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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Russian petition rejected.

(December 15, 2000) A petition to hold a referendum on imports of nuclear waste (see WISE News Communique 538.5219, "Russia: 2.6 million sign petition against import of nuclear waste") was rejected by Russian officials. The Central Election Committee claimed that around 800,000 of the signatures in the petition were invalid. The remaining 1.8 million are less than the 2 million needed for a referendum in Russia. However, many of the signatures were rejected on technicalities, and Russian environmental groups are taking court action in an attempt to get some of the signatures reinstated.
WISE Kaliningrad obtained a letter from the Ministry for Natural Resources revealing plans to store foreign nuclear waste at the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov, about 400 miles (640 km) east of Moscow. The Atomic Energy Ministry (Minatom), however, claimed the plans were "absolutely untrue and pure misinformation".
NIRS/WISE Amsterdam, together with around 150 organizations and individuals, are sending a letter to the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, urging them to deny any Russian request to import spent fuel of US origin. Ecodefense! press release, 29 November 2000; ENS, 5 December 2000

USEC accuses Eurodif and Urenco of dumping. US Enrichment Corporation (USEC) is asking the US Department of Commerce (DOC) and the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate the sale of enriched uranium in the US by its European competitors Eurodif and Urenco. USEC claims that both Eurodif and Urenco are pricing enriched uranium for the US market at less than the cost of production, and that Eurodif's US prices are less than those in its home market in France are. USEC also claims that both Eurodif and Urenco benefit from government subsidies in their home markets, and that it has suffered financial damage as a result of unfair competition from Eurodif and Urenco.
USEC cited domestic uranium enrichment capacity as vital to US national security interests and implied that this was threatened by the actions of Eurodif and Urenco. However, USEC currently dominates both the North American market for enriched uranium, with 73% compared to 7% for Eurodif and 13% for Urenco, and the world market, with 36% compared to 21% for Eurodif and 14% for Urenco.
The DOC is expected to decide in December whether to open an investigation. If it does so, the ITC would make a preliminary decision in early 2001, and both the DOC and ITC would make final determinations towards the end of 2001.USEC press release, 6 December 2000; Associated Press, 6 December 2000

Dounreay power cut: Workers evacuated. Workers were evacuated after a power cut in the fuel cycle area at Dounreay on 3 December 2000. An inquiry has been launched, focusing on why the back-up system failed to take over after the mains supply failed. The plant's operators UKAEA were criticized for failing to complete a critical electrical safety test, which would have revealed the faults that led to the power cut. They were also criticized for not reporting the incident to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency for 24 hours. A previous power cut in May 1998, when the back-up system also failed, led to the UK government demanding a full safety audit and an end to commercial reprocessing at Dounreay. One of the points of criticism in 1998 was the 12-hour delay in reporting the incident to the regulatory authorities. Scottish Herald, 7 December 2000; BBC News Online, 5 December 2000

Novovoronezh radioactive contamination. Radioactive contamination in an area of about 40 square meters at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant has been identified as emanating from a contamination incident in 1985, according to Rosenergoatom. The cobalt-60 came from remnants of the soil contaminated in the vicinity of a liquid radioactive waste storage area. ITAR/TASS, 7 December 2000

Taiwan waste leakage. The Atomic Energy Council and the Environmental Protection Administration in Taiwan are investigating allegations that the radioactive waste disposal site at Orchid Island had discharged radioactive waste water. The investigation will include checking to see if water surface records were faked. The Taipei Times Online, 7 December 2000

False records for Geesthacht waste barrels. The Ministry of Environment for the German State of Lower Saxony has discovered that 16 of the barrels of low-level radioactive waste at the Geesthacht waste storage site have incomplete or false records. "This is a serious problem", said Environment Minister Wolfgang Jüttner. Tests are being carried out to determine the true contents of the barrels, one of which has a substantially higher level of radioactivity than indicated in its documentation. Press release from Lower Saxony Environment Ministry, 7 December 2000