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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) Asse storage is leaking. From 1967 to 1977, low and intermediate radioactive waste was stored in the former salt mine in Asse, Lower Saxony, Germany. There it is supposed to be stored in dry salt. Now water is seeping through to the waste drums. The environmental ministry of Lower Saxony confirmed the leakage on November 6.
At present about 10 cubic meters of water is pumped away daily. The drums are in danger of rusting. Experts are trying to find solutions to this problem. Since 1995 salt from another Kali-mine close to Hannover has been added to the Asse mine to cover the waste. The leakage of the soapy water (alkaline solution) had first been discovered in 1991, and from 1993 on, it slowly increased. But the environment ministry isn't yet considering 'evacuating' the 127,000 drums to another site. This would only be considered in a "worst case" scenario. Instead, it should be tried to make Asse water-proof again.Die Tageszeitung, 9 November 1998

UK: Millions in compensation. Workers in the nuclear industry have been awarded over GBP3 million (US$1.8 million) in recent years for radiation-related diseases. A total of 75 workers received the awards under a 'voluntary' scheme run by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, British Nuclear Fuels, Nuclear Electric, the Ministry of Defence and the Devonport and Rosyth naval dockyards. Under the scheme, 'voluntary' payments can be made on the condition that the workers do not go to court and it is accepted that the industry does not accept direct responsibility. In this way the industry does not have to admit a direct link between radiation exposure and diseases, mainly cancer.N-Base briefing 157, 22 November 1998

Voters: Campus reactor should move! On November 3, by a final vote of 5,791 to 2,889, a ratio of more than 2 to 1, voters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, voted to move the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) nuclear reactor out of the city. However, seeking to ignore this referendum vote, MIT plans to double the capacity of its nuclear reactor, and to maintain the reactor in this thickly settled residential neighborhood.
"Cambridge Voters have decided that a muclear reactor does not belong among homes, schools, small businesses, playing fields, parks with features for small children, basketball and tennis courts," says attorney David A. Hoicka. "This is a decision that should have been made in the first place by Cambridge residents and voters, not by technocrats and bureaucrats who live elsewhere." Cambridge is at the heart of Metropolitan Boston and has a population of about 2.8 million. Half a million people live within 3.5 km of MIT's nuclear reactor.
The MIT claims its Cambridge nuclear reactor is so safe it has no evacuation plan for Cambridge residents, and relies on its own campus police to notify the Cambridge police in the event of a nuclear-related accident. The MIT reactor is rated at 5 MW, which the MIT claims is not very large. If generating electric power, the MIT reactor would generate nearly one- third of Cambridge's residential power usage. Furthermore, according to published reports, the MIT plans to double the capacity of the nuclear reactor to 10 MW.Email: Committee for Social Justice, 19 November 1998

Belgium MOX. Belgonucleaire has abandoned plans for a major investment in production of MOX from spent fuel. It has been trying to get the necessary permits since 1991, when the original license was issued. However, a series of appeals have led to an annulment of the license on procedural grounds and Belgonucleaire says it would not resubmit its application.UI News Briefings 98.47, 24 November 1998

France's troubled N4 reactors. Fuel reloading at Chooz B-1 has been authorized by DSIN. The unit is one of three new-generation N4 reactors to be temporarily shut down earlier this year after the discovery of a design fault in the residual heat removal system (see WISE NC 495.4891: France: Serious accident at Civaux-1). Chooz B-1 is expected to restart in December, with Chooz B-2 following in January or February, but Civaux-1 is not expected to restart until March because of turbine problems. UI News Briefings98.49, 17 November 1998

Europe: Preparing for the next Chernobyl. On November 24, an Emergency Preparedness Project has been launched as a joint initiative of the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Finland. The aim of the project is to provide information and advice on public health in nuclear emergencies and act as a clearing house for data on the activities of member states. According to Keith Baverstock, who heads the project office, only by education of the public, particularly key members such as doctors, teachers and nurses, can lives be saved and damaging psycho-social effects in the event of another major accident can be minimized.
Said Baverstock: "The maximum likelihood estimate of a further such accident (as Three Mile Island in the US and Chernobyl in the Ukraine) in the following decade is 67 percent." It will most likely take place in Europe: it has 217 operating nuclear reactors and dozens of other nuclear installations.
The project is based at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Post Box 14, 00881 Helsinki in Finland.Inter Press Service, 25 November 1998

France: more hot water in Rhone?The 'Association for information on the Rhone' is demanding a public investigation and a discussion on the issue of the releases of the St. Alban nuclear power plant into the river Rhone. The power plant is asking the authorization of an increase of its release of warm (cooling) water into the Rhone between June and September in order to produce more electricity. The fauna and the flora of the river, however, have been weakened because of the high temperature of the water. And moreover this demand of EdF is against the efforts of other groups to rehabilitate the natural environment of the Rhone.
The operator EdF also demands a modification of its releases of radioactive liquid and gas for the St. Alban reactor.
Association pour l'information Rhodanienne sur L'energie, November 1998

Chernobyl tourist attraction. A tourist agency has confirmed to have obtained a special authorization to organize touristsþ visits to Chernobyl and repeated that there is no danger at all to join the tour.
The visit includes a stop at Pripyat, the phantom city where employees of the plant lived before the disaster, and to Slavutich, the new city at the border of the forbidden area where the new houses are built for the employees. At Chernobyl an excursion is foreseen around the concrete sarcophagus and in the control room of the plant. Also included is a lunch at the plantþs canteen, where employees would explain the operation of the installations. The visit costs US$140 per person (from Kiev, of course) and is cheaper for groups. The agency explained that the formula has been a small success at Kiev among strangers and that the business is expected to grow next summer.
Reuter, 27 November 1998

Explosion in Zaporozha. A minor explosion occurred in an idle reactor at Europe's largest nuclear plant, Ukrainian officials said. The small blast on November 18 at Ukraine's Zaporozha nuclear power plant deformed a tank at a reactor and left a 13-cm crack along a welding joint, the Nuclear Regulation Administration said. The regulatory administration said there were no radiation leaks reported, according to the independent UNIAN news agency. Zaporozha, about 600 km from the capital, Kiev, has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 reactors.USA Today, 20 November 1998

Kepco scrapped all potential new reactor sites. A secret list, prepared in 1997, with nine potential sites for new nuclear reactors was torn up by Young-Sik Chang, the new president of Kepco, the South Korean national nuclear utility. Site selection has to start anew, but now on a voluntary basis.
After officials in the new government leaked three candidate new nuclear sites, opponents began to mobilize against approval of the sites by local authorities. Some pro-nuclear government officials fear it is no longer possible to build 10 new reactors by 2009 as planned. But others disagree: eight new plants could be built at existing nuclear sites, such as Kori and Wolsong. Kepco is discussing a plan to 'compensate' local governments at Kori, with four existing reactors, for building four more nuclear reactors. At Bonngil near Wolsong, where four nuclear plants have been built, four new reactors are also being planned. Unit 4 at Wolsong is to start operations next year. All Wolsong plants are CANDU reactors. Nucleonics Week, 22 October 1998