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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Last Chernobyl reactor shut down, possibly forever.

(December 1, 2000) Severe cold weather caused power line failures in Ukraine on 27 November. As a result more than half of Ukraine's nuclear power plants shut down, including the last operating reactor at Chernobyl. This reactor is due to be shut down permanently on 15 December. Although there is a preliminary plant to restart the reactor on 2 December, Vadim Hryshchenko, the acting director of Ukraine's atomic energy regulator, questioned whether it was worth restarting the reactor if it will only work for a few days before being turned off forever. Spits, 29 November 2000; Reuters, 27 November 2000


Danger of collapse in Morsleben waste repository. Germany's only final repository for low-and medium-level radioactive waste, in a former salt mine at Morsleben, has a serious safety problem. In two of the storage chambers, there is a danger that salt blocks weighing up to 1,000 tonnes may fall from the roof. This could lead to radioactive dust spreading through other parts of the repository, and possibly escaping into the air via the ventilation shafts. As a result, the Federal Radiation Protection Authority (BfS) announced immediate measures, including closing off part of the site. Wolfram König, president of the BfS, said on German TV "we must work on the basis that this collapse could happen any day". According to Michael Sailer from the Öko-Institut in Darmstadt, the mine was unsuitable as a final waste repository, and should have been shut down in 1990. The state of Sachsen-Anhalt also considers it unsafe and wants it closed, but it was kept open thanks to a directive made by the former environment minister, Angela Merkel. anti atom aktuell, issue 115, November 2000


Tens of thousands protest in Taiwan. On 12 November, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Taipei and Kaohsiung to show support for President Chen Shui-bian, who has been threatened with recall because of his decision to cancel the construction of the Lungmen nuclear power plant. Statements were read out in a variety of dialects, including Aboriginal languages, to emphasize that people of different ethnic groups share the same desire to stop the nuclear power program. The protesters distributed leaflets reminding the public of past nuclear disasters abroad.BBC News, 12 November 2000; The Taipei Times Online, 13 November 2000


FFTF deactivated permanently. The US Department of Energy announced on 26 November its decision to permanently deactivate the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF), thus putting a final nail in the coffin of the US fast breeder program. Tom Clements of the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) in Washington, D.C. welcomed this decision, saying, "Termination of FFTF is a victory for nuclear non-proliferation and should serve as a signal to the few remaining countries still pursuing breeder reactors that their programs are expensive deadends". Nuclear Control Institute press release, 27 November 2000


Mismanagement of radioactive sources in France and Scotland. The announcement by Gravelines power plant on 30 June that they had lost a radioactive source led EdF to carry out a complete inventory of radioactive sources at its sites. They found that: full reports were not always made when sources were lost in the past; several sources were not returned to the supplier within the prescribed 10-year period; and in general, that the rules for management of sources were not systematically adhered to. As well as Gravelines, there were anomalies at Dampierre, Cattenom, Blayais, Cruas, Tricastin, Flamanville, Paluel, Saint-Laurent, Bugey and Nogent.
In Scotland, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has issued two formal notices to British Nuclear Fuels following the revelation in August that that four radioactive sources had been lost at Hunterston A, a Magnox plant which is in the process of being decommissioned. MAGNUC, 10 November 2000; N-Base Briefing, 26 November 2000


Fire started at Belgian test reactor. A fire started in the electronic circuits of the BR2 test reactor at the Nuclear Energy Study Centre in Mol in Belgium on 21 November, causing smoke to enter the control room. The fire caused limited damaged and went out of its own accord. Belga, 22 November 2000


Blayais: Dike problem continues. Reactors 2 and 3 at the Blayais plant in France were shut down on 5 November as a preventative measure following a weather forecast for strong winds. The other two reactors were already shut down, number 4 for maintenance and number 1 for refueling. The aim was to avoid a repeat of the floods of December 1999, in which multiple safety systems failed and the reactors were forced to close (see WISE News Communique 523.5123: "French reactors flooded by storm, backup safety systems fail"). Work is being carried out to make the dikes higher, and it is planned that the work will be completed by March 2001. Some people claim that this may not be sufficient to protect the site against flooding, given the increased frequency of extreme weather events predicted as a result of climate change. MAGNUC, 10 November 2000; Email from TchernoBlaye, 12 November 2000


WENRA: Temelin not yet at Western safety standards. A report from the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA) on atomic safety in countries aiming to join the European Union claimed that the Czech nuclear power plant, Temelin, had not yet met Western safety standards, but that it could meet these standards if a few safety issues are resolved. WENRA was concerned that high-pressure pipes could swing and damage other equipment if they burst in an accident. They were also concerned about steam outlet valves. Anti-nuclear campaigners, however, criticized WENRA and its conclusions. "Its main goal is to keep unsafe nuclear power plants on the grid and get some upgrading contracts for the ailing western industry", Patricia Lorenz from Friends of the Earth Europe commented. Environment News Service, 10 November 2000; Reuters, 10 November 2000


Japan: Public hearing disturbed. A scheduled public hearing on the plans for a nuclear power plant in Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, erupted into turmoil on 31 October as hundreds of protesters surrounded the site. The hearing about the Chugoku Electric Power Company plans faced a sit-in in front of the hall where it was to be held. During the sit-in the amount of activists swelled to 600. With 20 local residents inside being heard, the 600 protesters outside held their own hearing. Following the hearings, the plans should be part of the central government's electric power development plan. The strong opposition will likely cause a delay in submitting the plan to the responsible council. The Kaminoseki plant is planned to consist of two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors of 1350 MW. Construction is to start in 2006 and first electricity is to be produced in 2011, according to the utility. Japan Times, 1 November 2000


Swedish import of electricity grows. According to a Swedish National Energy Administration report, Sweden has to import 10.3 TWh of electricity in 2002, because of the cuts in domestic nuclear electricity production. The amount is nearly 1.5 times as much as was imported in 2000. In 2000, nuclear production looks set to be 19.4% lower than in 1999. This is not only caused by the closure of Barsebaeck-1 reactor but also because of 'intensive production cuts and prolonged outages' of the other reactors, according to the report. Production at almost all reactors went down because of the Nord Pool spot electricity prices, which are less than the nuclear producers' variable costs. UI News Briefing, 8-14 November 2000


Germany: Obrigheim operating without license? The Obrigheim reactor is operating without a valid license, judged a federal higher court in Germany. With this, the court reversed a 1999 decision by the administration court of Mannheim and the case has to be redone at the lower court. According to the federal judges, the Obrigheim reactor had undergone changes in its building design which were not correspondent with the original license. For instance, the reactor pressure vessel was not constructed 190 millimeters thick but only 160 millimeters. "If a facility is constructed with substantial deviations there will be no valid license", stated the court. The court in Mannheim now has to decide whether the reactor really was constructed in compliance with the 1967 license and whether the state authorities made serious failures in licensing the plant. A decision will probably not be taken before 2002, the year in which the reactor has to be closed according to the German consensus agreement. According to the opponents of the reactor, who started the procedure, a decision by the court is an extra guarantee that the reactor has to be closed in case that the closure dates in the consensus agreement would be reconsidered. Anti Atom Aktuell, November 2000


Transports to Gorleben will resume in spring 2001. The German Federal Agency on Radiation Protection (BfS) issued licenses for transports of high level waste from La Hague, France, to the German interim storage in Gorleben. The license considers an amount of six Castor-containers that have been waiting for transport since spring 1998. When contamination was found at the outside of such containers in May 1998, the transports were halted. The earliest date of the transport will be the last week of March 2001. In October, Germany planned to ship spent fuel from German reactors to the La Hague reprocessing plant. This was however refused by France, which wanted clear commitments to take back the resulting waste.
Following the ban, Germany has agreed to take back the waste and bring it to Gorleben. Government leaders of both countries made an agreement, but the detailed implementation still has to be worked out by a joint working group. This group has been asked to come up with a 'compromise solution' by late December. There is however as yet no lifting of the French ban of accepting further German spent fuel for reprocessing. BfS press release, 13 November 2000; UI News Briefing, 15-21 November 2000


As said in our last News Communique, BNFL and GKN, owner of the (shutdown) Dutch nuclear reactor, started a procedure for a court case in order to forbid WISE to undertake actions against the planned transports of spent fuel from the reactor to the Sellafield reprocessing plant. The court case took place last Thursday. The judge will decide whether or not to forbid us (and Greenpeace) in undertaking actions on Thursday 14 December at 15.00 PM. That day the transport itself is also to start! In the next issue we hope to provide you with news. WISE Amsterdam