In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Swiss group appeals against waste plans.

(December 19, 1994) World Wildlife Fund Switzerland has appealed to the Federal Energy Office (BEW) against the request of the Wellenberg Nuclear Waste Management Cooperative (GNW) for "general authorization" of its low- and medium-level radioactive waste site, at Wellenberg. WWF claims GNW is unable to guarantee the long-term safety of the installation, which WWF describes as "too large" (150,000 cubic meters). The site was selected instead of three other proposed areas where opposition was strong. The deal includes the promise of cheap electricity for the canton (Nidwald), plus a bonus amounting to approximately US$ 5.5 million for local citizens. The deal could still be blocked by the canton's Citizens in a new popular vote. Meanwhile, the national radwaste co-operative Nagra has requested federal permission for a series of tests to locate a site for medium and high-level radio-active waste. Nagra wants to extend seismic testing and drilling in two crystalline rock structures in the northern Swiss canton of Aargau, and to investigate opaline clay sedimentary structure in the wine-growing region of Zurich. Power in Europe, 18, Nov 1994, p22.


The Marshall islands offers HLW site to Japan. According to Japanese officials, the government of the small South Pacific republic offered them one of its uninhabited islets as a potential site to dispose of Japanese high-level radioactive wastes during a nuclear energy seminar hosted by the Japanese in August. The republic is making a similar offer to the US (see WISE NC 418.4136) and South Korea. Nucleonics Week, 17 Nov. 1994, p.19. Contact: Pacific Concerns Resource Center, 83 Amy Street, Toorak, Pri-vate Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji. Tel: + 679-304-649; fax: 304-755.


Japanese group visits Marshall Islands for relief work. While their government is considering further radioactive pollution in the Pacific, a 20-strong team from the Japanese Council for the Prohibition of Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) is in the Marshall Islands trying to help clean up the radioactive mess left behind by the US. The group left Yokohama on 20 Nov. for a two-week visit to bring help to people suffering the after effects of the US atomic bomb tests in the 1950s. The team was also planning to visit former residents of Rongelap who were moved to the islands of Ebeye and Mejato after their own atoll was contaminated with radioactive fallout. As well as examining the residents and testing for residual radioactivity, the group plans to present a boat and medical equipment the residents had asked for. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 24 Nov. 19~4 via Global News Headlines (Greenbase, 24 Nov. 1994).


ContrAtom Spokesman released Because they were unable to confirm their accusations, Swiss authorities have finally released the spokesperson from the Swiss anti-nuclear group ContrAtom. He had been held since 16 September. One of ContrAtom's founders, he was originally arrested at the same time as three other persons for suspected involvement in the missile attack on the French fast breeder Superphenix in January 1982. Later the accusations included supposed contact with the terrorist group set up by Illich Ramirez Sanchez ('Carlos'). (See WISE NC 422.4177.) However, authorities were unable to support their accusations and detention could no longer be justified. They were forced to allow him to leave prison. Despite this, he is required to remain at the disposition of the court for further interrogations and his passport has been taken to ensure that he does not leave the country. One of the four had been released earlier. The two others remain in prison. Contact: ContrAtom, Case Postale 65, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41-22-320 45 67.


India cancels Rawatbhata units 5-8. The Indian government has given up the idea of building a major nuclear complex at Rawatbhata. In addition to the two reactors currently in operation and the two under construction, four units of 500 MW each had been planned for the site. A spokesperson from the Prime Minister's office has announced that Units 3 and 4 (235 MW each) are expected to be completed before the scheduled dates. But clearance will be refused for Units 5 through 8. Anumukti (India), Oct/Nov 1994.


Japanes SDP backs down recycled PU. Japan's Social Democratic Party agreed to back down on its opposition to using recycled plutonium in nuclear power plants, in negotiations with other ruling coalition parties. The SDP, the party of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, softened its stance after strong pressure from one of its coalition partners, the Liberal-Democratic Party, in a meeting to determine the 1995 budget allocation for the Science and Technology Agency. It was decided to incorporate into the agency's budget 142.1 billion yen for the "steady development of recycling nuclear fuel." The amount is 2% more than the previous year's allocation. Part of the money going to the Science and Technology Agency is for the setting up of two "public information" rooms, to cost an estimated 110 million yen. In addition, 20 million yen will be spent to explain Japan's plutonium use on the Internet computer network. Mainicbi Daily News Nov. 30, 1994 via Global News Headlines (Greenbase 30 Nov. 1994).


All operators found sleeping at Swedish reactor... According to Kerstin Dahlgren at the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI) in Stockholm, on at least one occasion all the operators at a nuclear power station in Sweden were asleep. This was revealed at a symposium on working hours, tiredness, and accidents held at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Dahlgren would not give any details on the incident or how it was discovered. She said, "We just have to admit that people who work night shift sleep a little and we have to deal with it." Source and contact: Kerstin Dahlgren, Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI), Box 27106, 5-10252 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: +46-8-665 44 00; Fax: 8-661- 90 86.


...While at Swiss reactor, drugs and alcohol are "the order of the day". That is just one of the accusations Greenpeace has made against the operators of the nuclear power station Kernkraftwerk Beznau in a letter to communications minister Adolf Ogi. Among the other problems alleged by Greenpeace: between 1970 and 1974 radioactive primary cycle water seeped into the land outside the power station. The contaminated earth was dug up and tipped into the river Aare. This 'disposal" was said to be by order of Kurt Kueffer, a current director of the electricity producer Nordostschweizerische Kraftwerke AG (NOK) which runs Beznau. Greenpeace also called for a new safety audit of the power station. The group said there had been serious negligence in the realization of a new safety system; it had been informed by reliable sources that cables had been wrongly laid and some of the electric switchboxes did not work. Greenpeace added that the nuclear power station's safety department was aware of the problems. NOK, of course, has rejected all of the claims as completely groundless. Neue Zuercher Zeitung (Switzerland), 8 Dec. 1994 via Global News Headlines (Greenbase Dec. 8, 1994).


Regional spanish government acknowledges link between radioactivity and deaths and illnesses at U-factory. The regional environmental councillor of Andalucia, Manual Pezzi, has ordered health investigations into the cases of 35 former employees at the now closed uranium factory at Andujar. The investigations are necessary for them to receive pensions for 'professional illness'. Pezzi ordered similar measures to be taken for the relatives of 35 other men who died allegedly as a result of working at the factory. The Andujar factory was closed in 1981, and former employees have been fighting ever since for health compensation. When the factory was in operation, not only were its workers un-aware of the dangers of working there, but they -- and in some cases, their widows -- signed documents in which they acknowledged that any death or illness (usually silicosis or lung cancer) that they suffered was not caused by conditions at the factory. Pezzi also announced that periodic random checks would be carried out on water and foodstuffs in the surrounding area as a precautionary measure. Power in Europe, 4 Nov. 1994, p.15.


Just who is the foreign agent here, anyway? And why don't have a slush fund? Anti-nuclear activists have often been accused of being "anti-national foreign-funded agents'. Once in Rawatbhata, I was accosted by a journalist who told me, 'RAPS authorities (Indian nuclear authorities) have said that you have received a lot of CIA money for starting an agitation over here." I replied that the only way he could find out for sure would be to visit us in Vedchhi and live with us for some length of time and see if our lifestyle was that of people with a lot of available slush funds. However, my eyes fell on a headline in a newspaper he was carrying which said that Dr. P.K. Iyengar -- the then chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy -- was at the time in Paris negotiating for the supply of two nuclear reactors of French design. I pointed out to this journalist the anomaly of accusing antinukes of being foreign agents while the nuclear establishment was doing its damnedest to procure foreign investment. However, even in my most uncharitable moments I never thought that people in the nuclear establishment were anti-national. Conceited, smug and arrogant, certainly; technology and 'development' deluded megalomaniacs, probably; but anti-national, no.
Quote from Surendra Gadekar, in Anamukti: A Journal Devoted to Non-Nuclear India, Oct./Nov. 1994.


Spain's UI protest new appointments to CSN The Communist-led United Left (IU) has joined ecology groups in attacking the appointment of three new members to the Nuclear Safety council. IU deputy Manuel Garcia Fonseca said his party would undertake legal action to oppose the appointments. Fonseca said the law governing the appointment of CSN members made it clear that they should be independent on nuclear issues. 'All the (5) commissioners are professionals of nuclear technology, not one contributes any knowledge or sensitivity about medical problems, health at work,or the environment", he added. The new appointees include CSN's new chairman, Juan Manuel Kindelan, who is also chairman of the nuclear waste agency, Enresa. The other two are Ambal Martin, who works for the utility Hidroelectrica, which owns the nuclear plants Almaraz and Valdecaballeros, and Augustin Alonso, a former head of the CSN forerunner, the Junta de Energia Nuclear (JEN) and currently professor of nuclear technology at Madrid's Universidad Politecnica. Power in Europe, 18 Nov. 1994, p20.


Secret Sino-Soviet N-projects. Russian scientists are at work on secret Sino-Russian nuclear projects in south China, Hong Kong's Eastern Express newspaper reported on 23 Nov. The newspaper said officials of both sides had confirmed the existence of the projects in Haikou and Shenzhen. It said the deals were struck during a covert trip to China earlier this month by the minister and vice minister in charge of Russia's nuclear industry. According to the paper, the nuclear monopolies of both countries have established a US$10 million joint venture, the China-Russia Nuclear Company, in Shenzhen just across the border from Hong Kong. The newspaper quoted Kong Fandai, president of the joint company, as saying three Russian scientists were already working for the firm in Shenzhen. "Once we enter production in late 1995, we will continually bring in more and more of their scientists because this is Russia's strong point," Kong said. The paper said details on the projects were hazy, but quoted Russian Minister of Nuclear Power Engineering, Viktor Mikhaiov as saying that "super clean' isotopes imported from Russia for civilian use said the Chinese also sought supply of substantial quantities of the Cobalt-60 for a separate project in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, but no agreement has been reached yet.Reuter, 29 Nov., via Global News Headlines (Greenbase, 30 Nov. 1994).


China, France strengthen nuclear ties. The two countries have signed a protocol pled-ging to strengthen cooperation on the peaceful application of nuclear energy. The protocol, signed between the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the China National Nuclear Corp on 23 Nov., is the fifth such agreement between the two parties. The new protocol says the two will be cooperating to improve the safety and technology of PWRs by sharing the results of their research. They also plan to carry out more joint research projects involving fast neutron reactors and the disposal and preservation of nuclear waste. China is rapidly expanding its use of nuclear power and has already begun construction of two new 600 MW reactors at its 300 MW nuclear station at Qinshan in southeastern Zhejiang. China has also announced plans to complete a third nuclear plant, with two 900 MW generators, at Lingao near Daya Bay, in 2002. Daya Bay already has two 950 MW PWRs in operation. Both were built by the French company Framatome, which has already submitted a bid to supply the two new units. A fourth plant is planned for Wafangdian in northeastern Liaoning province, with two Russian-built generators each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts. 1994 is estimated at between 8 million megawatts and 10 million megawatts, up from 2.49 million MW last year when nuclear power accounted for 0.3 percent of total electricity output. Reuter, 25 Nov., via Global News Headlines (Greenbase, 27, Nov. 1994) and Nucleonics Week, 17 Nov. 1994, p.19.


Canadian PM pushes Candu sales in China... Seems France may have some competition. Ten years of on-again, off-again discussions have finally led to serious talks about marketing two Candu reactors, gamma-processing equipment, and other Canadian nuclear technology in China, On 7 Nov. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Chinese Premier Li Peng signed a 20-page Nuclear Cooperation Agreement spelling out Canada's "stringent nuclear non-proliferation policy." The agreement, which subjects any Canadian nuclear goods to LAEA safe-guards, "is designed to ensure that no Canadian-applied products or material can be used in China's nuclear weapons program nor can it be transferred to other countries or enriched or re-processed without consent," said the prime minister's office. Atomic Energy of Canada has meantime submitted a preliminary proposal to supply the two Candu-6 units (updated versions of the Candu-6 already in operation in Canada and abroad) on a turnkey basis. And, says AECL vice president David Bock, "There is the potential for up to 10 Candu reactors..." Nucleonics Week (Us), 10 Nov. 1994, p.14.


And Indonesia. Wow! This Jean Chretien really gets around. Seems after his China trip the Canadian Prime Minister took his "nuclear salesmanship across southeast Asia" (as a Nucleonics Weeks article so charmingly put it). By 14 Nov. he had touched down in Jakarta. There he tried to interest Indonesia in buying Candu reactors. At a meeting with political and business leaders he announced that four Indonesian officials will take a year-long course on the safe use of nuclear technology with Canada's Atomic Energy Control Board. "This would be very useful if you were to buy a Candu plant,' he told them. Real smooth, eh? Nucleonics Week (US), 17 Nov. 1994, p.19.


Pu storage in US Endangers workers and public The US Energy Department is planning on repackaging tons of highly radioactive plutonium after an internal review found storage conditions that endanger workers and possibly the public. The review, ordered in March 1994, examined Pu storage at 35 government sites in more than a dozen states. Investigators found what the rest of us already knew was there: plutonium in leaking and corroding packages, in cracking plastic bottles, in old decaying buildings and in pipes, ventilation vents, equipment and machinery. "Overall, the inventory of plutonium presents significant hazards to workers, the public and environment, and little progress has been made to aggressively address the problem," concluded the draft study. The study, involving 26 metric tons of Pu, was made public on 6 December. Tara O'Toole, the department's assistant secretary, said the task will be time-consuming and costly: US$200 million has already been set aside for Rocky Flats weapons facility in Colorado, alone. Investigators singled out Rocky Hats, 15 miles outside Denver, as posing the greatest potential danger. There are 12.8 metric tons of Pu believed to be on the site in various forms, from liquid solution in cracking plastic bottles to residues trapped in building ducts. Mark Silverman, Rocky Flats' director, said the task of repack-aging is "so complex. We have more than 10,000 containers, 90 different types of configurations, and in many cases we don't even know what is in each of these containers." Altogether the report identified 299 potential risks to either workers or the public at the 35 sites examined. AP report, "Plutonium Hazards", H. Joseph Hebert, via Global News Head-lines (Greenbase, 7 Dec. 1994).


Spirits 600 Kg HEU out of Khazakhstan. Twenty-seven US nuclear technicians landed in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan in early October, where they found a large cache of bomb-grade uranium (stored there without any of the high-tech safeguards commonplace at US facilities). A long warehouse containing enough uranium to be used in 20 to 25 nuclear weapons was located in the middle of a sprawling nuclear and metallurgical factory employing more than 14,000 people. The technicians were there to help repackage the uranium (a total of 600 kg highly enriched uranium) so it could be shipped out of Kazakhstan 'to thwart its potential theft by nuclear terrorists or other nations'. Washington officials did not say which nations they feared would obtain the material, but a senior defense official said the suspect countries are located near Kazakhstan. The uranium was shipped to the US (Dover Air Force Base in Delaware) in two C-S military cargo planes and then transported to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee in a secret operation that became public in late November, after all of the material had arrived at Oak Ridge. WP, 'Kazakhstan Site Had Lax Security', 24 Nov. 1994, via Global News Headlines (Greenbase, 24 Nov.).


US army depot ships PU air mail. An Army depot in California shipped plutonium by air via Federal Express in violation of US regulations. According to the Department of Energy, something less than a pound of the Pu arrived Nov. 7 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory where it had been sent to be disposed of. An army spokesperson later confirmed that it had been accidentally been shipped by air Nov. 4 "because of a human error in marking the shipping instructions for the carrier." The lab routinely receives plutonium from universities, cornpanies and the government. But in this case, lab spokes-man Jim Danneskiold said, the container was marked as plutonium and Federal Express should not have accepted it for air shipment. Rather they sbould have sent it by truck. 'Federal Express does ship nuclear materials, and they have hazardous materials experts who do know what to do in these cases," he said. Yeah, right. Anyway, Danneskiold added, the delivery arrived in an approved container, the size of a 30-gallon drum, with radiation shielding, and any dose of radiation to workers handling it would have been negligible... AP news report via Global News Headlines (Greenbase, 24 Nov. 1994).


Security also poor at Lithuanian plant. Lithuanian regulators are hoping that a computerized accounting system and changes in personnel routines at the Ignalina nuclear plant will prevent more fresh fuel elements from disappearing at the station. But a fresh fuel element, containing 200 kg uranium, which was discovered missing from the inventory at Ignalina-1 in February 199t3 has still not been found. The disappearance is 'the result of a bad system of accounting', say Povilas Vaishnis, director of the Lituanian Nuclear Safety Authority (Vatesi). "It has been very difficult to count all these elements precisely.' Nuclear Fuel (US), 21 Nov. 1994, p.15.