nuclear, oil) will loose. And they fight for their survival; that’s why they want us to first burn al their fossils before we go sustainable. That’s why we should fight them and that’s why we should for instance embrace the launch of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

This new body was launched on January 26, 2009, and is intended to provide a counterbalance to the International Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency, by becoming a driving force behind renewable technologies such as sun, wind, water and geothermal energy sources.

For more information on the feed-in system see:

Sources: “Wind Power in Context – A Clean Revolution in the Energy Sector” at / / Financieel Dagblad (NL), 6 February 2009



Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 16 2005) In what has been strongly condemned by major Dutch environmental organisations as a "perverted deal", the Dutch government on September 5 agreed, with the owners of the last Dutch nuclear power plant, to keep the reactor open until 2033.

In early spring of this year the State Secretary for the Environment hired two consultants to initiate talks, behind closed doors, with the main stakeholders to identify possibilities for making a dirty deal; if the environmental movement would accept the postponement of closure to 2033 then the 'saved' money (from not compensating the utility) would then be spent on renewable energy projects and investments.

Since the environmental community refused to participate, the consultants played the divide-and-rule game by trying to expose some groups as supporters of a deal and were rather successful with this ploy. In the current three-party government coalition, the smallest party (D66, progressive liberals) has always expressed opposition to nuclear power but have now bowed to strong pressure from the other two coalition partners. Although the State Secretary in early spring claimed that closure in 2013 (agreed upon when this government took office) would cost approximately 1 billion Euros (US$1.2 billion), the basis on which this agreement has now been reached is that the two owners of the plant will invest 250 million Euro (US$307 million) into seeking extra measures to cut CO2-emissions.
The exact wording of the deal remains a secret but it is widely expected that the two owners (Essent and Delta) will invest this money in increasing efficiency efforts in their coal-burning power stations - an action that they would have been forced to do anyway under the Dutch Kyoto targets and policies.

See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 628, May 27, 2005
Contact: WISE Amsterdam


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 27, 2005) On May 18, activists from Greenpeace occupied the site of Borssele, the sole remaining nuclear power reactor in The Netherlands as a result of the renewed debate on its future, which re-started when members of the government again put the official closure date into question.

(628.5690) WISE Amsterdam - On February 16, when most NGOs involved in energy issues were celebrating the entering into force of the Kyoto protocol, the Dutch Secretary of State for the Environment (The Netherlands no longer has a Minister for Environmental Affairs) announced that the government is seeking ways to keep the Borssele nuclear power plant open for 20 more years. The coalition government (three parties of right-wing Conservatives), in 2002, agreed upon the closure of the last Dutch commercial nuclear power station in 2013, at the end of its natural lifetime (40 years).

However, the government has so far failed to come up with a comprehensive and/or inspiring plan for more renewables, energy efficiency or even new investments in cleaner power stations or wind farms. The Dutch will probably only be able to meet the Kyoto targets because half of the savings on CO2-emission are to be met with projects in other countries via the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

And as the Dutch energy market has gradually been liberalized and left to the market, the owners of the Borssele nuclear reactor can successfully claim that it is not up to the government to decide when the reactor should close. The Dutch system allows a plant that fulfills safety requirements to be awarded an open-ended license; Borssele has one. The utility, EPZ, has stated that it should receive between 700 and 1200 million Euros in compensation from the government if 'forced' to close in 2013. This claim has led the Dutch NGO world and communities at large to re-start their opposition for the first time in maybe 15 years. Groups are increasing efforts to put pressure on parliament and the government to stick to the original closure date of 2013.

The State Secretary for the Environment hired two consultants to initiate talks with the main stakeholders, behind closed doors, to identify possibilities for making a dirty deal; if the environmental movement would accept the postponement of closure to 2033 then the 'saved' money (from not compensating the utility) would then be spent on renewable energy projects and investments.

Divide and rule
In the first round of this tense and highly political game all the environmental NGOs refused to participate, not wanting to "…bargain on nuclear energy". The offer of such a deal has served to galvanize the Dutch anti-nuclear movement and in response to the political war games, a coalition of eight environmental groups responded with an action. Greenpeace Netherlands and WISE have been increasing the number of its actions against nuclear energy and earlier this year, 200 drums with 'radioactive waste' were placed in front of parliamentary buildings. On May 18, Greenpeace managed to occupy the Borssele site and some activists even climbed onto the reactor dome. This was a major embarrassment for both the government and the utility as just a few months ago, the entire nation was shaken by the news that a would-be Muslim terrorist had been arrested with detailed maps of the nuclear power station. Greenpeace easily walked onto the site with 40 people and 12 of them occupied the dome for a day, painting a huge crack to symbolize the expected problems of ageing reactors.

Other players (opinion makers, civil servants, environmental and energy consultants, etc) in the debate are much more open to the idea of a deal (postponed closure in exchange for money for renewables). The consultants are now attempting to play the divide-and-rule game by trying to expose supporters of a deal.

Although not written in stone yet, it seems that the government wants to keep Borssele open until at least 2033. This has far reaching consequences for the discussion on radwaste and reprocessing. In a new report ("Ontwikkelingen met betrekking tot eindverwerking van gebruikte brandstof", NRG, April 2005), the government published new details on the status of Dutch plutonium stocks; in the last 15 years, despite almost annual parliamentary debate on reprocessing, no details were ever published on the exact status of Dutch reprocessing contracts. The government has decided that there are still no relevant developments to stop reprocessing (despite, for instance, the 'new' terrorism threat).

The State Secretary and his staff have, of course in confidentiality, been allowed to view the reprocessing contracts with Cogema for the first time ever. After some discussions both Cogema and Borssele agreed to reveal the following information on Dutch plutonium:


  • EPZ claims that ownership of Dutch plutonium (Pu) stocks is transferred, or will be transferred, to others for recycling as MOX fuel. Borssele itself does not and will not use MOX. This counts for both the already produced (separated) Pu as well as the Pu still to be produced

  • Of the 2,5 tons Pu already produced, 23% was sold to the Kalkar and Superphenix fast breeder projects, 31% was sold for recycling in MOX, 31% is still in storage with the aim to be used in MOX later, as is the remaining 15%. The total amount of separated plutonium owned by The Netherlands is 2.3 tons (Dec. 31, 2004): 0.4 tons from Dodewaard and 1.9 tons from the Borssele reactor.

  • Of the 280 tons of reprocessed uranium produced till now, 126 tons has already been re-enriched and used for re-loading into Borssele and 139 tons has been transferred to others. EPZ "expects to find a solution" for the remaining 15 tons.


    In February when the future of Borssele was debated, a Dutch businessman announced his intention to build a small (25 Mw) Pebble Bed nuclear reactor in the Netherlands, to be used as a stand-alone energy source for high-energy consuming industry in the Rotterdam harbor area. As he put it, "the question whether I will go to the Ministry and start the process for a license depends largely on how much resistance I meet in society".

    The large utilities active in the Dutch energy market are also reviewing their positions on nuclear power. Although none are expected to announce plans to build a large reactor, it is clear that there is a rapid change in thinking occurring, not only within the general public (polls show support for nuclear growing steadily) but, and more importantly in the short term, also within the circles of decision makers.

    Source and contact: WISE Amsterdam.

BorsseleGKN DodewaardWISE

Fight against Borssele not over

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 13, 2003) The new three-party coalition government of The Netherlands (Christian-Democrats, Liberals and Democratic-Liberals), installed in the last week of May, has decided to keep the last Dutch NPP, Borssele, open until at least 2013. Officially, the text of the government agreement reads: "The nuclear power plant Borssele will be closed when its technical design lifetime has ended (at the end of 2013)".


(588.5521) WISE Amsterdam - For environmentalists it had been exciting months after the 22 January parliament elections. A coalition of Social-Democrat PvdA and Christian-Democrats CDA appeared to be evident, seen the outcome of the elections (both won and could gain a clear majority coalition). The Social-Democrats had a very out-spoken promise on the table to get Borssele closed as soon as possible.

However, coalition talks failed when the Christian-Democrats withdraw after several weeks of talks. Within a few weeks a coalition was formed between CDA, Liberals (VVD) and Democratic -Liberals (D'66). D'66 was also in favor of closing Borssele but gave up this position in the talks.

Although not surprising (but nevertheless wrong) The Netherlands are still being considered one of those countries who decided to step out of nuclear energy. Already in 1994, the government decided that Borssele was to be closed at the latest before 1 January 2004. It followed a parliament decision which voted in majority for this closure date.

The implementation of the parliament vote was also a coalition agreement (the Netherlands have at least 12 parties in parliament and almost always a government based on a coalition with three parties) and the Liberals in the government made very clear they did actually not support the decision.

As one of the Liberal ministers was responsible for implementation of the decision (initiating - on time! -, amendments to law etc.) the government failed to do so correctly.

The utility successfully went to court and won the case; in a much more liberalized energy-market is was not up to the government to take a decision in the way it had been done (it could have been done otherwise) to close the reactor.

After the disastrous outcome of the elections in May 2002 (short after the assassination of the very popular right-winged politician Fortuyn by a radical environmental activist), a massive majority for the conservative parties was established, including Christian-Democrats, Liberals and the Fortuyn Party.

These three formed a government coalition. There was little hope that the NPP would ever be closed. But the government managed to blow itself up after less than 3 months.

WISE has been continuously pressing for closure of Borssele. Besides political (lobby)work. WISE also campaigns against the owner of the plant, Essent, the largest electricity utility in the country. They want to keep Borssele open as long as possible. Essent is also the largest importer of nuclear electricity from other countries (France, Germany and Belgium).

Since 18 months the domestic market for so-called green electricity is free for private consumers; everyone can switch to another retailer. The aim of the WISE campaign was to make Essent known as the nuclear retailer.

In this way WISE put pressure on Essent as quite some people - at least those who decided to buy green electricity - do not want to support a utility which owns a nuclear reactor.

The campaign itself has been quite successful, although there was little support from other - much bigger - environmental organizations. Most of them do not consider nuclear energy as an important issue anymore and quite some of them work closely together with Essent (like the Dutch branch of WWF) as Essent successfully markets itself as the retailer which does the most to promote green electricity.

On 27 May, WISE was invited by the CEO of Essent to have a round-table conversation. The opportunity was also used to hand over the more than 10.000 signatures of people asking Essent to stop selling nuclear energy.

The meeting appeared to be a waste of time. The Board of Essent in no way feels itself responsible for issues as whether nuclear energy is dangerous for the environment and mankind. As Borssele has been economically written-off this year it is a good money-maker for Essent.

Essent says it is up to the politicians to decide on the future of nuclear energy, but they also made clear their believe that nuclear would still have a bright future ahead.

As of 1 January 2004, the whole electricity-market in The Netherlands will be opened (green. coal, nuclear, etc.). Everyone can switch from one retailer to the other. This will open new opportunities for campaigning efforts by WISE.

To be continued,

Source and Contact: WISE Amsterdam


Netherlands: serious failure in Petten HFR

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(October 4, 2002) A Dutch TV documentary on the High Flux Reactor (HFR) in Petten, owned by the European Commission's Joint Research Center, revealed a serious failure within the cooling system.

(574.5443) Laka Foundation - At the beginning of this year the 45MW research reactor was closed temporarily for safety inspections, because of little cracks in the reactor vessel (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 563.5377, "Petten HFR to be closed temporarily"). This safety problem was highlighted by whistleblower Paul Schaap, an operator at the HFR.

As a consequence of this, researchers from the TV program KRO Reporter examined the safety measurements and revealed an undisclosed file, the so-called "Veldman scenario". Paul Schaap didn't name this scenario earlier this year and doesn't want to talk about it, because of his ongoing lawsuit against his dismissal.

The "Veldman scenario" is a discovery made in 1985 by operator Theo Veldman who was working at the HFR from 1964 until 1995. He revealed a serious failure inside the cooling system: in the case of a crack at the lowest spot the water will discharge very quickly, causing a meltdown.


A Dutch Court on Administrative Law ruled on 25 September that the Borssele nuclear reactor does not have to close as of 31 December 2003. The Dutch government had started the court case as it claimed that it had reached agreement in 1994 with owner EPZ to close the plant by that date (see WISE News Communique 551.5190: "Netherlands: court case on closure date Borssele NPP"). The judge recognized that a deal was made but that it had not been laid down in a legal contract. So, Borssele can stay open after 2003. In reaction to the judgement, anti-nuclear activists in Groningen occupied for a short time Essent's office in Groningen (Essent is presently owner of Borssele).
WISE has intensified its campaign against Essent and has sought close cooperation with green electricity supplier Echte Energie. Both will organize a "national switch-over day" on 22 November. On that day, customers of Essent will change to supplier Echte Energie in protest against Essent's nuclear activities. , 25 September 2002; WISE Nieuwsbrief Atoomstroom, September 2002

A retired co-worker remembers that the response of the board was laconic and dismissive. Until 26 November 1987 all co-workers of the HFR kept silent about the Veldman scenario. This changed when an explosion took place during the night of 26 / 27 November: a capsule exploded very close to the reactor vessel. Former co-worker F. Besanger, currently living in Australia, says he was indignant and angry that the reactor was already restarted just after 11 minutes: "a highly irresponsible decision. Everything had to be inspected first." While everybody was shocked about the explosion, the board members remained laconic. After four days the European Commission, the owner of the HFR, was informed and a majority of the Commission voted to keep the reactor open. Independent nuclear physicist Cees Andriesse called this highly irresponsible. According to him the costs of improving the system are relatively low.

Afterwards it appeared that the explosion was not mentioned to the Dutch Nuclear Physics Authority (KFD), because of fears that the license could be withdrawn. The KFD confirmed in writing that they weren't informed. According to a former operator, the Veldman scenario could turn into reality if the explosion had taken place within the core.

In 1992 a labor dispute arose, because of financial cutbacks. Critical articles on safety appeared in the newspapers. Operator H. Slieker went into a discussion with the then director Mr Van den Kroonenberg. He was shocked about his story of the Veldman scenario and decided to investigate the findings of Veldman. When the internal report appeared on 30 November 1992 it concluded that if the Veldman scenario occurs, the core would be uncovered in only 90 seconds. Right up until today, the design fault has not been repaired, because of the board's opinion that the chance of the Veldman scenario occurring is very small. Paul Schaap regrets that he and his colleague operators didn't stand firm to demand safety inspections after the 1992 internal report.

By fall 1994, things were getting worse after some light earthquakes in the area of Petten, which were apparently caused by natural gas extraction in the area. According to Slieker the cooling system was thrown a few centimeters off its balance. "Already in '86 the KFD reported a subsidence of the ventilation building. This was later followed by a new subsidence of the foundations of the reactor building." Andriesse emphasizes that the possible consequences of the Veldman scenario are much worse than was calculated by Veldman. He says he is quite sure that such a scenario would end in a nuclear explosion, a disaster with the magnitude of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.

The board of Petten HFR, the Nuclear Research Group (NRG) regrets the negative news coverage. It emphasizes that the safety of the HFR is evaluated constantly and is OK: "This is confirmed by the authorities. The conclusions of recent inspections by the KFD and the IAEA show no safety risks."


  • KRO Reporter, 26 September
  • NRG press release, 25 September 2002

Contact: Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 616 8294; fax: +31 20 689 2179
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