You are here

Sweden prepares to sign contract with Dounreay

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 21, 1990) Swedish nuclear research reactor operators want to send spent fuel to Dounreay in Northern Scotland for reprocessing.

(344.3442) WISE Amsterdam - The UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA), Dounreay's operator, has confirmed that it is close to signing a contract with the two Swedish research reactors, known as R-2 and R2-0.

The US reprocessed the highly enriched uranium fuel used in research reactors until 1988 when the government banned the work due to concern over transport and safety. This has caused serious storage problems for reactor operators. Their small spent fuel storage facilities are filling up now that they can't send their fuel to the US. Once the storage is full, either they must close down, or find someone willing to take the fuel.

This fuel is being reprocessed only to try and solve a waste storage problem. There is no other reason. And Dounreay sees this work as vital to its future after the UK government announced it was stopping funding of Dounreay as of 1997.

Dounreay is talking to research reactor operators all over the world, offering to reprocess the fuel and store it in Scotland for 25 years. They have already signed contracts with Germany and hope to sign contracts with France, the Netherlands, Spain and Australia. "There is a very big market", said Owen Pugh, chief executive of the UKAEA at Dounreay. "Our biggest enemy may be the attitude of people on the transport side. Unless we can keep the transport routes open, then we've had it. Transport of the fuel will involve sea, rail, air and road, Pugh said.

Opposition to reprocessing and radioactive waste storage at Dounreay has been led by Sweden's Nordic partners -- Iceland, Faroe, Norway and Denmark. Of particular concern, as Pugh noted, is the transportation of this highly radioactive material, as it threatens Europe's richest fishing grounds in the North Sea.

Rose Young, campaign director of NENIG (the Northern European Nuclear Information Group) points out that the European Parliament recently called for a ban on all radioactive transports, adding that, "Sweden's proposed reprocessing contract with Dounreay will raise a storm of protest in her Nordic neighbors."

Source and contact: NENIG, Bain's Beach, Commercial Street, Lerwick, Shetland, tel: (0595) 4099, fax: (0595) 4082, e-mail: Comet - Rose Young, Greenet - nenig.