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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

French nuclear safety body questions vigilance against fire risks.

(September 15, 2000) French nuclear safety authority DSIN said that fire risks are not sufficiently taken into account in French nuclear installations. Statistics show that a fire starts on average once every two years at each French nuclear installation. More than half of these originate in electrical equipment. Fire vigilance at nuclear installations is vital because of the risks that fires can cause releases of radioactive material into the environment, and in the worst-case scenario lead to a meltdown of the reactor itself. However, Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the DSIN, told a news conference that there is a "lack of fire awareness" in French nuclear installations. AFP, 5 September 2000; Reuters, 6 September 2000

Bulgarian accident leads to safety concerns. A recent accident at the Kozloduy nuclear power station has caused the Bulgarian authorities to express concern at a "worrying tendency of worsening safety" at the plant. Between 2 and 5 people were irradiated with a dose 50 times the allowed single dose. The level of radioactivity reached 80 times the permitted safety limits. Radioactivity was discovered in an administrative building several tens of meters from the reactor. The accident occurred during a fuel change, and was described as similar to the one that took place in 1998 (see WISE News Communique 495: In Brief). Kozloduy is the only nuclear power station in Bulgaria, and it produces 40% of the country's electricity needs.
The operator National Elecricity Company (NEK) has also failed to transfer money for decommissioning and dealing with radioactive waste to the special funds set up for this, despite billing electicity consumers for the money. Added to this, it is reported that the basins for spent fuel from Units 5 and 6 are nearly full, and unless some of the spent fuel is removed, the units will not receive an operation license for the next fuel cycle. Email from Centre for Environmental Information & Education, 13 September 2000; AFP, 6 September 2000; BBC News Europe, 6 September 2000

Ukrainian activists demand funds for radioactive waste. On 6 September, hundreds of environmentalists protested against radioactive waste storage sites in the country, demanding more funds for outdated facilities. According to the Green Party, the state-run Radon company that manages the waste facilities has only received Hr 2.5 billion (US$454,000) for this year, while its actual needs are five times higher. The site near Kiev was built in the 1950s and had been filled beyond its capacities. Already in the 1980s it was supposed to undergo reconstruction but no funds were available. Apart from a demonstration in the capital Kiev, demonstrations were simultaneously held at Radon facilities near Kiev, the southern town of Odessa and Kharkiv in the northeast. Kyiv Post, 6 September 2000

Contaminated metal smugglers stopped near Chernobyl. The Ukrainian police arrested six citizens from Belarus on suspicion of trying to steal radioactive contaminated metal from the Chernobyl zone. The six were detained while driving a truck loaded with 1.1 tons of non-ferrous metal. They were stopped within the 30 kilometers "exclusion zone". Thieves who sneak past military cordons have already emptied the zone of most valuables and poor Ukrainians even gather mushrooms and berries there and sell them to unsuspecting customers. Associated Press, 1 September 2000

Grid failure shuts Russian reactors. In the weekend of 9-10 September, several nuclear reactors were forced to shut down due to a failure in the electricity grid. Reactors at the fuel reprocessing plant of Mayak in Chelyabinsk were shut down when the plant was cut off the grid for 45 minutes. At the Beloyarsk nuclear complex, a nuclear power reactor was also shut down Reuters, 12 September 2000

European Union agrees in principle with funding K2/R4. The EU has approved in principle the plans for funding the completion of the Khmelnitski-2 and Rivne-4 reactors in the Ukraine. The commission argued that the loans are part of efforts to improve nuclear safety in Eastern Europe. The EU however stated that it would only do so if the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) also decided to fund the project, which would decide later this year. BBC News, 6 September 2000

Squirrel shuts down nuclear plant. The Wolf Creek nuclear plant in Kansas was shut down on 4 September after a squirrel climbed onto a transformer, electrocuting himself and starting a fire. The fire was put out by an automatic sprinkler system, but the transformer, which supplies power to the plant itself, was damaged by the fire, resulting in the plan's shutdown. The equipment which protects the nuclear power was unaffected, and there were no injuries (except to the squirrel). The incident was described as "a fluke". The Wichita Eagle, 5 September 2000

Japan: US$121 million in compensation. JCO, the owner of a uranium-processing plant, agreed to pay US$121 million in compensation to settle 6,875 cases, after a criticality accident in their plant on Sept. 30, 1999. The cases involve people exposed to radiation, farms, fisheries and service industries that suffered losses. The settlement was reached after eight months of negotiations. JCO has to settle another 150 cases, but declined to disclose the amount of money sought. JCO will use US$9.5 million in insurance plus funds from its parent company, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. The accident in Tokai-mura killed two workers and exposed hundreds of people working and living in the area. Associated Press, 4 September 2000

International conference against depleted uranium weapons. On November 4 and 5, a conference on the use of depleted uranium weapons and its health consequences will be held in Manchester, UK. The conference is organized by the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium. Scientists will present the latest information on the soldiers testing programs and medical and environmental effects. Other workshops include: Gulf War and Balkans, radiation detection, government responses, grassroots campaign strategies. For information contact: CADU, One World Centre, 6 Mount St., Manchester M2 5NS, UK. Email: or fax: +44-161-834-8187